Academics versus the "real world"

by Stephanie Chasteen on October 12, 2007

800px-tisb_academic_block.JPGOne thing that’s been on my mind a lot lately is the special place called academics. I was very happy at the Exploratorium, because I could see the results of my work every day. I was working directly with teachers and giving them tools that they needed, and that felt good. Now, I am doing much more meta-level work: I am studying the practices that make teaching more effective.

So, what I’m doing may eventually assist teachers (and thus students) but it’s certainly not as “fun” as being out there in the trenches, figuring out the conductivity of play-doh.

I find myself wondering — am I having an impact? It takes SO long to create knowledge. That is the case in all science. It takes years to learn to crystallize a certain molecule. It will take me years to come up with evidence regarding how students grapple with concepts in this one course (electricity and magnetism) that I’m studying. So, it will take years to discover information about how people think about this one topic.

Will this information help teachers, and thus, eventually, students? I would be curious to hear from any educators on this topic. Do you read the results of education research? I have not seen much evidence, so far, of active outreach on the part of education researchers, to disseminate their findings among K-14 teachers. I would be interested to know of any such efforts!

When I first came into this position, one of the professors in the department realized that I was an activist. And suggested that this position will help make me an informed activist. At the least, I feel that that’s true.

{ 1 comment }

Paul Doherty November 29, 2007 at 12:50 pm

I scan articles about research in teaching and find a rare gem amid the dross.

The best that I have found are from Arnold Aarons with specific ideas on teaching physics, trying to answer questions like “is it better to start with static electricity or current electricity?”

Also the National Academy of Sciences has a great collection of science teaching research that is actually applicable.
Such as Taking Science to School
http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=11625

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