Thursday, December 23, 2010

Leaving Religious People Out of Science

Thus far, Elaine Howard Ecklund's Science vs. Religion: What Scientists Really Think is a really good read. I appreciate most of all how she is using research to lay out the range of scientists' views about religion. She's clearing up the myths and assumptions that often turn debate into shouting.

The first few chapters have me thinking about social reproduction and how the culture of university science departments keep religious people out of science. She shows how many religious scientists feel that their faith beliefs would not be accepted by their colleagues, and they therefore keep their religion as a private matter. So, to the public or to students in classes taught by that group of scientists, science has an unreligious or even anti-religious face.

Dr. Ecklund's research shows that this is not some sinister plot of Some Evil Group of Scientists who are out to destroy religion in America. Instead, her research is making me think of how social cultures reproduce themselves. Until Title IX mandated change, American girls so often heard the message, "Sports are for boys" mainly because boys were the only ones in sports. The male-dominated American sports culture reproduced itself until the sports culture was forced to change and now we see how great athletes girls can be. In the same way, I'm wondering if religious people don't feel welcomed in science simply because they aren't already welcome in science. Isn't it that the non-religious culture of American science is simply reproducing itself and blocking many religious people from going into science because they don't feel that they're welcomed?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Inquiry is the missing link

(A little caffeine can be too much!)
When I presenting on teaching evolution in Nashville, I was on a huge caffeine buzz. (When the sign on the gas station coffee says, "extra caffeine," they mean it!) I realize now that I might have left out my most important point in my presentation: Inquiry is the missing link in evolution education. Inquiry is what best allows students who resist learning about evolution to engage in looking at the evidence and how scientists explain the evidence because inquiry doesn't rely on authoritative pressure.

In typical evolution education, conflict can easily boil down to, "I'm the teacher. That settles it." Or to, "That's what scientists say. Case closed." That may not be what the teacher is saying, but it's too often what resistant students are hearing. They hear an appeal to authority, and they are ready to counter with the authorities they trust more, whether those be God, the Bible, or what their preacher or parents say. Inquiry turns the discussion away from conflicting authorities to the evidence at hand. Inquiry frees the teacher to say to resistant students, "What do you think?" about the evidence at hand or how to explain it sticking to the rules of science.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Authentic Work for Authentic Audiences

I've been teaching Classroom Management at UAB for about a year now, and I just received from that class what is probably the most authentic set of student work I've ever received. I've been working on implementing authentic work for authentic audience for about a year now, and with this set, I see that the work really paying off.

I gave my students this as their final course question, "How will I solve the authentic problem I face of having no opportunity now for practicing the skills necessary for effectively managing student misbehavior?" As any experienced teacher knows, it's impossible to learn how to manage secondary students' misbehavior while sitting in a university classroom. So, I basically told my classroom management students, "Go find a misbehaving group of secondary students and figure how what to do with them?"

I'm so impressed with what they came up with, and what really struck me was the range of their products. Here's a list of the kind of products they used to show what they've learned:

  • A brochure for future art teachers
  • An image gallery of students taught and lesson learned presented in PowerPoint
  • Blogs of lesson learned
  • A hand-written journal of reflections
  • A technical paper for future English teachers
  • Memos from school officials stating their abilities
  • A compelling narrative of growth based on the stories of prior experience
  • A revision of prior work submitted, revised based on new lessons learned
I think it's the most authentic set of student work I've ever received, and I'm really excited about the power of this kind of work.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

See you in Nashville?

I'm looking forward to NSTA's regional conference in Nashville in early December. Here's my presentation schedule:
  • The Missing Link: Using Inquiry to Engage Religious Students in Evolution Friday, 5pm. Cheekwood B, Opryland
  • Inquiry: What and Why?
      Saturday, 11 am. Cheekwood C, Opryland

Let me know if you're going to be there. I'd enjoy hearing how science teaching is going in your corner of the world. Also, after the conference, feel free to post any feedback you have for me on my presentations or any questions that I can answer for you about something I said or resources you might need.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

ASTA follow-up

Thanks to all of you who attended my ASTA sessions yesterday.

Please comment back if I've missed any resources, and I'll post them here ASAP.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Hardin County Follow-Up ... uh ... follow-up!

Hardin County Teachers: It was a true joy being with you yesterday for our Inquiry Follow-Up session. Here's the follow-up I promised to. You can find the documents I went over in my public folder. (Make sure to get anything you want soon; these files will be removed in about a week.) For the web-based resources I mentioned:

  • The DeMystifying Inquiry document is linked here on the left under Key Links. It's the one that gives the levels of inquiry.
  • For inquiry curriculum links, look to the left here under Key Links and click on Inquiry Resources.
  • Click here to find the ACT College Readiness Standards.
  • Click here to find out more about the National Science Resources Center and the work they did to start the LASER network.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

My Prezi from UAB's Teaching with Technology Series

Here's the Prezi I'm using on 29 Sept 2010 to present my ways of holding students to high expectations and creating meaningful assessment aligned with learning outcomes.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Authentic Learning Resources

Here is where you can find resources to my presentation on authentic learning. Here's the link to my actual Prezi. The resources themselves almost all are listed in my 26 Aug 2009 blog post. Of course, you'll also want to explore Prezi! Leave a comment here, however, if I've missed something (or email me by clicking on my profile link to the left).

