Brain Behavior Institute 2008 - Session 1

 

BRAIN AND BEHAVIOR INSTITUTE 2008

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

Getting to know each others' stories

Evolving
Neurobiologist and ...Applied neurobiologist and ...
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

SPalmer's picture

Science Education

In my experiences with school children experiments and active science are a highly effective learning tool. They provide the children with a pleasant memory to associate any concept being taught. I have often thought that the scientific method rasies the experiments to a complex level that the students are not prepared for. On the other hand the Loopy Story evens the playing field for students. It will allow them to be able to concentrate all brain power on the experiment and concept at hand considering there is know right or wrong answer.

SPalmer's picture

Introduction

My name is Seta Palmer. I'm a fourth grade teacher at Feltonville Intermediate school in Philadelphia. I've always enjoyed science especially the hands on, which I like to use in the classroom. I like to consider myself a life learner. One way of doing this is by attending different classes peridically. I'm unique in that I work hard, I love learning new ideas and applying them in school.

bronstein's picture

Theory v. Law

I, too, was not quite comfortable being told that there is no "truth" -- at least not in science . . . and that nothing is absolutely right. Math and science are closely related. There are things in math that are absolutely right or wrong. There are "proofs." This is why I think we need to distinguish between a theory and a law . . . and that wasn't mentioned today. The normal definition of a law is that it is something that can be proven, normally mathematically; while a theory is an explanation of observed events. By definition it cannot be proven. We can only accumulate more and more data to support it. When data is published that disproves or modifies the theory, it is vetted by other scientists through further experimentation. If others corroborate the initial findings, then the theory is modified or "junked," as appropriate. That is why we have a "law of gravity" and a "theory of evolution." Gravity is proven daily. We cannot prove evolution until we invent a time machine and go back and watch it happen. . . . but, of course, Einstein's theory says that we can't do that, doesn't it?
jrlewis's picture

Doesn't modern physics also

Doesn't modern physics also complicate the "concept of gravity" a little? Desperately trying to remember what Peter Kosso said about this topic. Help?
adiflesher's picture

Weighty Problems

The following is from Wikipedia on the anomilies of gravity. 

I don't claim to understand much of this, but I have been following the debate on the nature of Dark Matter and the expansion of the universe.

 

There are some observations that are not adequately accounted for, which may point to the need for better theories of gravity or perhaps be explained in other ways.

  • Stars on the outskirts of galaxies are moving faster than they should. Also galaxies within galaxy clusters are moving faster than they should. Dark Matter and MOND have both been proposed as explanations.
  • The expansion of the universe seems to be speeding up. Dark Energy has been proposed to explain this. A recent alternative explanation is that the geometry of space is not homogeneous (due to clusters of galaxies) and that when the data is reinterpreted to take this into account, the expansion is not speeding up after all.[18]
  • Various spacecraft have experienced greater accelerations during slingshot maneuvers than expected.
  • An apparent frame dragging effect has been measured by Martin Tajmar and others which exceeds that predicted by General Relativity by many orders of magnitude.

 

adiflesher's picture

More falling apples

 

Problems with Gravity

Problems with Gravity

From our wiki buddies - fascinating list of recent alternative theories

LuisanaT's picture

To touch again on the matter of summary of observations

As we have established earlier in this session, there is always more than one summary of observations that are equally good simultaneously. This idea can be very beneficial to understand because it acknowledges and respects many different diversity aspects found in a classroom like neurodiversity.
LuisanaT's picture

What students do

Students tend to strive to proving their hypothesis to be right. For right answers get better grades in our current educational system. Here, right answers mean getting things done.
But there is more value in proving how/why something is wrong because it requires a certain level of research, empowerment, inquiry, confidence etc. from students that is worth practicing and strengthening.
So the real question therefore is how to go about grading students on the basis that nothing is right but only less wrong. One interesting way would be to mimic the protocol when teaching the methods of debate; rewards are given to those who are able to come to sophisticated, well-researched arguments-stories- that they can strongly defend orally or otherwise.
Judith Lucas-Odom's picture

Interactive Games

 

I found an interactive brain game that I think your students will like: http://nobelprize.org/educational_games/medicine/split-brain/splitbrainexp.html

This game will help your students play and draw conclusions about the brain. Even set up research proposals with funding. Your students have to be able to read simple directions but it is mainly for middle and up.

