The Actual Need for a Philosophy of Education
Posted: Thursday, September 15th, 2016
by Joseph Calmer, Ed.D
As the year begins, it is time for science teachers to think about their approach to this coming year. This year is an important one too, because of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The NGSS is in various stages of implementation across the state and among districts. The idea of NGSS is easy, but the actual practice of NGSS is difficult. Hopefully you’ve read the original framework ((NGSS Lead States, 2013). Maybe you’ve been able to read the California Draft Framework. When reading these tomes, you’ll probably find yourself agreeing with the authors. The teaching philosophy and pedagogy that frames the new standards are sound and are commensurate with current thoughts about teaching and learning (Bransford, Brown, Cocking, & ebrary, 1999; Hattie & Yates, 2013). The next step required for teachers is to turn theory into practice.
Transferring theory into practice is the hardest and most important step. Theorizing is fine, but the reality is that theory isn’t ‘taking attendance,’ ‘ordering supplies,’ ‘organizing classrooms,’ or any other of the myriad of things that go into classroom teaching. The reality is that something tangible has to be present for students to do. Creating the environment for learning is more about managing resources than theorizing. The notion of being a ‘reflective practitioner’ may seem more like an optional activity than a required one (Zeichner & Liston, 2013). Where does philosophy actually fit into a teachers’ daily list of tasks?
I enjoyed my credential program and talking about teaching. It seems like credential programs are where ‘educational philosophies’ are exclusively talked about. On the job, the discussions are more about copies, materials, desks, students, etc. The dialogues of philosophy are absent from teacher lounges. I am writing this to say that we need to revisit these talking points and bring them back to the forefront of our dialogues. I have been reading The Stone Reader and have been reminded of the interesting and importance of philosophy, especially for notions of teaching (Catapano & Critchley, 2015). The topics covered are succinct and allows for thought provoking inner dialogues. As a teacher, everything I do seems to ultimately relate back to my class. As I read the entries, I thought to myself “Man, I am really thinking here. How could I get my students to think this much?”
For example, here is a sample philosophical statement from W.V. Quine: “scientists (are) in search of an organized conception of reality”. As science teachers, we often talk about science theories, science facts, and the need for accurate data. Philosophy talks about perception and truth, things we take for granted, but really do affect the former. The objectivity of science is really dependent on the subjectivity of our senses and our frame of thought. N.R. Hanson talked about this in his paper about “Observation” (N. R. Hanson & Paul F. Schmidt, 1959). In “Observation”, Hanson explains how Tycho Brahe and Kepler both saw an orange disk in the sky. Kepler saw the Earth moving around the sun, but Tycho Brahe saw the sun move around the Earth. Hanson showed what one already “knows” and learns affects what they see. (It is a great article, and I was only exposed to it in a philosophy course.) To me, it is no wonder that “Natural Philosophy” became “Science”. As science teachers, I think it will serve us well to not forget our philosophical roots. This will allow us to think about our classes and act in accordance to our intended vision; ensuring students learn science.
Philosophy is often over looked as a practical subject and therefore not useful to the practical person. I would vehemently disagree. I think that if one takes the time to use the tools and canons of philosophy, they will be able to find their purposes and meanings of what they do (in the classroom). So, as we get the new year started, with a new set of standards, it’s the perfect time to approach our teaching practices differently. Philosophy is a tool to analyze our thinking. As one works, the “cow paths” of thought and practice are entrenched deeper and deeper (Norman, 2013). One rarely tends to stray from their comfortability of habit. By reading philosophy, one gets exposed to the obvious questions that we can’t see or think to ask ourselves. Philosophy really helps us find purpose, definitions, and meaning to the things we do and the thoughts we think. So, it may seem like a diversion to the litany of tasks that need to be done, but if you sit back and reflect on the purpose and meaning of what you are doing first, you may save time in the long run (and emerge better in the end for it).
- Bransford, J., Brown, A. L., Cocking, R. R., & ebrary, I. (1999). How people learn: brain, mind, experience, and school. Washington, D.C: National Academy Press.
- Catapano, P., & Critchley, S. (2015). The Stone Reader: Modern Philosophy in 133 Arguments: Liveright.
- Hattie, J., & Yates, G. C. R. (2013). Visible Learning and the Science of How we Learn (pp. 368).
- N.R. Hanson, A., & Paul F. Schmidt, R. (1959). Patterns of Discovery. American Journal of Physics, 27(4), 285. doi:10.1119/1.1934835
- NGSS Lead States. (2013). Next Generation Science Standards: For States, By States. Washington, D.C.: Achieve, Inc. on behalf of the twenty-six states and partners that collaborated on the NGSS Retrieved from http://www.nextgenscience.org/next-generation-science-standards.
