BBI 2007 Session 1

Paul Grobstein's picture
 

BRAIN AND BEHAVIOR INSTITUTE 2007

Being a Scientist/Explorer/Creator (Theory)
Starting Wherever We Are, To Get it Less Wrong, Together

 

Getting to know each others stories

Paul Grobstein - I'm a neurobiologist who has done research on nervous system organization and development in crayfish, leeches, rabbits, and frogs. This research was related to and has extended to exploring more directly several broader questions about brain organization and development in humans, including the nature of representations of space, the distinction between conscious and unconscious processing, and the nature of individual choice and free will. I'm also a parent, biologist and educator, with an array of still more general interests in the underpinnings of human behavior, the nature of biological, cultural, and intellectual change, complex systems and general information processing principles, and the character of human understanding and the relationships among its different forms. Associated with this is a strong commitment to improving the educational environment at all levels and for all people. Common to all these aspects of myself is a strong belief in the capabilities of the human brain to explore and create, both individually and collectively, in ways that achieve improved understandings of the human condition and open new avenues for its further development. And a belief that modern information technology, including the web, is a distinctive and valuable tool for the extension of human understanding. Having grown up with science, I have found it to be a central component of agency, a valuable source of both power and humility.

In what ways are you similar to/different from me/others here? Include in your posting in the forum area below something of your feelings about "science", whether you think of yourself as a scientist or not and why.

 


 

Thinking about science (and science education)

 

Traditional Linear Loopy Story Telling
   
Science as body of facts established by specialized fact-generating people and process

Science as successive approximations to Truth


Science as authority about "natural world"

Science as process of getting it less wrong, potentially usable by and contributed to by everyone

Science as ongoing story telling and story revision: repeated making of observations, interpreting and summarizing observations, making new observations, making new summaries ... individually and collectively

Science as skepticism, a style of inquiry that can be used for anything, one which everybody is equipped to to/can get better at/be further empowered by, and contribute to - a way of making sense of what is but even more of exploring what might yet be

 

The crack

  • Multiple stories for a given set of observations
    • 3,5,7, .... ?
    • 1+1=2 or 1+1=10?
  • Observations in turn depend on stories
  • Science is as much about creation as about discovery

If science is as much about creation as discovery then the "crack"is a feature, not a bug ... and differences among people are an asset to the process rather than a problem or an indication it isn't working

 

 


 

Trying It Out ...

Which of the following two stories do you prefer?
  1. The earth is flat
  2. The earth is round
Because of ...
  • personal observations?
  • observations made by others (personally verified or not)?
  • social stories (heard from others)?
  • usefulness?
Relevant observations: Is one or the other story true? Have there been others? Will there be? Which of the following two stories do you prefer?
  1. The sun goes around the earth
  2. The earth goes around the sun
Because of ...
  • personal observations?
  • observations made by others (personally verified or not)?
  • social stories (heard from others)?
  • other?
Relevant observations:

Is one or the other story true? Have there been others? Will there be others?

Scientific stories are frequently efforts to summarize the widest possible range of observations, always motivate new observations and hence new stories, should never be understood as "authoritative" or "believed in", do not compete with or invalidate other stories. Key issues about scientific stories
  • What observations do they summarize?
  • What new observations do they motivate?

Which of the following stories do you prefer?

  1. Existing life forms (including humans) are as they are because of a previous and ongoing process of evolution consisting of random change and natural selection (differential reproductive success).
  2. Existing life forms (including humans) are as they are because of repeated creative acts of a supernatural being with a plan and intent?
  3. Existing life forms (including humans) are as they are because of an initial creative act with a supernatural being with a plan and intent?
  4. Other?
Because of ...
  • personal observations?
  • observations made by others (personally verified or not)?
  • social stories (heard from others)?
  • other?
  • is one or another story "true"?
Relevant observations:

 


Loopy story telling science is a tool to help one become better at thinking for oneself

at using observations to make one's own stories that motivate new observations that motivate new stories that one shares with others Science education should help people become better at thinking for themselves at ongoing, shared, exploration and creation That's the theory, this afternoon the practice

Science = open-ended transactional cyclic observation/interpretation/creation; being wrong and conflict an important part of it; give up "definiteness" for usefulness and openness (pass it on).

Where do we get the ability to inquire? to make observatons? tell/share/compare stories? revise hypotheses/stories? Tomorrow the brain ...

What do think of the science as story telling and story revising? of "getting it less wrong"? Good points? Bad points? Put your thoughts in the forum below to help others think about it too.

