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Demonstration of Illinois Professional Teaching Standards

1. Content Knowledge:
The teacher understands the central concepts, methods of inquiry, and structures of the discipline(s) and creates learning experiences that make the content meaningful to all students.


I have two different papers in this section.  



Misconceptions About the Nature of Science

The article “Ten Myths of Science:  Reexamining What We Know About the Nature of Science” by William McComas presents ten common misconceptions that should be discussed in order for people to have a genuine understanding of the nature of science.  Each myth is bulleted, then explained,  and in most cases, an example is given.  A few of the myths presented are misconceptions about theories becoming laws, science providing absolute proof, and experiments being the only route to scientific knowledge.  These misconceptions are not only held by students, but by teachers, and other adults as well. 

In my opinion, this article was very informative.  Some of the myths are beliefs that I had not thought about before.  The article addresses the idea that “Science is Procedural More Than Creative” (McComas 12).  I didn’t realize how dry my high school science career was until I discovered how creative science needs to be.  This made me think of my job as a teacher.  When a student has a legitimate idea that is different from the majority of the class, they shouldn’t be penalized.  Their ideas should be praised and, time permitting, discussed in the class. 

A very important idea that the article addresses is the myth that theories become laws.  For students and all others to understand that they are not one in the same is very important.  This is the first myth presented in the article.  Laws are patterns or things that always happen in nature.  On the other hand, theories are simply explanations of laws.  Neither are proven absolute facts, but they are well accepted ideas in science.  I do not remember being taught this distinction in high school science.  I think that it is important and that I will pass this knowledge on to my students. 

Another myth presented is that a lot of evidence can prove something true.  This is not really case.  I think that it is a common misconception among all people.  Especially now in society, people read scientific things in newspapers and hear scientific things on the news and just take them to be the truth.  The only way that science can be proved is for it to be untrue.  Although many things like the theory behind gravity and the theory of evolution cannot be proved; they have not yet been disproved.  In this case, they are generally accepted.  We take them as truth, but everyone should be aware that they are able to be proved otherwise at any time.  This is a difficult idea to explain to a child.  They may then ask why they have to learn about theories that aren’t even the absolute truth.  As educators, we should be able to respond in a way that makes the child still understand the value of what they are learning. 

In order to understand the many details of science that educators teach students, it is essential that there is an understanding of the terminology and scientific basics.  Fundamental misconceptions of science have been passes on through generations.  This makes it even more difficult to set the facts straight.  Now is as good of a time as ever to begin the process of accurate science teaching.  We should not underestimate the students.  If we clear up these myths now, it will be that much easier to teach them science now, and down the road.  This article has made me think about how to teach my students and how important it is for them to have a fundamental understanding of the nature of science. 




Scientific Curiosity in Children

Science is a product of curiosity.  The Prologue of Shadows of the Mind:  A Search for the Missing Science of Consciousness by Roger Penrose allows the reader to observe this.  This excerpt is the story of a father and his daughter Jessica.  Jessica’s dad is a scientist studying plants that live in caves.  As Jessica and her father go to collect specimens for her dad’s work, Jessica asks many questions.  Jessica is worried that a boulder will fall and trap the two in the cave.  Her father assures her that they are safe.  Jessica values her fathers words, but is still concerned about the boulder.  Jessica begins to think of what might happen if they were to be trapped in the cave, and even what it would be like if she had always been enclosed in the cave.  Jessica’s father senses scientific curiosity in Jessica’s questions and the discussion between the two picks up.  They contemplate the theory that the Earth revolves around the Sun and how to make others believe this if they had lived their entire lives stuck inside the cave.  Jessica’s dad walks her through how he would persuade others trapped in the cave that this theory is valid.  In the end, Jessica is happy will the discussion and is convinced that her dad was right about the boulder. 

Jessica’s interaction with her father is a wonderful example of the nature of science.  Jessica learns that scientific knowledge is based on observations of the natural world.  To understand the world outside of the cave, she would have to look at shadows on the cave wall.  From repeated viewing of the shadows, she would be able to make a good guess, or her theory of what is really out there and how it acts.  Jessica creating a theory, or her subjectivity, is also part of the nature of science.  Her theory is based off of her imagination and creativity, which is another aspect of the nature of science.  I think that there is an inherent curiosity in children to understand the world.  With little guidance, children can better understand the nature of science.  Knowing this, in my own classroom, I would like to explain the importance of the nature of science.  By having the knowledge of how scientific knowledge is “made”, my students can make educated arguments about the validity of simple theories and understand how they can come up with their own new scientific knowledge.

It seems that Jessica’s father is very wrapped up in his experiment at the beginning.  Jessica asks a legitimate question about the large boulder that she is afraid will fall and trap them in the cave.  The answer to her question was short and finite so that her dad could get back to his work.  For something that seems so simple to her father, Jessica doesn’t really agree.  She thinks that the boulder should fall since it has been there so long, but her dad argues that is has been up there so long that it will just stay there.  They are both valid arguments that could be considered; yet Jessica’s father simply ends the conversation.  As an educator, I need to remember that students may come up with all sorts of ideas about how and why things happen.  I cannot simply tell them the right answer, but I must also explain why the wrong answer is wrong.  I think this is what Jessica was looking for from her dad.  It is important to take all questions and comments from students seriously.  Explaining the “right” and the “wrong” will hopefully clear up any misconceptions and also give students a better understanding of the topic. 

As scientific knowledge continues to grow and change, its simpler aspects are sometimes forgotten.  I think Jessica believes that science is something that is only done by scientists.  She sees her dad participating in research and experiments and giving presentations to groups of other scientists.  I think that students need to know that science is not only for scientists, but for them as well.  Educators should allow students to be “Junior Scientists”.  Through simplifying a difficult concept, allow the students to make hypotheses and do experiments in an attempt to validate theories.  Another equally important approach is to let students know some of the other careers and everyday situations that involve science.  This will hopefully spark their interests and deter them from thinking that science is too difficult for them. 

I think that all children have an instinctive curiosity about science.  As educators, it is important to see when this curiosity shows its face.  It is our job to be there to nurture this curiosity, to answer questions, and to keep their interests high. 




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