Lessons Learned by Leading Researchers in Science and Education | Conceptual Framework


Creating an Integrated Science Learning Environment, Dr. Rebekah Nix

Course Background

In addition to the three online articles you’ll need to retrieve for the seminar lessons, I do encourage you to take a look at the suggested text, Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point. It offers an interesting perspective on these seminars. For example, these two items from the author's website help set an appropriate stage for this course.


Check out gladwell.com for more!

6. How would you classify The Tipping Point? Is it a science book?

I like to think of it as an intellectual adventure story. It draws from psychology and sociology and epidemiology, and uses examples from the worlds of business and education and fashion and media. If I had to draw an analogy to another book, I'd say it was like Daniel Goleman's Emotional Intelligence, in the sense that it takes theories and ideas from the social sciences and shows how they can have real relevance to our lives. There's a whole section of the book devoted to explaining the phenomenon of word of mouth, for example. I think that word of mouth is something created by three very rare and special psychological types, whom I call Connectors, Mavens, and Salesmen. I profile three people who I think embody those types, and then I use the example of Paul Revere and his midnight ride to point out the subtle characteristics of this kind of social epidemic. So just in that chapter there is a little bit of sociology, a little of psychology and a little bit of history, all in aid of explaining a very common but mysterious phenomenon that we deal with every day. I guess what I'm saying is that I'm not sure that this book fits into any one category. That's why I call it an adventure story. I think it will appeal to anyone who wants to understand the world around them in a different way. I think it can give the reader an advantage--a new set of tools. Of course, I also think they'll be in for a very fun ride.

7. What do you hope readers will take away from the book?

One of the things I'd like to do is to show people how to start "positive" epidemics of their own. The virtue of an epidemic, after all, is that just a little input is enough to get it started, and it can spread very, very quickly. That makes it something of obvious and enormous interest to everyone from educators trying to reach students, to businesses trying to spread the word about their product, or for that matter to anyone who's trying to create a change with limited resources. The book has a number of case studies of people who have successfully started epidemics--an advertising agency, for example, and a breast cancer activist. I think they are really fascinating. I also take a pressing social issue, teenage smoking, and break it down and analyze what an epidemic approach to solving that problem would look like. The point is that by the end of the book I think the reader will have a clear idea of what starting an epidemic actually takes. This is not an abstract, academic book. It's very practical. And it's very hopeful. It's brain software.

Beyond that, I think that The Tipping Point is a way of making sense of the world, because I'm not sure that the world always makes as much sense to us as we would hope. I spent a great deal of time in the book talking about the way our minds work--and the peculiar and sometimes problematic ways in which our brains process information. Our intuitions, as humans, aren't always very good. Changes that happen really suddenly, on the strength of the most minor of input, can be deeply confusing. People who understand The Tipping Point, I think, have a way of decoding the world around them.

Retrieved from http://gladwell.com/tippingpoint/index.html on March 22, 2007.

The design of this course is supported by the extensive research I did for my Doctor of Philosophy thesis in Science Education. As you’ll see in the seminars, careers in science and education can change with the times and advance in almost any direction you might choose. You’ll also notice that communication and collaboration are keys to success in both science and education. In the context of this course, the terms teacher and student are essentially interchangeable.

Dr. Nix receiving her PhD diploma from Curtin University of Technology

The influence and ability of teachers impact every person within the respective city, county, state, country, and ultimately the global community. Because we live in a closed system, each of us must appreciate and value the natural world. As citizens of this age, we must also be able to understand and judge the science within it. Learning is not a time-constrained event. It is a process that continues throughout each person’s life. Effective educators enable individuals to realize their potential, developing lifelong learners – and leaders.

A multi-faceted learning environment makes content and pedagogy relevant. It binds the basic strands of science, research, and science education together through a deliberately designed program of study. Real-world experience, presented in an openly versatile, inquiry-based product, weaves a single tapestry that prepares our teachers to lead our students powerfully and wisely. Theory does not effect change; people do. Teachers, in particular, must be encouraged to exercise playfulness, ingenuity, and creativity. Always a matter of context, ‘play’ is the free spirit of exploration, doing and being for its own pure joy. Technique is acquired by “the practice of practice, by persistently experimenting and playing with our tools and testing their limits and resistances” (Nachmanovitch, 1990, p. 42). This course provides a tangible opportunity for teachers to gain organized knowledge to make practical changes in education.

Nachmanovitch, S. (1990). Free play: The power of improvisation in life and the arts. Los Angeles: Jeremy P. Tarcher, Inc.

Hopefully you’re slightly curious as to what I decided to research – or at least how I investigated this topic!

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