Learning How to Learn Science: Physics for Bioscience Majors
Research on conceptual knowledge has identified conceptual resources from which students may construct expert understanding. Students’ sense of the springiness of a spring, for example, is a resource for understanding the passive force a table exerts upward on a book. Are there aspects of students’ everyday experience that may serve as epistemological resources for constructing an understanding of how to learn science?Instructional Strategies to Promote Meta-learning
We are beginning to develop an account of epistemological resources, looking for context-sensitive structures at a finer grain-size than “beliefs.”  Children from a young age evidently have a variety of resources for thinking about knowledge, including as propagated (“Mom told me”), as free creation (“I made it up”), and as fabricated ( “I figured it out”). Different contexts activate different resources. We are working to identify resources and their contexts of activation in students’ epistemologies.
A number of groups working in similar settings have devised strategies to incorporate small group interactions into large lecture courses. These strategies have been developed to help students achieve strong gains in conceptual understanding, and have been shown to be effective at this goal. They are widely used in introductory physics courses. They have not, however, been shown to help students improve in meta-learning. In fact, there is evidence of as deleterious an effect on student approaches to learning in courses using these methods as in traditional lecture courses.Creation of a Survey instrument
We are retooling these familiar strategies to include an explicit focus on student meta-learning. In this we are drawing on previous research in group discussion, collaborative design, and self-explanations. We will be collecting video data of students working within the course and copies of their written work, as well as interview and survey data, to monitor students’ progress and document changes in their approaches, attitudes, and epistemologies.
Previous work of the UMd PERG created the Maryland Physics Expectations Survey (MPEX) to measure student expectations and understanding of the nature of science learning for engineering students in calculus-based physics. This survey has been translated into 6 languages and delivered to thousands of students in universities around the world. For this project we will modify this survey, making use of what we have learned from our epistemological resources research.
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Work supported in part by a grant from the US National Science Foundation.
by University of Maryland PERG
Comments and questions may be directed to E. F. Redish
Last modified March 13, 2001