2008 Pre-College Science Research Awardee

Julia Lewis

Mentor: Paul Grobstein
Eleanor A. Bliss Professor of Biology Director, K-12 Summer Institute Program, BMC.





I am interested in the philosophy of science and its application to science education. The writings of various philosophers have considerably influenced science classrooms. Karl Popperís theory of falsification is embedded in the scientific method taught to elementary school students. The issue of demarcation, what distinguishes science from metaphysics and other human intellectual pursuits. This issue is relevant to the debate over the appropriateness of addressing Intelligent Design and the Theory of Evolution in a biology classroom. There are many more examples of the interface between philosophy and education that I would like to explore.

Throughout my career as a science student, I have observed the influence of various philosophies of science in curriculum, pedagogy, and perspective. My high school science courses were very similar to my lower level chemistry courses in college. They presented the history of science as coherent effort that incrementally broadened or increased previously obtained knowledge. The important concepts and theories were introduced and our understanding was broadened by problem solving exercises. My upper level chemistry courses differed significantly in pedagogy. The revolutionary nature of science, as characterized by Thomas Kuhn, was emphasized. Discussions of the merits of past and present paradigms were incorporated into the course lectures. In one course, I was asked to compare and contrast competing paradigms related to the nature of chemical bonding. The abrupt alteration in pedagogy was somewhat disconcerting to me as a student. I am interested in attempting to integrate these two distinct approaches to science education to provide a more coherent idea of science to students at an earlier point in their career. It is extremely unfortunate that students who do not become science majors are not exposed to a more complete picture of the discipline.

I would like to be involved with the K-12 Summer Science Institute because it is an opportunity for me to discuss and debate the implications of philosophy of science for a science classroom. Kuhnís writings can be perceived to provide two distinct models for science education. It is possible to develop pedagogies that address either the normal activities of science or the revolutionary elements of science. I would be curious to see if the teachers participating in the Summer Science Institute favor the teaching of normal science or the interpretation of paradigms. It will be very interesting to learn about how science teachers perceive the influence of philosophy in their specific courses. Each field of science presents its own pedagogical challenges. I am interested in learning about how teachers in fields other than chemistry address these issues. After the conclusion of the program, I would reflect on my experiences in various forms. It might be interesting to consider how philosophy of science interacts with other influences on science pedagogies. Hopefully, I will be able to challenge and explore my own ideas about science education, by aiding and participating in the Summer Science Institute. I will produce supporting web materials for the Summer Science Institute. These materials will contain my synthesis of the effect of the philosophy of science on science education. It will allow the concepts and ideas generated at the Summer Science Institute to reach a broader audience.




Reflections on the Pre-College Science Education Internship: K-12 Summer Institutes

Julia Lewis

Mentor: Dr. Paul Grobstein

This summer was a wonderful complement to my past scientific experience. I came to Bryn Mawr College with the goal of obtaining an education that would enable me to be a successful high school chemistry teacher. In my first three years, I completed a chemistry major. So fascinated by the science I failed to take more than two education courses.

In the beginning of the internship, I spent my time contemplating philosophies of education, what issues they could successfully address and where they were weaker. Reviewing relevant articles on Serendip and the web to inform my reflections. Weekly discussions with a fellow intern and Bryn Mawr professor helped propel my thoughts forward.

I reconsidered my previous course work in terms of the teacher’s goals and pedagogical approaches. During this time, I thought about what elements of courses I wanted to emulate or modify. After considering my more meaningful classes, I began to consider my own educational philosophy. What I would later want to share and compare with the teachers participating in the Summer Institutes.

One of the most significant thoughts I had was that a teacher should have both a breadth and depth of knowledge about their subject. I found that myself lacking in the area of applications, metaphors, and scientific stories about chemistry. Therefore, I decided to declare a biology major to broaden my knowledge of chemistry. I hope that my second major will help me place my chemical knowledge in a more general and meaningful context.

During the second half of the internship, I attended, facilitated, participated, and critiqued the summer institutes. My critiques are posted on my blog on Serendip. (www.serendip.brynmawr.edu) These programs provided me with an opportunity to interact with a diverse group of teachers.

Especially significant is the fact that a majority of the teachers were from public schools. Most of my prior experience was with the teachers from my own private school education. I began to realize how different the two types of education are. What became apparent to me this summer is that there are limitations to both approaches. As a result of my involvement with the institute, I now have a better-balanced understanding of teachers and teaching science in this part of Pennsylvania.



Poster (saved as a pdf)



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