Sunday, August 26, 2018

Modeling Instructions, Design Thinking, and Productive Thinking for a Science Teacher


What is the mission of a science teacher?
There are many competing or complementary approaches, ideologies, philosophies, theories offered to help science teachers with mastering their teaching practice.
Two of the most popular are “modelling instruction” and “design thinking”.
Modelling instruction moves “students through all phases of model development, evaluation and application in concrete situations — thus promoting an integrated understanding of modeling processes and acquisition of coordinated modeling skills.”
Design thinking “is a design methodology that provides a solution-based approach to solving problems” “by adopting a hands-on approach in prototyping and testing.”
Essentially, at their core, modeling instruction and design thinking are two equivalent representations of a well-known productive thinking.
A science teacher does not need to dive into deep philosophical or methodological discussion about thinking, modeling, designing, and how to use it in a class. As a practitioner, a teacher needs to have a working model which he or she can refine during his/her own teaching practice.
First, a science teacher needs to have a working definition of “a science”.
Science is a human practice.
One of many.
Every human practice has its own mission, design for achieving specific goals, uses specific methods developed for advancing the proactive and its results.
Science is the human practice which mission is making reliable predictions ("I know that to achieve this goal I need to do that", "I know that if now this happens, then that will happen").
That’s it.
No less, no more, nor else.
What does make science different from other human practice, for example, from a religion, what is a scientific method, how a science is done (data collection and analysis, hypothesizing, deduction and induction, formal logic, falsification v. confirmation, etc.), all that is secondary to the mission of a science, all that is framed or formatted or based on the fact that the mission of this human practice we call “a science” is making reliable predictions.
About what?
About the world, about the nature, about the society.
Hence, a scientist begins his/her practice from observations.
He/she sees objects. He/she sees that something is happening to those objects - processes. Objects and possesses together form different phenomena.
1. The very first scientific action a scientist does is naming, i.e. giving the name to every important object or process.
Those objects and processes have some properties; hence a scientist names those properties.
For example, an apple, hangs, falls, round, hard, yellow, sweet, rotten, etc.
Eventually a scientist notices that some phenomena revile/exhibit some recurrence, reoccurrence, similarities, or in general – patterns.
2. This notion leads to the next scientific stage – classification.
Every science goes through a “botanic” stage; which is combination of naming and classification; for example, constellations in astronomy, species in botany and zoology, elements in chemistry, various quantities in physics. This stage represents the foundation of any science because it allows to search for patterns, which then become laws. The existence of this stage demonstrates the importance of the language in science. In order to communicate, scientist have to sue the same language developed within a science. That is why every developed science has a very well developed set of definitions. Definitions is the result of an agreement between many scientists to use the same name for the same object, or process, or property, or feature, or pattern. Definitions do not require understanding. Definitions require memorizing – exactly like any foreign langue one has to learn. Understanding will be required later, when one learns how to apply those definitions (and laws) to describe different phenomena (and make reliable predictions).
3. The search for patterns is based on passive observations, a.k.a. observations; and active observation, a.k.a. experiments. And experiment is designed to answer questions like “what will happen if I do this?”, or “can I achieve this by doing that?”, “I assume that if I do this, that happens; am I correct?” – called “a hypothesis” (a.k.a. a guess). Experimentation is no more than a fancy extension of the oldest scientific method known as “trial and error” (“hypothesizing and correcting”).
4. The initial description of all phenomena was explicitly verbal, sometimes with some pictures, illustrations. The abundance of patterns eventually had led to the development of symbolic representations of the logical connections between different words (those words describe objects and process, their properties, the patterns). Eventually symbolic representation of patterns has led to the development of mathematics. Every developed science uses mathematics to describe the patterns observed in different phenomena.
5. Every observed phenomenon is infinitely complicated, because in the nature essentially everything is connected to everything (or at least this is the natural assumption to make). Hence, a scientist has to neglect many possible or actual connections within or outside of the object or objects involved in the phenomenon. This process is called an idealization. A scientist does not study an actual phenomenon, but an idealized system which (hopefully) has some properties similar to the important properties of the phenomenon.
