From the past
Aug 17th, 2006 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.

I was out shopping with my daughters the other day at Costco and bumped into my Advanced Placement Computer Science teacher from high school. It was great to see her, only for a few minutes, because it helped me to recall her class. I was a senior when I took the class and remember her to be the best math teacher I had ever had. What made her so great? She knew what she was doing and she had the practical experience to back it up.

Roberta was a programmer at MIT for a government project. (I always remember there was a bit of secrecy to what she did.) As she taught us to program, she taught us from personal experience. That personal experience made the projects we did more authentic. And, in fact, those projects tended to be very practical.

Point? The science research student, in an authentic, applied situation, benefits from the experience of a scientist, who may, in fact, be a science teacher. The nature of science can benefit well from students (or visa versa?) who get experiences that are situated in nature and have a cognitive apprenticeship period with an authentic master.

Try that refinement again!
Aug 5th, 2006 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.

I made what I thought was a well thought out, elegant post yesterday, to my dismay to find out that I had a blogger server problem and lost the message. Distraught, I shut down the new Acer computer and went to bed. Acer, the genus for maple trees. Anyway . . .

I had a talk with the superintendent last week and towards the end, we discussed my dissertation ideas. I told him about the ill-conceived versus well-conceived problem. He made an interesting point about how much students can learn from the experience of working through a bad problem. Point well taken. However, I will differ with the following explanations.

If a student choses to participate in a science research experience where he or she presents the results of research to an outside audience, it is the duty of the project, and those involved with it to recognize that there is an authentic audience. In other words, this project is transcending the classroom walls. The project is not soley for the sake of the student completing it for the requirements of the course or the teacher. So, recognizing the authentic audience, an appropriate problem must be selected.

Those professionals viewing the project have a certain, high standard that must be met or exceeded. If the student does not recognize his or her audience then we are potentially left with which paper towel is the most absorbant. Every time I’ve seen this project, it is ALWAYS Viva!, but I digress . . .

So a problem can be ill-conceived because it won’t be received with gusto by the evaluation panel. This is not to say that students are not having a positive learning experience, it just suggests that the problem is not novel, applicable, or capable of providing a new scientific insight. Who determines the quality of the project then? The evaluators. Their scores will be reflective of what the student has done and its greater generalizability.

Who are the players? The student, the mentor, the teacher, the parent(s). Do I see some triangulation here?

This appears to be a qualitative study. It does not even seem to suggest a mixed methods anymore.

The purposeful selection will be from students who COMPLETE a project, present it at an authentic venue, and either have ill-conceived project ideas or well-conceived project ideas based on judging scores.

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