Friday, July 15, 2005

A Couple Papers

While I'm counting down the hours to being free this weekend, I thought I would collect my thoughts about a couple ed papers I'd read recently.

#1 -- "The instructional Behaviour of Teachers in Secondary Vocational Education as Perceived by the Teachers Themselves and by Their Students" Biemans, H.J. et al. 1999

Well, this paper has an extrodinarily long title, but is interesting none the less, and plays into ideas that I've been having about physics classes lately. Getting down to it, I'm interested in the idea of student push back to a new-model, project based, interactive style physics class (lot of adjectives, I know). If we think, as I do, that straight up lecture courses aren't the best way to get physics across to as many students as possible, then we must try different methods of teaching. But if our different methods of teaching don't fit in with student paradigms of learning (particularly with college kids, who've had alot of time to build up a paradigm), then what happens to student achievement?

The study in this paper looked at a couple thousand kids and their teachers in Voc. Ed classes in the Netherlands. I throw up some ignorance here and admit that I don't know what V/tech looks like in the Netherlands, but I imagine it's a bit different than here. The study used this thing called the "Questionnaire Instructional Behaviour" (QIB), which I'd like to get my hands on, to measure how both the teachers and the students percieved the instruction in their classes.

What they found was that the more the teachers activated (used active learning techniques), the more they were viewed as being "clear" by the students. Also, paradoxically, using active methods caused the teachers to be perceived with being more in control of a class. But the teachers ended up feeling the opposite. They felt unclear and out of control when they used active methods.

The other interesting result was that the teachers consistently estimated themselves higher on all aspects of the questionaire than did the students. The authors thought that this was because the teachers have a hard time viewing themselves. I would probably agree. When it's just you up there, you have to belive that you're doing good, otherwise, what's the point? And with the isolation of teachers, there's never another adult to really tell you what they think.

#2 -- "Learning Styles: Student Preferences vs. Faculty Perceptions" August, L. et al. 2002.

This paper is along the same one as the last one and looks at similar questions, but their sample is of American university instructors and students, but did focus a bit more on how students perceived active/collaborative tasks. They found that both students and instructors liked active learning, and found it useful. Suprisingly, they found that students found lecture only classes boring, and would rather be doing something else. I couldn't imagine that.

In a similar way to the previous study, though, faculty belive that they are much more active and interactive than the students say they are. Very few students classified their classes as being interactive, even though a majority of the faculty said that. Similarly faculty believe they give much more feedback and group work than the students see.

The lack of common perception is very interesting in both of these studies. Ultimately the discussion has to lead back to student achievement, if all the students are learning, then we shouldn't worry too much about satisfaction. But, my guess is that because many students do not percieve the opportunity for feedback and other interactions, that many of them are not learning to their potential. The authors of the second paper point this out the importance of the feedback opportunities, and I would have to concur. There is a misunderstanding when it comes to the meaning of feedback, and I would suspect that a good instructor would start looking for ways to expand their definition.

#3 -- "Drawing a Scientist: What we do and Do not Know After Fifty Years of Drawings" Finson, K. D. 2003.

This one is an interesting look at something that I do every time I visit a class. What are kids stereotypes of a scientist?

The paper points out everything we pretty much thought of already. Scientists are white, male, old, have weird hair, wear glasses, are smarter than you, have secrets, all wear lab coats, often are working with dangerous chemicals, sometimes work with weapons, and the like.

It's suprising that the conception of the scientist has been remarkably similar over the past 50 years, and in fact, the author says, is similar in other countries/cultures as well. And the stereotypes don't go away with time either, studies of pre-service teachers show similar results to children.

Luckily, it has been shown in some programs that bring scientists of all backgrounds to elementary classes, that the stereotypes can be broken, and students will draw different images. Also, students with "strong and positive self-efficacy tend to be those having more positive attidudes and tend to draw images with fewer science stereotypes in them."

I take hope in the last bit, but I also know how small and slow growing most scientist-in-the-classroom programs are. The author suggests more research into whether holding these stereotypes disinclines students from taking science classes, and what can we do about it if it does. I would say "mixed bag" and "depends on the kid", but in any case, it would be nice to start seeing scientists as real people.

I'm a real person.

Hope you enjoyed.


At 12:24 PM, Blogger maki-girl said...

Very nice hoagie boy. I've read the last one but not the first two. I was wondering if the reason that scientist stereotypes are very similar from culture to culture and decade to decade comes from the cartoons that many of us are watching growing up. It would be very interesting to do a study of "mass media/culture" kids versus "living off the grid" kids.

I wish I could get you a sabbatical teaching college physics for a year. You have such good ideas and I would like to see how you implement them within the confines/structure of a typical physics program. I think it is that step that many of us are struggling with.


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