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


Creating an Integrated Science Learning Environment, Dr. Rebekah Nix

ISLE Model Rationale

New learning environments are either being created or are presently evolving to supply the demands of local business and the global society. Time and space no longer limit the possibilities for lifelong learning. Compared to the rapid pace of everyday operations fueled by the ‘information explosion’, advances in science education are slow-going, at best (Kuhn, 1970). To keep up with today’s ‘Nintendo Generation’, educators need a new perspective – and they need it now! The information revolution has provided overwhelming opportunities and options for virtually anyone who is interested.

Teacher Quality lab class

Placing new content in personally-relevant contexts is the ultimate challenge of learning. Subjects traditionally perceived as a series of distinct facts, such as the sciences, are particularly difficult to internalize and to apply in meaningful ways across variable situations. This ability to transfer knowledge and skills is critical in today’s changing society. In addition, decisions are no longer black or white, right or wrong. Choices are typically based on the better selection of several possibilities. The ability to perceive the ‘bigger picture’ with innovative critical thinking and creative problem-solving skills is a new requirement for success.

The purpose of my doctoral research was to evaluate a new teaching model for long-term professional development designed to foster a constructivist approach to science education. Maintaining a comfortable, non-intrusive, team-oriented environment is critical to achieving the desired outcomes. Making the case for development of a comprehensive ‘theory of education’, Novak (1998) emphasizes that: “Successful education must focus on more than the learner’s thinking. Feelings and actions are also important” (p. 9). Therefore, the Integrated Science Learning Environment (ISLE) model involves a multi-faceted milieu to address the three basic forms of learning: acquisition of knowledge, change in emotions or feelings, and gain in physical or motor actions or performance.

This study evaluated a new Integrated Science Learning Environment (ISLE) that bridged the gaps between the traditionally separate classroom, field trip, and information technology milieus. As part of a deliberately designed professional development program, secondary school teachers contributed to a multi-level virtual field trip website that was based on an extended field trip to a natural area. Relevant applications of information technology were modeled in pre-trip lessons, employed during the field trip, and utilized in developing post-trip presentations.

Conceptual/Theoretical Framework

Interlocking conceptual and logistical frameworks were applied uniformly in the classroom and in the field. A cyclical program design reinforced key scientific, pedagogical, and technological issues to minimize the potentially detrimental effects of information overload and non-linear processing. This unique aspect of the ISLE model enabled all participants to see their role within the ‘big picture’. As the common elements (knowledge) and basic components (understanding) in each realm became evident, the power of transfer for both content and concept was realized. Figure 1 illustrates how the final product of the ISLE program (virtual field trip) was constructed by linking the supporting learning environments on each fundamental level: newness, massiveness, and appropriateness.

Figure 1. Merging of Perspectives through the ISLE Virtual Field Trip

Figure 1.A shows that, in the traditional framework, there would be three separate and perpendicular planes in which activities would occur independently from the other learning environments. In the ISLE model, the conceptual framework is shifted from an effective perspective (pertaining to physical aspects) to an affective perspective (pertaining to emotions or feelings). Specifically, the virtual field trip project changes the program focus from the physical environment (field trip, classroom, or information technology) to the basic issue challenging learning in each milieu (newness, massiveness, or appropriateness).

As shown in Figure 1.B, a single and integrated plane is constructed in which activities can occur contiguously throughout the three learning environments. The outcome is a tangible representation of the constructivist paradigm, enabled by a process approach to implementing information technology in science education. Implementation of information technology reinforced the conceptual design and therefore was evident in all stages of the program – although never the focus in the classroom or field trip milieus. Real-world applications of relevant tools and resources were covertly employed to join the university classroom and the field trip experience seamlessly. In creating a singular group dynamic by requiring an integrated project (virtual field trip) rather than promoting multiple individual efforts, the inhibiting effects of site novelty, information overload, and the three-day phenomenon typically experienced on field trips could be placed in context and therefore be more manageable and understandable.

Kuhn, T. (1970). The structure of scientific revolutions. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
Novak, J.D. (1998). Learning, creating, and using knowledge: Concept maps as facilitative tools in schools and corporations. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers.

Now, since the seminars are presented as video clips, let’s make sure that your system is set up to view them.

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