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Re: [Phys-l] Physics First Revisited

Rick Tarara asked who is responsible for the preparation of elementary
science teachers.

The answer is easy... We all are responsible.

The implementation is more difficult. It's pretty easy for the
scientists to accuse the education department of stressing pedagogy over
content. Indeed, what good is impeccable pedagogy if you don't know
what you're talking about? At the same time, the education folks accuse
the science department of stressing content over pedagogy. Indeed, what
good is content knowledge if you are unable to teach it effectively?

This is why we have to work together. I'm not sure Rick believes that
either we (scientists) or they (education faculty) should find
professors who can do it all, but he sort of implies that when he
suggests either education departments hire science specialists, or
science departments hire education specialists.

Why stop there? Let's hire "renaissance people" who are good at
everything, then divide the entering freshman class amongst these
"do-it-all" teachers and let the students stick with a single teacher
for the next four years as if they were in an apprenticeship.

Actually that's not a bad idea, but we know it's not going to happen for
a myriad of reasons.

My area of expertise is physical science. I'm not an expert on pedagogy
or educational research, but I can work with the education folks if we
can avoid fighting with each other. I did not complete an English major
in college, but I can correct grammar and spelling on lab reports, and I
can engage in dialogue with the English faculty about why my students
write so poorly. I did not major in math, but I can correct my
students' math errors, and I can engage in dialogue with the math
faculty about why they are teaching the way they are, and whether we can
collectively improve the curriculum. I did not major in history, but I
can bring the history of science into my teaching, and I can even talk
to the students about the other things going on in the world during the
time period that Newton was doing his thing. I can discuss these things
with the history profs.

Of course I have a significant advantage of being in a small institution
where I daily drink coffee or have lunch with professors from other
disciplines. Even so, the struggle with the education professors over
the science content for elementary and middle-school teachers was
difficult. Turf battles are always difficult, especially in hard
economic times. But once we get the dialogue going, there is the
possibility of agreeing that they can trust me to teach the appropriate
science and I can trust them to teach the appropriate pedagogy. We just
have to keep talking.

Michael D. Edmiston, Ph.D.
Professor of Chemistry and Physics
Bluffton University
Bluffton, OH 45817