WORKING TOGETHER TOWARDS DEVELOPING COLLABORATIVE RESEARCH: A GROUP OF MASTER STUDENTS INVESTIGATING LEARNING PROGRESSION IN SCIENCE CORE CONCEPTS
Learning progression refers to learners’ developmental reasoning about scientific concepts or ideas. In other words, they are descriptions of the successively more sophisticated ways of thinking about a topic that can follow one another as children learn about and investigate a topic over a broad span of time. These well-assessed patterns of students’ thinking about science are essential venues not only for teaching science, but are also important for challenging the expectations that were implicitly assumed by curriculum designers. The main objective of this study is to shine lights on various findings of such trends of reasoning that were reported by a group of graduate students while pursuing their seminar course towards their Masters degree at Birzeit University in Palestine.
The Context of the Study:
Around 15 students enrolled in this graduate course as part of their Masters degree either in science or mathematics education. So often, students select their topics of interests and conduct research within those areas. Most of them used to focus on developing questioners as main tools for the data collection. However, in this route of the course the main researcher, the course instructor, pushed all students in the course towards exploring specific ideas in the field of science and math education; namely learning progression. By doing so, all researchers have concentrated on one main approach to be tackled from different angles. As a result, many science and mathematics core concepts from the Palestinian curricula were investigated in depth. In this paper we will focus on four topics as examples: students’ learning progression in blood and circulation system, reasoning about fractions, energy transformation, and measurements units.
1. Micro and Macro levels of reasoning: In spite of the fact that the results have shown considerable progress from one school level to another, participants from all ages have shown inadequate levels of reasoning about science. Furthermore, students tend to understand the macro aspects of science and they barely can reason on the micro level. Such a result was vivid in all types of research in our course.
2. Model-based versus force-dynamic reasoning: Overlapped trends between results also indicated that more than 90% of students have shown what we called force-dynamic way of reasoning (i.e. finding the cause and effect in scientific phenomena) . Very limited ratio of students have shown what science educators call model –based reasoning, the most sophisticated ways of reasoning about science on the micro levels.
3. Building a new family of practice and re-forming the research paradigm: Throughout this course, we build a community of learners with a new approach of research. We find it very fruitful to focus on one theme so that all graduate students tackle it by focusing on a core concept in science. Consequently, very interesting suggestions about curriculum design and students’ alternative concepts were reached. Finally, we think that working together on one major theme requires taking into consideration adopting new paradigms in research, particularly on the graduate level.