Do teachers understand?
January 31st, 2008 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.

I recently had a conversation with my secondary advisors pondering the question, “Can all science teachers do research projects with students?” We came to the conclusion that the answer was no. My theoretical basis based on situated cognition learning theory suggests that a teacher conducting research with students must also have a cognitive apprencticeship in research or they won’t fully understand the community of practice, and thus won’t be able to provide instruction that would reflect real research. We see this CONSTANTLY at science fairs and symposia – students that present research that is no more than consumer product testing, or the same-old replication of a well known question with well known outcomes.

Although I feel (and very jadedly so) these teachers are doing students a disservice, I can’t help but think that they just don’t know any better. How would they if they’ve never received the prerequisite training. In an applied research setting, the project is more than just learning for learning’s sake. There HAS to be an application; there HAS to be an authentic audience. It just can’t be within the scope of the school walls. That is NOT authentic, no matter how it’s sliced and diced.

So I visit with my major a few days later and we have a similar conversation. Only this time it’s about gifted students completing Type III acitivites. There are teachers that do work with students, they think it’s a Type III, and when externally evaluated, they’re just wrong. These teachers are generally never convinced that what they’ve done with students is not what Renzulli has suggested.

Is this perception changable? Perhaps, one at a time, and only if the change occurs within the scope of an authentic, situated learning framework

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