Newsletter #10     Science Education seminar

I've just had my perspective on the university's teaching/learning front broadened considerably--and nicely. This afternoon was the first session of a seminar entitled LEARNING AND TEACHING SCIENCE BY INQUIRY: GOALS, METHODS, AND LIMITATIONS. Pinky Nelson and Bruce Balick, both from the Astronomy Department, are running it through the College of Education. They were hoping to scrape together enough bodies to provide some sort of reasonable conversation involving graduate students, pre- and in-service teachers and maybe even a few faculty members. A few weeks ago, Pinky sent a note to the rest of us on the list of organizers with a distinct overtone of panic that we six might be meeting in an otherwise empty room. What we got instead was thirty-seven people from at least eight departments and several high schools--the room was emphatically non-empty! What impressed me even more than the numbers, though, was the proportion of the assembled multitude that introduced themselves with "I've been teaching introductory level courses in X for a bunch of years, and have just tried (or decided to try) collaborative methods (or inquiry methods, or...) It's harder than it looks, and I wanted to compare notes with other people." If my Brown Bag reflexes were a little swifter, they would already all be on a list. Just wait--they will be!

My only problem was a little difficulty orienting myself in the midst of quite such a crowd of oceanographers, astronomers, biologists and the like. I kept getting echoes from a paper gleefully written by one of my somewhat skeptical 170 students in which she referred repeatedly to "mathematics, queen and SERVANT (please supply your own italics, bold face and red letters) of the sciences." Fortunately, a graduate student from math and another from applied math are enrolled. I shall depend on them to rescue me if I start to develop an identity crisis!

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