 

Sage Hunter's picture

websites

Here are some websites to check out... not all include online activities... they are mostly directed toward middle school science curriculum:

http://www.k12science.org/curriculum/drainproj/information.html

http://library.thinkquest.org/J002289/meta.html

http://pbskids.org/zoom/games/3puckchuck/

http://www.educationworld.com/a_curr/curr019.shtml

Babtunde A Oronti's picture

Interactive lesson plan (Salt water food chain)

The following is a weblink to the site we found on food chain;

 

http://www.secretsatsea.org/story/1a.html 

Click on it and have some fun learning about food chain in the ocean.

The website is very colorful and actually presents the lesson in form of a investigative assignment where students will act as detectives looking for culprits who dump hazardous wastes into the ocean. 

Babtunde A Oronti's picture

Interactive lesson plan (Salt water food chain)

The following is a weblink to the site we found on food chain;

 

http://www.secretsatsea.org/story/1a.html 

Click on it and have some fun learning about food chain in the ocean.

The website is very colorful and actually presents the lesson in form of a investigative assignment where students will act as detectives looking for culprits who dump hazardous wastes into the ocean. 

LuisanaT's picture

It's important that we get technical

(To reiterate)


Just for verification purposes, a summary of observations, in a scientific context, does also carries with it a prediction.To look at the example mentioned earlier today again.

The sun comes up everyday.

This summary of observations that IMPLYS that the sun will continue to rise every single day.

A basic summary of observation would simply state

To this present day, the sun has come up everyday.

This summary is non-generative, for it does not motivate further exploration and experimentation for new observations.

The skepticism and curiosity a summary of observation appropriate for science should also invoke is one good thing to take from this redefinition of the process of the Scientific Method. Having the students think about what observations had to have been summarized in order to make such a claim/ story up is a very valuable skill that can only benefit the individual. For it is like what my mother once told me, A prender no pesas, to learn does not weight us down.

LuisanaT's picture

Something one teacher mentioned

I like the idea proposed by one of the teachers from her experience of having different school levels (high and jr. high school) students work together through their presentations. The younger students not only get insight from the older students, these older students become big brothers/ big sisters and act as role models to the younger students and tutors, reinforcing what they have learned thus far by helping to teach it to someone else.
If the Summer Institute can include k-12 teachers and become effective in their work, more schools can include students from k-16 to work together even if it is simply for community service projects, educational praxis’, or environmental/health education courses.
Ayotola Oronti's picture

Facts or Truths??

If we say that there are no truths as such but just a summary of observations, I wonder what we do teaching mathematics. In Philadelphia we use Everyday Math to teach math in the elementary grades. Each lesson usually begins with a message that pulls each child into a realm of displaying his or her prior knowledge in that area. Right after that it is the job of the teacher to go over what the kids have done and guide them into the "TRUTH".

Now, I understand that I have to remember I am not teaching the truth but "we are getting it less wrong".

Tola 

 

jrlewis's picture

math vs. science

As I understand it, there is a fundamental difference between math and science. Mathematics is a discipline that is constructed by humans to contain the concepts of proofs, truths, and universals.

The sciences, either the physical or social sciences, are a process of inquiry. They are based on observations of organic or cultural objects. We are not able to prove any universal ideas in science with inductive logic. Unlike mathematics there is no garuntee that what was repeatedly true, will continue to be true.

Sage Hunter's picture

Getting it less wrong...


