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Science Education Workshop - October 2009

Science as Open-Ended Transactional Inquiry
The Three Loops and their Implications for the Classroom

Workshop with the science faculty at Delaware Valley Friends School
Paul Grobstein
9 October 2009



  • the three loops: acting, reflecting, interacting 
  • not "getting it right," but "getting it less wrong"
  • science/inquiry as process one gets better at rather than body of knowledge to be mastered
  • science/inquiry as conflict driven and creative

Science as empiricism - Loop 1

Observations and stories

Ongoing process of questioning, always multiple possible directions

Centrality of conflict and conflict resolution

Science as reflection - Loop 2

Distinct unconscious and conscious understandings

Narrower and broader stories

Centrality of conflict and conflict resolution

Science as interaction - Loop 3

Distinct individual, group, cultural stories

Centrality to inquiry process of conflict/conflict resolution

Science/inquiry as story telling/story revision

Story doesn't mean "lie" or "to be ignored", means tentative/revisable

One is never "trapped", there are always ways to get it less wrong

  • genes, experiences, culture, individual and story diversity, free will/personal responsiblity
  • "I am, and I can think, therefore I can change who I am" (as well as things around me, including culture)
  • What do I experience that I can't make sense of? What aspects of stories (mine or other peoples') don't make sense in terms of my experiences?

The brain and education education, a quick summary

Lessons for students (and teachers)

  • Choose/act, even if you don't/can't know the "right" answer
  • Recognize that disagreement is valuable; you have things to learn from other peoples' stories
  • Being wrong is the only way to get it "less wrong"
  • Choose/act to see what new things there are to see/do/create

My story, looking forward to continuing comparing of observations/stories in on-line forum below


MCITP's picture

Wonderful Idea

This article is really fabulous. The idea implemented to explain the article is nice. The flow chart easily explains the science as empiricism, reflection and the interaction. The article has very information Thanks for sharing the article.

Paul Grobstein's picture

Post Loops workshop thoughts

Thanks all for rich conversation this afternoon.  A few things I want to mull further, for whatever use they might also be to others ...

Some interesting variants on the "less wrong" theme, should it perhaps be "less conflicted"?  If the latter is understood as always transient?  For more along these lines, see Making Sense of Understanding: The Three Doors of Serendip and some thoughts on "oceanic feelings". 

Can we actually get students/people to value noticing conflict, inside, with the outside, with other people?  By providing the context for positive experiences with conflict?  the phenomena of discovering something new?  the enhanced power of being able to choose among possibilities? 

Intriguing to think about all this in the context of a curricular unit on metacognition, on life skills?

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