Comments

Donna Morris's picture

science as storytelling

science as storytelling Submitted by Donna Morris on Mon, 2007-07-09 13:33. I think using science as storytelling is a good way to engage students in the classroom who may not really like having science
Dalia Gorham's picture

I understand the basis for

I understand the basis for "loopy story telling" to be a better way to think about science. While I can comprehend how things can never be proven true, I'm not sure that it is a concept my 3rd graders would understand. I would however, explain to them the idea that something needs to be tested and retested several times and many, many observations must occur. Also, I would explain that the students that the experiments we conduct in class are only small samples. I really like the idea of explaining hypothyesis as a summary of prior observations.
Bruce Williamson's picture

repost

Since I work in education I am similar to all of you other fine folks. I am different in that I never planned to teach so I was not watching my teachers with any attention to how they taught or what they did while teaching. Instead I was learning the material that was taught. Only later when I realized that I was teaching classmates in college, and being teaching assistant in grad school with office hours, did I finally start trying to recall what my excellent teachers did. I tried thinking of teachers who were not so excellent, but could not. Either I was really lucky in school or just oblivious. I am science oriented and often bother my family and friends in a science way when I ask for evidence or for "How do you know that to be so?" in most situations. I am skeptical of things instead of accepting without question, especially when I do not see a coherence or causal relationship. What makes me curious? I was lucky enough that the elementary school science curiosity that is so prevalent stuck with me. Those little kids are all scientists. Being a scientist now seems odd to some of my acquaintances and perhaps it is because they stopped their own science thinking some time ago. Regards,
Bruce
Mingh Whitfield's picture

intro

Hi, my name is mingh whitfield. I am a pre/k-k teacher at lansdowne friends school. I enjoy participating in an inquiry based science education. The approach allows my students and me to experience, explore, and wonder about our world together. It also posits me as a learner too! The most interesting suppostion of the morning's session that your "take" on science is authentic, as long as it inspires cuiosity and skepticism. The virtual games of the afternoon contained useful lessons for teaching theory, ie sometimes order comes out of chaos, both genetic and environmental influences contribute to behavior. I often find computers helpful in gaining personal knowledge. But, I do not use them in the class with very young children. They are mainly about the magic of pushing buttons and playing games, or several children watching a few do such things. In short, for the very young, science should be about doing, experiencing, and fully engaging all senses in order to experience, question, and understand the world.
Ashley Dawkins's picture

getting to know me- intro and thoughts

Hello everyone! My name is Ashley Dawkins and I am rising senior here at Bryn Mawr College. I am a physics major, education minor, and study other things such as; math and Spanish. I plan on becoming an urban public high school physics and math teacher. I have to agree with Graham in that I do not believe the current way we are presenting science (physics in particular) is particularly effective. I am with working Paul this summer exploring more effective ways of teaching and learning science and math. Hopfully this research will continue into the school as I formulate thesis ideas.

I do like the idea that science is all about becoming less wrong. This is relevant not only to education but to physics as well. For instance in my future classroom I probably will do various things wrong and throughout my career will strive to become less wrong. Similarly, in physics, we are always looking for a less wrong way of describing the universe.

Science as story telling and story telling in general (as Paul describes it) can at times seem unrealistic. I say this because I'm not sure if we could ever get everyone in the world to listen and acknowledge everyone else's stories. At the same time, I think it's necessary to be hopeful and do our part in order to be a catalyst for change. I also think that I may perceive story telling a little differently...but I guess that's the whole idea...I acknowledged Paul's ideas and in turn it affected my own. I think that's the most important part: it's still my own.

Tammi Jordan's picture

Science as Storytelling

The idea of Science as storytelling is interesting in that you look at scientific concepts a possibilies opposed to fact. The issue of the cracks exposes loopholes in scientific theory that I once believed in and will allow my students to be more liberal in their thinking.
Bruce Williamson's picture

Regards, Bruce

Regards,
Bruce
Cheryl Brown's picture

science as storytelling

I think science lends itself to the idea of storytelling. When you begin teaching children how to write a story, they come to realize that one of the reasons for writing is to share their work with others, just like in science. It also involves revising which goes along with the idea of observing, summarizing and making new observations.
Geneva Tolliferreo's picture

Science as Story Telling

Because (in part) Science is a summary of observations, there is a story in place. These observations present in a sequential manner that form a theme based story. Although the sequence and theme may be different, based on the interpretation, experience, and knowledge of the observer ('the crack'), the story/theme will vary as often as the observer is different. Yes, Science lends itself to story telling.
Bruce Williamson's picture