I find the idea that science is a collection of observations or an ongoing process of getting it less wrong is a very accurate and interesting concept. Teaching science to a group of 8th graders who believe they know everything and can be convinced of very little can be a bit challenging when certain scientific theories go against their belief system. I look forward to using this explanation of science to better explain why neither their beliefs, nor scientific explanations for certain issues are right or wrong, nor do they have to be. I also look forward to applying the concept of science as an ongoing story revision to better explain this concept.
LuisanaT's picture

Hello Brain and Behavior

Hi, my name is Luisana Taveras and I am an upcoming sophomore at Bryn Mawr College, potentially declaring myself as an independent Science of Education major. This summer I am one of Professor Grobstein's interns for this and the two other summer institutes for k-12 teachers the Howard Hughes Medical Institute is funding. But that I don't feel makes me particularly, usefully different or special. What is, however, is my identification as a social scientist interested in education, which I hope, will benefit the institute as a whole.
joycetheriot's picture

Right Thinkers

Are we all Right-Thinkers? The discussion became very interesting when people began to question Paul’s idea of “getting it less wrong”. To paraphrase Cynthia’s idea, she said why do we need to know whether the world is flat or round just as long as I can walk on around on it. Then Carol was so intent upon completing the evolution exercise by having Paul say openly which scenario was the best. I personally dislike the idea of calling science a “story” especially with high school students who have little regard for what is important or “real”. To say the word “story” will automatically have my students thinking that it is a lie. For example: “Mrs. Theriot, I saw on TV a show that said the moon landing was fake and they proved that it was all shot on a movie set.” Why do my students believe this kind of show but not the tons of evidence to the contrary? My students enjoy living in a virtual world. More than enjoy they crave this form of entertainment. Worse yet they begin to form ideas that this is real and then have trouble distinguishing real vs. games. I think that school shootings have evolved based on this very problem. Right-thinkers would know that they should not be bullied and in fact can NOT be bullied. Do they then begin to believe that they are right in avenging themselves and eliminating the bullies and those that aligned themselves with the bullies? Worse of all will they think that the bully has then learned his lesson and will be a nice (alive) person from now on?

Bernadine Dancy's picture

I learned that there is

I learned that there is always mor than one way of summary observations. also personel context helps you with your summary of observation. Summary is not truth it is a summary of observation. Science Is Elementary is a inquiry base science program that helps the students to make obervations and defend their obervation.
Bernadine Dancy's picture

I learned that there is

I learned that there is always mor than one way of summary observations. also personel context helps you with your summary of observation. Summary is not truth it is a summary of observation. Science Is Elementary is a inquiry base science program that helps the students to make obervations and defend their obervation.
cisrael's picture

evolution

Although I feel very uneasy being told that nothing can be proven, I do understand the importance of viewing theories, like evolution, as incredibly useful concepts, supported by lots of good data, that helps explains a lot of observations. However, I think it is very important to talk about how not all 'data' is equally valuable; i.e that we can't take a theory and use any old data to say it is supported. All theories are not created equal, in terms of supporting data.
GMH's picture

Traditional science instruction v.s. Story telling

 Teaching science to children lends itself to the notion of collecting and  summarizing observations.When thinking about science instruction, validating student observations seems key. Science learning is empowering for all levels of students.The loopy story telling method of teaching science is more appropriate for young students than the quanitative"scientific method". Viewing science from a child's perspective will provide the teacher with insights into how children make sence of their world. Attending to a more naturalistic story telling method may help teachers of science to help students connect to their environment and refine their observations.
Concetta Henkel's picture

story-telling7-07-08

I am able to do a lot of inquiry-based learning in Math and Science. These two subjects are the children's favorites-not surprised. When the children use their background knowledge and experiences, they discover, question, and love to learn.  

Bernadine Dancy's picture

Story telling

I learned that there is always more than one way of summary observations, also perosnal context helps you with your summaryof observaations. Summary is not truth it is a summary of obervation. I learned good scientist is looking for obervations not consistency. To look for something wrong to make new observations That is what Iam doing with our science program Inquiry base Science Is Elementary. Students making and defending their observations.
adiflesher's picture

Go ahead, disprove this story

Per Paul’s assertion in class that we do not currently have any evidence to disprove any of the current dominant stories about the origion of the species, I would like to add that there are in fact an infinite amount of stories that we do not have evidence to disprove. For example the story that the universe was created by a blue giraffe named Herbert. There is no evidence to disprove this story.  There is also no evidence to disprove the story that the earth was designed as a giant laboratory experiment by mice to test human behavior.  In fact this is actually a fairly useful story. 

