Concepts not memorization

When I took on SC 130 Physical Science in the fall of 2007 my intent was to shift from a course with a 108 "fun facts to know and tell" outline to a focus on science as a process, the mathematical models under physical systems, and writing. I shifted from a course that focused on an accumulation of facts to a weekly focus on a central concept in an area of physical science. The laboratories became the focus of the course, concepts moved to the fore and memorized knowledge was de-emphasized.

During the all-too-brief break between spring and summer session, I read The Obama Plan: An Education Week Guide, 2009. In a November 28, 2007, article by Sean Cavanagh titled Scientists Nurture Teachers' Growth, Cavanagh relates the importance of concepts over memorization for Douglas W. Higinbotham, a nuclear physicist with the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility.

Douglas W. Higginbotham, a  staff scientist who has worked with teachers in the [Academies Creating Teacher Scientists] program, appreciates the role educators play. He remembers how two of his high school teachers - in junior-year chemistry and senior-year physics - helped set him on his professional path. "They were not big on memorization - they were big on concepts," he said, "That really got me hooked." (page 85)

The ACTS program focuses on teachers as scientists. The intent is that these teachers will return to the classroom and taught as they have been taught in the program: treating their students as scientists and using laboratory experiences to explore science.

In an earlier article by Kathleen Kennedy Manzo, U.S. Students Lag Behind in Math and Science, criticism of comparisons using the Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) includes the results inability to predict a country's success. According to Gerald Bracy, a Washington based researcher and author, noted that despite the lower TIMMS scores, the United States remains ranked above other nations in global competitiveness and productivity. "...the tests do not necessarily measure such qualities and creativity, ambition, and innovation." (page 81)

Fill-in the bubble testing remains better at measuring memorized content knowledge than getting at the ability to problem solve in a novel scientific situation. 
SC 130 Physical Science will remain focused on science as a process, a mode of inquiry. Not devoid of facts by any means, but without a focus on a wide, broad, but shallow river of memorized knowledge.

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