Monday 7-9

Good idea that science is about less wrong instead of right. Students who have to take the whole thing 'because teacher said so' and then find one 'fact' proved wrong later on, may discard all the other good stuff along with it. Isn't that what Galileo saw that broke the earth centered theory? Folks said that the Sun and EVERYTHING revolved around Earth so when he saw moons going around Jupiter that was enough to break apart the whole thing. No evidence that Earth itself was cirling the Sun, but evidence that not everything circled the Earth. My favorite part is the use of evidence and the formation of new summaries with multiple inputs from other folks, Regards,
Bruce
Paul Grobstein's picture

Session 1 thoughts

There are two somewhat distinct issues, one is science as loopy, unending, not Truth. The other is science as "story". The first seems to me critical, not only because it provides ways for students to engage more effectively with science (as many have noted) but also because is in actually what importantly differentiates science from other human activities, and can hopefully help offset peoples' wish for certainty generally. We'll also see important parallels between science and the brain with regard to both loopiness and tentativeness.

There are important reasons to worry about "story" with regard to science, since as a word it calls up unintended meanings (something with a beginning and end, something that is a lie, something that doesn't have to be taken seriously, something I can believe in whatever anyone else says). On the other hand, it also calls up meanings very much intended (not True, way of making sense of things that is perspective/author dependent, something to share with others, something that can change over time). Here too, we'll say important parallels between science and the brain with regard to story telling (and revising).

Deidre Bennett's picture

I found this mornings

I found this mornings session informative. I learned that the purpose of science is not prove that something is 100% correct but rather that a summary works. Science is set to prove what things are wrong. Paul took us through several examples of this. I was intrigued when asked to decide rather or not the earth was round or flat. At first this seemed to be an easy question to answer based on what we are taught but by the end of the disscussion I was left questioning I had learned. We were given several more questions of this type and at the end I always questioned what I had been taught. The only question that has not raised doubt in my mind was the one determining the creation of all life including humans. For this one my faith in a higher being and the existence of the human soul is to strong to sway me to think differently.
Benjamin Zerante's picture

Science as Story Reaction

I really think that science as story telling and story revising is an exciting and engaging way to view the process of "doing science." It views science as much more relevant to society, making science an engine for change rather than a body of facts and knowledge one must acquire. I think often students (and teachers) think of science as performing a lab to come to the same conclusion others have already drawn. It is much more engaging and exciting to think of science as a story to which chapters can be added. The more technology advances the more our ability to make observations advances as well. I suppose my only reservation with this model is the ability to harmonize different types of stories. For example, when discussing evolution are religious beliefs the same kind of story as the fossil record. While I appreciate that they are both valid stories, I'm not sure that I accept them both as scientific stories. The two stories may not be completely incompatible, and I suppose I'm wondering if making distinctions between stories is necessary. On some level, science as story telling and story revising challenges us to leave our comfort zones (and challenge students to leave their's as well)and challenge what we accept to be truth and how we justify believing what we do.
Graham Phillips's picture

Day 1 First Discussion

It seems to me that using science as storytelling will allow students to take ownership of science. If they are so motivated, they will become more involved in the process as they are now given the pen and paper with which to help write the story, so to speak. That being said, I wonder, especially at the lower levels, if teaching science in this manner might be too complicated for them, especially at ages where the students very much tend to think in concrete terms of 2+3=5. Graham

Bruce Williamson2's picture

In what ways are you similar

In what ways are you similar to/different from me/others here? Include in your posting in the forum area below something of your feelings about "science", whether you think of yourself as a scientist or not and why.

Since I work in education I am similar to all of you other fine folks. I am different in that I never planned to teach so I was not watching my teachers with any attention to how they taught or what they did while teaching. Instead I was learning the material that was taught. Only later when I realized that I was teaching classmates in college, and being teaching assistant in grad school with office hours, did I finally start trying to recall what my excellent teachers did. I tried thinking of teachers who were not so excellent, but could not. Either I was really lucky in school or just oblivious. I am science oriented and often bother my family and friends in a science way when I ask for evidence or for "How do you know that to be so?" in most situations. I am skeptical of things instead of accepting without question, especially when I do not see a coherence or causal relationship. What makes me curious? I was lucky enough that the elementary school science curiosity that is so prevalent stuck with me. Those little kids are all scientists. Being a scientist now seems odd to some of my acquaintances and perhaps it is because they stopped their own science thinking some time ago. I like thinking this way.

