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Learning Theories

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1.  Bransford, J.D., and Donovan, M.S. 2005. Scientific Inquiry and How People Learn.From: “How Students Learn:  History, Mathematics, and Science in the Classroom Committee on How People Learn, A Targeted Report for Teachers, Center for Studies on Behavior and Development.” NRC 2005.  Chapter 9 

This source discusses some interesting ideas about how students learn science and how to use this to develop better teaching strategies.  The idea that understanding science is a developmental process, from right or wrong to opinion, to informed and supported with evidence, was new to me and I think important for understanding where student are in their ability to process information.  It may not be possible to argue with someone about a topic, using evidence, if they are stuck thinking that science is either right or wrong. The chapter also goes through the importance of identifying student misconceptions and of the power of having students identify and correct their own misconceptions through experimentation.  I also appreciated the chapter’s emphasis that the scientific method differs between scientific disciplines and that often the scientific method can become just another set of facts for students to memorize.  Instead, the scientific method can be taught through example as: “observation, imagination and reason, and experimentation.”  Inquiry experiences don’t have as much value if they do not allow students to use their imagination to develop explanations and new experiments to explore the observations.  I think that this could be very powerful in my laboratory courses.   

I would like to compare what this chapter discusses to the next-gen science standards.  Thematically they seem similar but the standards are more specifically expressed. 


2.  Couch, B.A., Brown, T.L., Schelpat, T.J. Graham, M.J., and Knight, J.K. 2015. Scientific teaching: Defining a taxonomy of observable practices. CBE-Life Sciences Education 14:1-12. 

 This paper builds a taxonomy of a pedagogical goal with teaching approaches and practices that can help meet those goals.  I am often frustrated because I’m told we need to be meeting a certain goal, but not how or why.  This paper went through many techniques and practices that can be used to move toward and assess those goals.   More than anything this paper has a list of references that cover different teaching goals that could be useful. 


3.  Russell, J.E. et. al. 2015. Bridging the undergraduate curriculum using an integrated course-embedded undergraduate research experience. CBE-Life Science Education 14:1-10.   

I have been interested in building a lower-division, research-based introductory microbiology course for our newest majors.  This meets with considerable resistance among faculty who feel that this would be too difficult to do with new students.  However, I think that it could be valuable for recruiting and retaining students as well as teaching them valuable thinking and laboratory skills.  This paper discusses an interdisciplinary course that uses a research project to link different fields of biology and to develop a long term research project for students.  This could be applicable to our college as we work to develop a new integrated life science course.  


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