Catalysts for Reform
Western Washington University
Our project makes strategic use of the Physics by Inquiry (PbI) curriculum in our intensive two-week “Thinking to Learn” Summer Institute. Fellows work in pairs on PbI during Week 1 of the institute and are joined by Partner Teachers in Week 2. Having Fellows and teachers work through challenging inquiry material provides these teams with the opportunity to see each other as learners, develop trust, improve communication skills, and deepen their content knowledge. Instructors model effective science instructional strategies to give these teams insight into designing appropriate science learning experiences for their middle school students and to deepen their pedagogical content knowledge. Consistent with the key findings in How People Learn, Fellows’ (and Partner Teachers’) initial ideas on heat and temperature, electric circuits, and the behavior of light are elicited through pre-tests and discussion with their partners and instructors. Through experimentation and guided questioning designed to probe their conceptual understanding, Fellows identify the limits of their understanding and construct new understanding by resolving the cognitive dissonance created when preconceptions and observations are discrepant. This focus on dialogic inquiry gives participants the chance to develop an intellectual stance of knowledge negotiation, a stance in which each person contributes to the professional development, and perhaps the professional transformation of the other.