Diane O'Fee-Powers's picture

introduction

My name is Diane and I do think that I am a scientist, not because I am good in math, or because I was in the AP classes, but because I am inquisitive. I do love to read, so addressing science as storytelling is fascinating to me! I teach middle school science & RELA, which is another reason why I am excited to participate in this class!
I tell my students that there are scientist, because they are! I try to incorporate day to day stuff into science class, to show them that science can be a part of their life. Next year I will be teaching writing to the 7th&8th graders, and I am interested in incorporating science into their writing and their storytelling. This past year my science students did create our first magazine, which I hope we can publish a magazine every year!

Judith Lucas-Odom's picture

Am I a scientist, myfeelings

I think that most people are born scientist and we tend to stop growing or thinking like one when someone says that we can't around age 5. A few of us are persistent and want to explore the unknown territory of science so we venture off and we become "scientists". Everyone has the ability but not the availablity to become explorers. Yes, I am a scientist and I enjoy the exploration and learning and interacting with my world. Scientist are not the white coat pocket protector people they are people that make science fun. As I teach my students they learn how to love science again.
Tammi Jordan's picture

Introduction

I am Tammi Jordan Forbes. We share the fact that we are educators and parents. I am different from you in that I am a Special Education teacher in a public school. I work with children with the intent of modifying their behavior in order for them to achieve success academically, socially and eventually economically. I am similiar to you and other participants in that we are educator. We are separated by the environments in which we teach in and the age of our audience. In our similarities we all must stimulate the brains of our students and be conscious of the behavior that impacts their learning. I teach Special Education Emotional Support and Learning Support at Huey Elementary school and yes in my position I do consider myself a scientist although I have not thought of that classification prior to today. I start each day or week with a question. I form hypothesis about the behavior of my students even my children. Then I collect data to support my hypothesis and according to the results as a parent and classroom teacher I make decisions about rewards or punishments; as a Special Educator I work with a team in order to determine the best for each individual student.
Cheryl Brown's picture

Introduction

Hi, I am Cheryl Brown. I am a first grade teacher in a suburban public school. I feel that I am like others in this class because I am an educator as well as a sometimes scientist. I enjoy teaching science and love to see the look of awe on the faces of my students when they make a new discovery, test their findings, and come to their conclusions.
Geneva Tolliferreo's picture

Introduction

Good Morning! It is nice to see former participants and meet new participants. Currently working with Temple University, I support graduating student teachers exiting their Education program. I also serve with local universities as an Adjunct Professor teaching in the Graduate School of Education for Education Administration candidates. Formerly a Special Education Teacher with the School District of Philadelphia, I most recently served as a Secondary School Administrator. As a Special Education Teacher I was responsible for teaching all subjects on all grade levels. As a Secondary School Administrator I was responsible for supporting my 5th - 12th grades Teachers as they implemented their respective curricula and subject domains. Enjoy BBI07!
Robert McCormick's picture

Intro and hello

Hi, Bob McCormick from Marple Newtown High School located in Delaware County Pa. I am department leader of special education at the high school.

No matter our position in the field of education, we are all educators dealing with different segments of the school. Teachers educate students, administrators educate teachers, supervisors educate administrators. Therefore, if you are in the field of education we are all educators. 

Am I a scientist? A scientist is an explorer. Do I explore various techniques and methods to effectively instruct ALL students? Yes. Then on this elementary level, I am a scientist.

joycetheriot's picture

Science Facilitation

When I graduated with a BS in Biology and Marine Science I left for the Philippines to serve as a Fisheries Peace Corps volunteer. My job was to improve aquaculture methods in order to increase fish production. Six months after arrival I began working in aquaculture because it was first necessary to learn from the natives. I needed to know how to facilitate—not teach. People are not responsive to being told how to do something. Best if you seed the ideas, let it peculate into their brain, form connections until they in the end give birth to it as their own idea. After returning to the States, I conducted research in aquatic biology for 17 years. (The fish did not mind taking commands.) Currently, I am a science facilitator in a high school. I deliver science content using inquiry based methods that I thought I invented in the Philippines- (who knew it was an educational method, I was a scientist!)
William Sgrillo's picture

First Day BBI07

W. Keith Sgrillo My name is William but I go by Keith. I am a teacher at Turner Middle School in Philadelphia. I taught 7th grade Social Studies and Literacy for 4 years and this past year I taught 8th grade Literacy. I am a father of a 7 year old son (Riliey), a brother, uncle, cousin, son, and a notoriously bad speller. I think that science as story telling and revising, of getting it less wrong is a great way for people to understand and interpret their own view of the world. Some good points of this idea are 1)it gives some understanding as to why things are ever changing 2) how we can understand changes in our selves 3) help children understand how they view their world and to accept changes/differences. One of the bad points is that it makes it difficult to overcome some of the concrete concepts that are still universally accpeted and still remain in a very complex global society.
Donna Morris's picture

my story

I'm a family and consumer scientist, counselor,educator,parent, and grandparent.My love of children has led me to my career and my activities in the church as sunday school superintendent. I consider myself a scientist in the kitchen.
Graham Phillips's picture