Herbert - Creator of the universe?

Herbert - Creator of the universe?

 

GMH's picture

Introduction

My name is Grace and I am a Montessori kindergarten teacher in Philadelphia. Science as a system of observations is appealing to me as the students I teach are full of ideas about the natural world.

I hope to learn more about effective teaching practices that are based upon current brain research.I am curious about how this research will improve my pedagogy of working with ADD and ADHD students.

Bernadine Dancy's picture

Brain Behavior Institue 2008

I teach at Overbrook Elementary School in Philadelphia.I teach all subjects.Iam different in that Iwant to learn more about the brain and how it works in children and adults. Iam a first grade teacher I like to teach science hands on activities.
Cynthia Henderson's picture

brain and behavior

My name is Cynthia.I am a first grade teacher.I believe myself to be a scientist becauseI like and enjoy exploration and discovery.I am interested in the workshops to continue to expand my knowledge as it relates to my teaching experiences.The information I receive translates into self - understanding to impart knowledge and/or understanding to my parents and students.In this capacity ,I am usefully different to others as I'm allowed.
Cynthia Henderson's picture

brain and behavior

My name is Cynthia.I am a first grade teacher.I believe myself to be a scientist becauseI like and enjoy exploration and discovery.I am interested in the workshops to continue to expand my knowledge as it relates to my teaching experiences.The information I receive translates into self - understanding to impart knowledge and/or understanding to my parents and students.In this capacity ,I am usefully different to others as I'm allowed.
adiflesher's picture

My name is Adi Flesher. I

My name is Adi Flesher. I am a wonderer/wanderer.

I have been among other things, a teacher, soldier, employee of all sorts of failed business ventures, a very bad pool hustler, an even worse Buddhist meditator, and a surprisingly adept builder of mosaics. 

I most recently ran a leadership oriented summer camp for High School students.  

My main question as a scientist, of sorts, is how we can help people deepen their understanding of their own minds.  

Pool

Not a good way to make money! 

Sage Hunter's picture

INTRO

I am an 8th grade science and special education teacher in North Philadelphia. I teach at an all girls high school in north Philadelphia, the Young Women's Leadership School at Rhodes. I have worked in an emotional support classroom for the past 4 years. My teaching experience has been unique in that working with emotional support students is usually a pretty unique experience, in addition my particular experience was that I worked with all boys for the first 2 years and then with an all girl population the second 2 years. My undergrad is in Kinesiology and I am now about to complete my masters in special education.
ptong's picture

Hi

Hi, my name is Penn Tong and I'm a rising senior at Haverford College. I am also a biology major at Bryn Mawr College. However, I am a scientist not because I major in biology, but because I am constantly analyzing, observing, and hypothesizing the world around me. I think that I am usefully different in this institute because I am one of the few members of this institute that has "recently" gone through elementary school through high school and I can share those experiences.
Bernadine Dancy's picture

Brain Behavior Institue 2008

I teach at Overbrook Elementary School in Philadelphia.I teach all subjects.Iam different in that Iwant to learn more about the brain and how it works in children and adults. Iam a first grade teacher I like to teach science hands on activities.
Concetta Henkel's picture

introduction 7-07-08

I teach second grade at Overbrook Elementary . I was born in Italy and came to this country at the age of seven. Because I was thrown into a class of all english-speaking children, I can relate to children who have cultural differences or any differences that make learning difficult. I am sensitive to the difficulties that children experience when they are not in the mainstream. Educators are all scientists. wE OBSERVE AND DEAL WITH CHILDREN'S DIFFERENCES AND ADJUST OUR METHODS OF TEACHING ACCORDINGLY.
Judith Lucas-Odom's picture

Uniqueness

Hello, my name is Judy and I am an unique person because God made me unique. I teach science in Chester PA. I think of my self as a scientist because scientist think out of the box. Hmm!, what you see is not always what you get, especially in science! Science is ever changing and we need to change with it. I also bring skills and talents to my world because of the unique experiences in my life!