6. What a scientist is observing or experimenting with is never the whole phenomenon, but only a part of it which the scientist conceders the most important. That part – the most important part of a phenomenon – should reflect the pattern which can be used for making reliable predictions. The ability to make reliable predictions makes that part of the phenomenon to be important.
7. In order to help to study a phenomenon a scientist may make a physical object which may reflect some if the important features of the phenomenon, which may have some resemblance with the phenomenon. This object has a name – a model. But every verbal, or pictorial, or symbolic description/representation of a phenomenon designed to reproduce some important features of the phenomenon are also called “a model”. A model is not magically or randomly developed. A model is designed specifically with the goal to resemble/reflect some important features/properties of a phenomenon.
Hence, a scientific study of nature is impossible without designing models.
A scientific study of nature requires designing models of different phenomena in such a way that those models would reflect some important features of the phenomenon.
A model is the product of a scientific thinking.
A scientific thinking is essentially a productive thinking.
A scientific study of nature requires the use of a scientific thinking, the product of which is a model designed to reflect some important features of the phenomenon under a study; features, which describe a pattern which can be used for making reliable predictions.
This is a good place to mention the difference between "a study" and "a research". A study is a scientific strategy mostly based on observations and the description of objects and processes, i.e. the "botanic" stage of a scientific practice. A research is a scientific strategy used for searching correlations between different parameters of the system under an investigation, i.e. the stage of a scientific practice where a scientist is designing the model of objects and processes involved in the investigation.
The combination of words “the product, which is a model designed …” represents the fact that, essentially, at their core, modeling instruction and design thinking are two equivalent representations of a productive thinking.
BTW: the provided description of a scientific thinking is an example of a simple textual model of a process called "thinking".
Productivity is the exclusive property of human intelligence. “Intelligence is the property of a system; the mission, the reason for its existence, and the core ability of intelligence is creating solutions to problems which have never been solved before (by that system).”
Or, in other words, intelligence is the property of a system (the host of intelligence) which allows that system to create solutions to problems which have never been solved before (by the host).
All other aspects of intelligence play their roles, and take their places as devices, components, abilities, organs, functions required for intelligence to exist, perform, and achieve its goals, fulfill its mission - creating, again and again, a solution to a problem which has never been solved before. 
As a productive thinking, a scientific thinking is creative, innovative, inventive, critical, which means that in order to help students with the development of creative, innovative, inventive, critical thinking, a teacher must demonstrate students his/her own scientific thinking and guide students through different stages of a scientific thinking using different specific phenomena from his/her subject of study.
Circling back to the question what is the mission of a science teacher, now we can give a specific answer: the mission of s science teacher is to teach students how to do science. That being said, it means that the mission of a science teacher is teaching students how to apply the scientific thinking, how to think in a scientific way, how to think scientifically, who to think as a scientist, or in simple words - teaching students how to think.
Essentially, the mission of a teacher - of any teacher - is to educate people who will be able to design the strategy for achieving the previously established goals. Naturally, for achieving this professional goal a teacher needs to be able to design his/her own professional strategy.
Unfortunately, currently many science teachers do not know how to do that, and not many professional development programs help teachers to master this practice.
Education Advancement Professionals (EAP) is one of the few programs which teaches teachers how to teach students how to think as a scientist. The program is based on the scientific, methodological and educational advancements developed and represents in the oldest developed natural science - physics. EAP is also the only professional development agency in the field of education that offers for teachers and administrators workshops on "Professional Designing".
It is just a fact that physics represents the oldest and the most developed natural science. That is why physics represents the subject which is the best suited for the development of a scientific thinking.
After making this statement, I am forwarding the readers to the collection of the articles on the matter (some are about teaching physics, and some are about teaching in general).

Thank you for visiting,
Dr. Valentin Voroshilov
Education Advancement Professionals

To learn more about my professional experience:

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