Introduction

I'm Graham, and I currently teach 5th/6th grade science at The Baldwin School (right down the street). I've taught science through 8th grade and mathematics through 12th/college previously, with all but one of those years spent in private schools/universities. In many ways, I would have to say that I am a scientist. I got into teaching originally because I was a professional who cared about my field and the way it was being presented. I felt that science, and physics in particular had been (and still is to a degree) presented in a rote way, being simply the collection of rules, theorems, postulates and formulas that one simply applied to preset problems that were designed to yield a pre-determined outcome; in many ways similar to the ballet classes that I have taken. Useful, yes, for helping students to sharpen their logic skills (as ballet classes are useful for strengthening muscles and developing flexibility) but about as exciting as mud. I like the idea of science as story-telling and revising in that it allows students to take ownership of science. As I said previously, I don't think science is largely presented to students in such a way as to enable them to embrace the fields. Presenting science to students in such a way as to get them thinking about why things make sense and offering them the opportunity to help write the story are steps that science, and science teachers, can take in order to embrace more students and involve them in their own learning. That being said, sometimes not keeping things too open-ended can have its merits, especially when dealing with special needs children. I am thinking in particular of a few students for whom creativity might be their watchword, but given no boundaries or leashes would take the observation that the earth travels around the sun and deduce that there are aliens out there who are moving the earth by remote control. While I'm all for story telling, at the same time we have to reign in the students to keep things directed and focused. Just my beginning observations. Graham
Benjamin Zerante's picture

Introduction

My name is Ben Zerante, and I'm a middle school science teacher at Samuel B. Huey Elementary in West Philly. I think that in general, I probably have more similarities than differences with other people in this room. We are all educators and learners and have come to the Institute to broaden our own thinking about science education and improve our own methods in the classroom. I still think of myself as fairly inexperienced in the classroom, so if I had to pick out a difference, that would be it. While I agree with the statement that everyone acts as a scientist throughout life, I think I would describe myself as a teacher more than a scientist. Although I have enjoyed science as a student and a teacher, I still suffer from the stereotype that describing yourself as a scientist means wearing a lab coat and running experiments constantly. I think that it is important to challenge the "lab coat" stereotype and recognize that science is about skepticism and inquiry (concepts employed by any person), but at the same time I find it hard to escape my gut reaction to the word scientist.
Dalia Gorham's picture

Introduction

I believe that I am simular to others here, for we are all educators. We are all trying to enhance our classrooms and ourselves by furthering our understanding of scientific topics discussed in the summer institutes. I am different from others because we all teach in different areas and different grades, I teach 3rd grade a t S.B. Huey School. Science is a very important subject and is usually the most enjoyable to students. Science is very engaging, my students and I like to do experiments. In that small way I would concider myself a scientist.
Deidre Bennett's picture

I believe that is important

I believe that is important to first highlight a few ways that we are similair here at the institute. For one, we are all interested in increasing our knowledge base. Second, we are all dedicated to the field of education. The things that make us different such as grade level and teaching environment will work not as a negative but as a positve as we share ideas and thoughts here at the institute. I would not describe mmyself as a full fledge scientist. I would consider myself to be a little curious. I wonder about and question the many wonders of the world, but rarely go any further to scientifically explore my curiousities.
Angela Morris's picture

introductions

I am a special education teacher with the School District of Philadelphia. I have 2 masters one is a MEd in educational administration and a MS in special education. I am very involved in my church where I work with the Sunday School and on the Scholarship Commitee. I am also a proud parent of two wonderful girls ages 2 and 3 1/2. I consider myself to be a scientist because I use data and research in my daily routine as an educator of differentiated learners. I feel that we are all alike because we are educators who want to improve our students in the areas of academics, self esteem, and to ultimately become productive citizens.
Teresa Albers's picture

introduction

Yes!, I am a scientist who, daily, actively explores, observes, and experiments upon the environment in which I live. Sometimes I consciously recall previous experiences and conclusions and apply them in decision making or choices I make. Other times, more numerous than I care to admit, I unconsciously and habitually use past experiences and established belief systems to determine my next move or plan. Regardless, as one who interacts with the environment, and acts upon it, I am a career (meaning life long) scientist. In this vein, working to meet basic human needs in the manifested external world, I share much with the rest of humanity.

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