- Norman, D. A. (2013). The Design of Everyday Things: Basic Books.
- Zeichner, K. M., & Liston, D. P. (2013). Reflective Teaching: An Introduction: Taylor & Francis.
Posted: Wednesday, October 12th, 2016
by Jessica Sawko
In June 2016 California submitted a waiver application to discontinue using the old CST (based on 1998 standards) and conduct two years of pilot and field tests (in spring 2017 and 2018, respectively) of the new science assessment designed to support our state’s current science standards (California Next Generation Science Standards (CA-NGSS) adopted in 2013). The waiver was requested because no student scores will be provided as a part of the pilot and field tests. The CDE received a response from the U.S. Department of Education (ED) on September 30, 2016, which provides the CDE the opportunity to resubmit a revised waiver request within 60 days. The CDE will be revising the waiver request and resubmitting as ED suggested.
At its October 2016 North/South Assessment meetings CDE confirmed that there will be no administration of the old CST in the spring of 2017. (An archive of the meeting is available at http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/tg/ai/infomeeting.asp.) Learn More…
Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016
by Carol Peterson
1) To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, Google has put together a collection of virtual tours combining 360-degree video, panoramic photos and expert narration. It’s called “The Hidden Worlds of the National Parks” and is accessible right from the browser. You can choose from one of five different locales, including the Kenai Fjords in Alaska and Bryce Canyon in Utah, and get a guided “tour” from a local park ranger. Each one has a few virtual vistas to explore, with documentary-style voiceovers and extra media hidden behind clickable thumbnails. Ideas are included for use in classrooms. https://www.engadget.com/2016/08/25/google-offers-360-degree-tours-of-us-national-parks/. Learn More…
Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016
CSTA is pleased to announce the winners of the 2016 CSTA Awards for Distinguished Contributions, Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award, 2014 and 2015 PAEMST-Science recipients from California, and the 2016 California PAEMST Finalists. The following individuals and organizations will be honored during the 2016 California Science Education Conference on October 21- 23 in Palm Springs. This year’s group of awardees are truly outstanding. Please join us in congratulating them!
Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award
The Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award honors an individual who has made a significant contribution to science education in the state and who, through years of leadership and service, has truly made a positive impact on the quality of science teaching. This year’s recipient is John Keller, Ph.D. Dr. Keller is Associate Professor, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Co-Director, Center for Engineering, Science, and Mathematics Education, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. In her letter of recommendation, SDSU science education faculty and former CSTA board member Donna Ross wrote: “He brings people together who share the desire to make a difference in the development and implementation of programs for science teaching. Examples of these projects include the Math and Science Teaching Initiative (MSTI), Noyce Scholars Program, Western Regional Noyce Initiative, and the Science Teacher and Researcher (STAR) program.” Through his work, he has had a dramatic impact on science teacher education, both preservice and in-service, in California, the region, and the country. He developed and implemented the STEM Teacher and Researcher Program which aims to produce excellent K-12 STEM teachers by providing aspiring teachers with opportunities to do authentic research while helping them translate their research experience into classroom practice. SFSU faculty member Larry Horvath said it best in his letter:“John Keller exemplifies the best aspects of a scientist, science educator, and mentor. His contributions to science education in the state of California are varied, significant, and I am sure will continue well into the future.” Learn More…
Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016
by Peter A’hearn
NGSS is a big shift. Teachers need to learn new content, figure out how this whole engineering thing relates to science, and develop new unit and lesson plans. How could NGSS possibly make life easier?
The idea that NGSS could make our lives easier came to me during the California State NGSS Rollout #1 Classroom Example lesson on chromatography. I have since done this lesson with high school chemistry students and it made me think back to having my own students do chromatography. I spent lots of time preparing to make sure the experiment went well and achieved the “correct” result. I pre-prepared the solutions and organized and prepped the materials. I re-wrote and re-wrote again the procedure so there was no way a kid could get it wrong. I spent 20 minutes before the lab modeling all of the steps in class, so there was no way to do it wrong. Except that it turns out there were many. Learn More…
Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016
by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller. Graph of evening planet setting times by Dr. Jeffrey L. Hunt
Our evening twilight chart for September, depicting the sky about 40 minutes after sunset from SoCal, shows brilliant Venus remaining low, creeping from W to WSW and gaining a little altitude as the month progresses. Its close encounter within 2.5° N of Spica on Sept. 18 is best seen with binoculars to catch the star low in bright twilight. The brightest stars in the evening sky are golden Arcturus descending in the west, and blue-white Vega passing just north of overhead. Look for Altair and Deneb completing the Summer Triangle with Vega. The triangle of Mars-Saturn-Antares expands as Mars seems to hold nearly stationary in SSW as the month progresses, while Saturn and Antares slink off to the SW. Learn More…