I also enjoyed the diversity of this classroom and the unique gifts and talents that make each one of us in this group unique!

bronstein's picture

Morning thoughts - Usefully Different

I teach chemistry at Central High School of Philadelphia. I bring to the classroom years of experience in teaching as well as in heavy industry, international business, and retail. This added esperience can help to lend veracity to the examples I choose to make science "real" for the student.

The experience in international business has taught me the value of multiculturalism, which I can also bring to my students.

Further, my experience in theatre (I am the sponsor of Central's Drama Society.) and the use of its tools and tricks helps to make my course more exciting, fun, and hopefully relevent.

jrlewis's picture

As a future chemistry

As a future chemistry teacher, I have some questions about necessary credentials and experience. Should every science teacher have been an active member in the scientific community before becoming a science teacher? Including first grade teachers?

Or are there other ways to obtain experience relevant to teaching science? What about the connections between dark room photography and chemistry? Or more generally, art and science? Might not a really observant person have a lot to contribute to the loopy story telling method of science described above?

bronstein's picture

Should all science teachers have been researchers?

Not all science teachers need to have done "real research," though it is a good idea to take advantage of some of the "Research Experiences for Teachers" (RET) that are offerred during the summer at Drexel and UPenn. (The pay isn't too bad either.) These programs really give the classroom teacher a feel for how science is really done today. It is probably enough so that the teacher can pass this on to the students.

Also, by participating in more than one of these over time, the teacher may actually gain more diverse experience than would be present in a person who focussed narrowly in one field of research for a period of time. Further, a good researcher doesn't necessarily make a good teacher -- and vice-versa. The needs and temperments of the 2 professions are decidedly different.

As for photography and cooking and other chemically related fields: Knowledge in these diverse areas will help here and there, I think, but it has not proven to be as useful as I'd hoped. It is possible that I am not creative enough to use it. If you find ways to integrate material like this, you should publish the lesson plans. I think many of us would be happy to "borrow" your techniques. If you think you shouldn't b/c you are new to the field, don't let that stop you. Many advances are made by people who didn't know enough to think that it couldn't be done . . . which could be why many scientists make their big discoveries in their youth.

cisrael's picture

seeing teachers and students in varying roles

It is an interesting idea to think about both teachers and students serving in different roles. For example, students are powerful teachers of each other, often more powerful than we adults are of them. It seems important to use the power of peer influence as a postive by having them teach things to each other, whether it is older to younger, or peer to peer.

Also, it's clear from all sorts of research, that the single most important factor in determining a child's success is one committed, interested adult in his/her life (I heard this fact from a lecture by the head of a Harvard School of Education program called 'Risk and Prevention') This supports the importance of teachers being personally involved and invested with students (but we knew that!)

It does seem really worth thinking about the diverse roles that students can play in their own education and their own schools; and the diverse roles teachers can play; and trying to be creative about those roles. Also what we know about brain development, I think, supports the idea that brains learn best in a social interaction context, so using kids to teach each other, having learning involve interaction, has to be good.

joycetheriot's picture

My Intro

My name is Joyce Hubert-Theriot I am a science teacher at Rustin High School in West Chester, PA. In addition I taught science education to teachers at the Franklin Institute, was an aquaric research specialist at Penn and a Peace Corps volunteer in the Philippines.

I ahave never-ending questions, comments and ideas about the world around me. I enjoy problem-solving challenges and am skilled in flipping mundane activities into higher cognitive level investigations focused on inquiry. Best of all I will be the one who makes everyone feel that they are on time.

jrlewis's picture

introduction

At the age of sixteen, I decided I wanted to grow up and be just like my high school chemistry teacher... I am a senior chemistry major at Bryn Mawr College. I have conducted biochemistry research for ten weeks and worked as a lab prep assistant for the student organic chemistry lab at my college. My experience in educating/training a young and inexperienced horse as opposed to others experiences with human students makes me unique.

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