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Discussion: Middle school curriculum reform: What is your growing edge?

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posted by: Barbara Sullivan on June 2, 1999 at 1:30PM
subject: Re: lsc-middle-school Digest for 1 Jun 1999 (fwd)
The only comfort that this discussion has offered is that the problems we
have had with involving middle school in our K-8 program are clearly very
similar to those faced throughout the country. Perhaps then the solutions
when we find them, will be similar!

Yes, our middle school teachers focus on content far more than pedagogy.
Although they do think about the successful teacher, many view success as
correlated with teacher enthusiasm, showmanship, and being allowed the
freedom to pursue enthusiasms. They believe they are providing inquiry
based, hands-on science already, in their laboratory exercises, and
that the text book is a necessary and important tool to allow coverage
of all the required material. So it is difficult to build a case for
change in pedagogy or curriculum materials. Their response to some new
materials which we had presented ranged from very short lived enthusiasm
to out right hostility. We have not attempted cross curricular integration

Where we were successful in creating interest and action through a
teacher lead pilot program to develop curriculum around scientific probes
which log data on a computer (measuring temperature, sound, motion,
electrical conductivity etc.). Teachers were anxious to try these
devices out themselves and it provided them with a rationale to ask for
upgraded computers from school committees. The probes do take the tedium
out of measurements and allow time for students to ask more of their
own "what if" questions, changing variables and viewing the results
quickly on computer graphics and tables. There are clear relationships to
mathematics (statistics, rates, graphing etc.).

We will not know until this summer's follow-up workshop the degree to
which the pilot teachers integrated the probes into their curricula and
how much student inquiry resulted, or if the students spent more time
thinking about concepts. If the results were good or at least useful in
moving forward into inquiry-based curricula we will let you know!

Dr. Barbara K. Sullivan
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