2007 Pre-College Science Education Awardee (1)

Ashley Dawkins (Physics Major)

Mentor: Professor Paul Grobstein, Biology Deptartment, BMC





Science and Math Education

Ashley Dawkins

As a student interested in a future career in pre-college science and math education, I propose to work with the Bryn Mawr College Summer Institute for K-12 teachers through the Science Horizon Internship. I plan to help the Summer Institute achieve their goals of communicating and sharing with one another about different perspectives in science and math education. I also hope to gain a better understanding and share my own personal ideas of the major themes of this institute. Which include:

  • the theory and practice of a discovery-based approach to education

  • bridging the disciplinary gap between science/mathematics and other areas of the curriculum

  • valuing and making use of classroom diversity

  • acquiring skill in and exploring productive use of information technology

  • developing effective collaborations between K-12 and college/university educators (http://serendipstudio.org/local/suminst)
  • Participating in this Summer Institute will also help me in terms of my own personal goal of becoming an urban public school physics and math teacher. Through the experiences of participating in the dialogues of this Institute I hope to further educate myself on the issues in science and math education. I believe science and math education should be taken seriously and appreciated by educators. Therefore if educators have a better understanding and enthusiasm in science and math education, those feelings have more of a chance of projecting on their students.

    I am currently taking part in the Working Group on Elementary Science Education where we hope to investigate different ways of thinking about science education. Through the Summer Institute for K-12 teachers I would be able to build off of this experience and further explore education in the world of science and math. Continuous awareness and participation in science and math education will help me to develop and become effective in these areas.



    Science and Math Teaching and Learning

    Ashley M. Dawkins

    Mentor: Prof. Paul Grobstein

    There are a variety of new educational approaches that have been developed in order to improve on traditional ways of teaching and learning science and math. I believe improving upon the current state of science and math education is important, and hence, that it is necessary to inquire into these approaches. To do so, I read about and gained practical experience related to these new approaches as well as contributed to them through reflection on their related pros and cons.

    My goals this summer included:

    1. Supporting the open ended transactional approach to science available on Serendip.

    2. Update the informational links on Serendip relating to interactive learning.

    3. Create a new resource on math education.

    4. Aide and participate in the three Summer Institutes for K-12 teachers that encourage discovery-based learning.

    5. Create summaries and evaluations of these Institutes.

    6. Read papers and have discussions with my research partners about issues in science and education.

    In the three Summer Institutes I was a participant, helper and observer. These roles allowed to me to think about their effectiveness with different mindsets. There is a link to my critiques and summaries of these Institutes above in (5). Below, I am highlighting some important aspects of each Institute by outlining questions and ideas that arose among the K-12 teachers during the Institutes.

    Computer Science Institute (Haverford College)

  • What is the difference between computing v. computer science?

  • We can use computers like a telescope or microscope in the classroom.

  • Web 2.0 provides an overload of information.

  • How are women and minorities being drawn into computer science?

  • What does accessible computing look like?

  • Computer science as a way to develop problem solving skills.

  • Brain and Behavior Institute (Bryn Mawr College)

  • The traditional scientific method is linear, it’s necessary to think of it in terms of loops.

  • Our brains are not simple input/output engines.

  • Teachers are brain surgeons.

  • Is disinterest the beginning or the consequence?

  • Failure is success. It’s a process of getting it less wrong.

  • What is the role of the I-function?

  • Skepticism is needed in order to progress.

  • Science and a Sense of Place Institute (Bryn Mawr College)

  • Our location in our self, city, state, country, world, and universe is significant

  • Understanding our location in these places can create knowledge of our surroundings.

  • What does it mean to have guided inquiry based learning?

  • We can bring neighborhoods closer to the students through watershed education.

  • My research partners also read papers weekly and had discussions based on these papers. Below are links to all of these papers and discussions and highlights of these conversations.

    Group Discussions:

  • We can work together in order to get it less wrong.

  • Our own perceptions and experiences will alter the way we see things.

  • Acknowledging others’ stories will contribute to our own.

  • At the beginning of the summer I wrote a starting paper that addressed what I felt the strengths and weaknesses of science and math education were. My experiences this summer have taught me the following things; I realized that I still believe that teacher preparation is important, there are better ways of approaching science and math, and that students are ultimately accountable for themselves. Thus creating new more refined questions:

    1. What does effective science and math teaching and learning look like?

    2. How can people be reached as individuals in education?

    3. What is being done to prevent resistance to science?

    4. How can we make students feel comfortable to fail, explore, and challenge?

    5. What has to be done for students to understand constructing their own understanding is key?

    There are many ways of teaching and learning science and math education. What I plan on exploring this year is what those ways are and which ones have been more successful. I am hoping that through this experience I will be able to create techniques that will help my future students.

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