The work we have been doing for the past few years in the CCU Physics Education Research Group has focused on scientific reasoning. Our research has focused mainly on university students, but there are certainly parallels to secondary and primary education. The two big take-aways from our work to date have been that (1) improving student reasoning ability takes A LOT of explicit instruction, and (2) as a group, science teachers have sucked at this.
I want to share with you an article that just came out in the journal Research in Science Education, and not just because our work is heavily cited! Lin Ding et al. assessed student scientific reasoning ability across China. Not surprisingly, they determined that students majoring in a science field exhibited higher reasoning skills than education majors, and that first-tier university attendees scored higher than second-tier university attendee. Students that like and are good at science tend to self-select into science majors. What may be shocking is what they found when they looked at reasoning ability across the four year levels of higher education.
On Monday, I was the invited speaker for a joint colloquium of science education researchers and students at the University of Zurich and ETH Zurich. Guillaume Schiltz is a faculty member in physics education at ETH Zurich that I had meet a few years ago at the International Conference on Physics Education in Cordoba, Argentina. He invited me to discuss our groups work in Zurich while in Europe this semester.
I gave my “stump” speech about science reasoning and process skills, with results from a few of the studies we’ve been working on. The basic structure of this talk is as follows: