Karen Elinich @ Pepperdine University

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Action Research Project Portfolio




Action Research Goal

Wouldn't it be wonderful if every child had a Nobel Laureate as a classroom teacher? Impossible? I don't think so.

The other day, I watched Marie Curie teach a bunch of sixth graders how to think about science. Their teacher used the Internet to connect her class with Marie Curie's Case File at The Franklin Institute Science Museum where I work. This isn't particularly novel, of course. The really unique part is that the teacher got to come to the Museum and work with the primary source documents before introducing her students to them.

I think that all K-12 teachers are already scientists. French sociologist Bruno Latour characterizes the nature of science as a network of social action and interaction; in this context, every teacher is an important actor in the nature of science. Unfortunately, most teachers don't recognize or understand their role.

For my action research, I am investigating how direct encounters with historical documentation of science can inspire teachers to think about their own role as actors in the nature of science. Research suggests that teachers develop strength in content areas by becoming reflective practitioners of that content area. For example, the National Writing Project has shown that teachers develop strength as writing instructors by first becoming reflective writers themselves. I'm applying this model in science education by having teachers reflect about their role within the social network of science in order to deepen their own understanding of the nature of science.

Of course, not every teacher can work hands-on with the historical collections at The Franklin Institute. So, we're looking at how technology can provide comparable access to primary sources. The interpretative perspective that the teachers are providing for us strengthens our online presentation of these documents.

My goal, ultimately, is to provide access to hundreds of scientists via this model in order to see how teachers change their practical understanding of the nature of science and their role within it. The only obstacles are time and money.