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Millenials Are Here

I find myself talking a lot about Net Generation learners, a.ka. the Millenials (see p. 70 of this link) . At UAB, my classes aren't totally undergraduates; so, it's taken me a few more years than most college professors to have my audience transition to taking on the culture of their world. Now, it's in place. These smart, savy, caring students are raising the bar on what learning looks like and how teaching needs to change, especially since many of them have grown up as students in the early school reforms of the 90's or in the more mature reforms of this decade. Bring it, Millenials! Let's change the world.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Monday, May 31, 2010

Changing Math Teaching: Dan Meyer's TedxTalk

My buddy Jeremy Carter has introduced me recently to Ted Talks, and I'm hooked. One of the best things about them is that they're time-limited. You know you're going to get good content in an engaging way without wasting you time. Here, Dan Meyer does a really nice job of talking about how math teaching is changing in America.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Country Music & Civil Rights

I love this video. I've started using it in my Methods of Teaching I class to help new teachers think about how much the world has changed, but how little our teaching methods have changed. The video moves me, especially when I think about the changes I've seen in my life.

My favorite part is what's pictured below, when Brad is playing quietly on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. I went to first grade in a segregated school in Greenville, Mississippi. Now, I live in a city that's a symbol of the strides forward we've made in civil rights. Sometimes, I get down about all that's happening in the world around me. This video reminds me that things really do change and that we really should "never, never, never give in".


Tuesday, May 25, 2010


Plagiarism makes me angry. It's rampant at the university, and it's just wrong. Here's my newly written plagiarism policy that will begin appearing on my syllabi:

Plagiarism certainly occurs when a student uses someone else’s exact words without quotation marks and a full citation or when a student paraphrases extensively without citation. These are not the only instances of plagiarism. When in doubt, students bear the responsibility to inquire whether their use of information from another source constitutes plagiarism. Though technically not plagiarism, teachers risk the appearance of plagiarism when they present another educator's lesson ideas as their own without giving credit.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Friday, March 26, 2010

Authentic Learning Resources

Here is where you can find resources to my presentation on authentic learning. Here's the link to my actual Prezi. They're almost all listed in my 26 Aug 2009 blog post. Of course, you'll also want to explore Prezi! Leave a comment here, however, if I've missed something (or email me by clicking on my profile link to the left).

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

NSTA Follow-up

Here are the links to the resources I'll share in my NSTA presentation on teaching evolution (11:00am, Saturday, Marriott Grand Salon G):

-You can retrieve the lesson plan from my public site.
-Its companion resources are posted on my October 5, 2009 blog post here.

Please let me know any questions or comments you have.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Modeling vs. Simulation

For awhile I've been skeptical about simulations. I've seen teachers struggling to implement inquiry reach for simulations when they can't do actual data collection, but I'm skeptical because of the lack of real data. Today, though, I saw how modeling can fit well with inquiry.

The picture shows my son David participating in an activity at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab. The students' challenge was to design with Silly Putty a shape that fell very slowly in water. They were simulating zooplankton and how it's adapted to fall slowly through the water. I realized just a change in view could take this non-inquiry activity to an inquiry investigation. If the students are modeling, and the model is a good one, then they can actually collect data from their model's behavior.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Geriatrics Education Conference Follow-Up

If you're looking for the resources that I'll mention in my session at UAB's Geriatrics Education Conference , you can find most of them in my 26 Aug 2009 blog post. Of course, you'll also want to explore Prezi!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Teaching Evolution & Civil Discourse

Teachers always ask me, "What should I do when students say, 'What do you believe?'" I've been thinking about that question ever since The Missing Link came out. I wrote about that issue in the last chapter and outlined an approach, but I've also had a several new thoughts about civil discourse.

One of the big problem with evolution, and with teaching it, is the lack of civil discourse. Emotions begin to simmer, and words get heated. I got called "evolutionist" and "creationist" on the same day soon after The Link came out. Since then, I've also been called "heretic" and "atheist" None of this is civil discourse. Name calling doesn't help either side, and both the creationist side and the evolution side have done their share of name calling.

So, I'm trying to imagine a classroom where children can talk civilly about evolution, especially children in a public school who come from diverse backgrounds. I used to think that teachers should work to minimize personal conversations while students are learning evolution in an effort to minimize controversy, but now I realize that approach probably just doesn't work. Any time students are engaged in inquiry, they're going to have sidebar conversations about personal matters. Adults, as well as children, do that when they work in groups. So, I realize now that teachers can't shut down the personal conversations that are going to happen as students are learning about evolution. I'm not even sure that they should, even if they could.

I've also been thinking about the civil discourse that we hope happens in a democratic society. People are always going to disagree, and the trick is how to handle the tough conversations. I'm starting to realize that evolution is a good opportunity for teachers to help their students learn some of the skills of civil discourse. Rather than shutting down the personal conversations about "Well, I believe..." that will certainly come up when public school students are learning about evolution, I'm beginning to catch a vision of how a skilled teacher could be present in those discussions, guiding students to understand what civil discourse looks like when people disagree on deeply felt issues. Learning about evolution could be an opportunity for student to learn some life lessons about handling a whole range of controversial issues.

It's a tough topic for teachers to tackle, but I have a lot of faith in science teachers. I bet they can figure out what civil discourse looks like with their students.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

See You in Philadelphia at NSTA

I'm honored to be presenting on teaching evolution again at this year's NSTA national conference. Details on my presentation are below. Other than that, I'll be hanging out in the exhibits and looking for people to talk with. I also plan to be tweeting from LeeOnInquiry. I hope to see you in Philadelphia.

Saturday, March 20 11:00 AM–12:00 PM
Understanding but Not Necessarily Believing: Teaching Evolution to Religious Students
Philadelphia Marriott, Grand Salon G

DESCRIPTION: Explore an approach that respects students' religious beliefs, engaging them in the evidence while minimizing conflict.
SUBJECT: General Science
GRADE LEVEL: Middle Level-High School