The genuine inquiry based learning experience for teachers

Last week I had the pleasure of sitting in on a group of teachers doing an evaluation callback for the Boston University Research Experience in Teaching (R.E.T.) Biophotonics program.  In an R.E.T. program, middle and high school teachers spend the summer working alongside graduate students and professors in research laboratories.  As the teachers met with the external evaluator, a common theme I saw expressed was that the content of their summer research was less important that the research experience itself.  The fact that they were engaged in true inquiry based learning themselves, where nobody knew the answers to the research they were conducting, gave them the experience they wanted to expose their own students to. I had this research experience myself last year when I designed and flew my NASA reduced gravity experiment.  The debate is raging of content versus science practices. State based standardized tests often emphasize content.  The next Generation Science Standards have placed an emphasis on collaboration, inquiry based learning, and science practices over route memorization of content and lecture based teaching.  How we get there is still something of an open playing field that the Physics Education Research community is trying to pave paths for us as instructors to travel.

I have spent the blizzard weekend doing a lot of planning for the spring meeting of the New England Section of AAPT.  These are the kinds of issues that we will be exploring at this meeting.  The workshops include a fun make n take with the photoelectric effect, InterLACE, and Modeling.  Ron Thorton, one of the architects of MicrocomputerBased Learning Labs and Interactive Lecture Demonstrations will be giving the keynote address Friday evening.

Last week I had attended a BU Physics Teachers Alliance meeting, and Mark Greenman made a reference to Ronald Thorton and Interactive Lecture Demonstrations.  However, now when you write a grant to NSF they do not want to see they word “LECTURE.” Might as well be the death-knell for your grant.  So he now calls them ILE, Interactive Laboratory Exercises (nothing has changed) and the granting agencies are happy.