Background Principles

How do students learn?

We are combining elements of two learning theories:

Situated Cognition: Authentic research-embedded scientific context (Brown, Collins and Duguid , ’89; Lave and Wenger ‘91)
Several educational theorists have surmised that better learning, or at least more practical learning (i.e. learning that is more readily transferred to other course work and to the workplace, community, and household), occurs when content is embedded in a rich real-world context. In courses informed by situated learning theory “[t]he individual learner is not gaining a discrete body of abstract knowledge which (s)he will then transport and reapply in later contexts. Instead, (s)he acquires the skill to perform by actually engaging in the process…” (Lave and Wenger, ‘91.) Teaching in a science classroom informed by this learning theory also makes crossing between scientific disciplines necessary, since many (most?) real-world problems require the application of concepts and skills from more than one traditional discipline.

Assessment FOR Learning: Clear learning goals and instructor feedback (Black and Wiliam, ’98)
“Assessment for learning is any assessment for which the first priority in its design and practice is to serve the purpose of promoting students’ learning. It thus differs from assessment designed primarily to serve the purposes of accountability, or of ranking, or of certifying competence. An assessment activity can help learning if it provides information that teachers and their students can use as feedback in assessing themselves and one another and in modifying the teaching and learning activities in which they are engaged. Such assessment becomes “formative assessment” when the evidence is actually used to adapt the teaching work to meet learning needs.” (Black and Wiliam, ‘98)