This post is about instructional decisions in my inquiry course, which I am trying to be more explicit about.
If you read my last post, my class has some theories about what light does when it reaches different surfaces. They also have identified some challenging puzzles involving light on surfaces. Their theories are tentative and their puzzles are complex. I’ve decided that it’s my job to help them bridge the gap between some of our theories and some of the phenomena we’d like to explain.
My specific plan of action is based on at least two notions I’d like to make explicit:
I think my students need some practice “holding a specific theory in mind” and working out its implications. So far, we’ve been doing a very different kind of scientific work–trying to sort through a swamp of our own ideas and experiences to reach some understanding of what’s going on. Along with this work, we’ve been changing our minds a lot, because we keep having new observations or ideas to contend with. To me, it’s about time we start “trying on some ideas” or at least “committing to some ideas just long enough to see where they lead us”.
Conceptually, I also think they need to be nudged toward the vicinity of “source-object-receiver” models. I have been trying to push various groups in this direction during conversations here and there, but so far, no one seems to be concerned with it. Our ideas are about where light goes, and much less with who can see what from where. This is going to be pretty important if we are going to get anywhere with our puzzles, which specifically concern what different observers see.
In summary, my goal is to narrow the gap between theories and puzzles. We have a lot of good theory and very interesting and revealnt puzzles. I also have two instructional instincts: these students need to make contact with a new kind of “scientific practice” (following implications) and a new “conceptual idea” (source, object, receiver). I also have some other goals, which function as constraints. For example, I want to honor and value the class as author’s of ideas and nudge them in directions that at least seem continuous with what we’ve been doing so far.
Anyway, here is my first draft, for what we’ll be doing on Wednesday. They have some predictions to make based on below, some things to discuss, and then we’ll be moving forward with some observations. My final goal for the day will be to pin down some “community rules” for drawing diagrams, and maybe have a conversation about the difference between a sketch (which might get across the gist) and a diagram (which could be used to make a specific prediction). Anyway, what do you think?