What do we mean? On the importance of not abandoning scientific rigor when talking about science education.

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Abstract or Description

Although the "science of science communication" usually refers to the flow of scientific knowledge from scientists to the public, scientists direct most of their communications not to the public, but instead to other scientists in their field. This paper presents a case study on this understudied type of communication: within a discipline, among its practitioners. I argue that many of the contentious disagreements that exist today in the field in which I conduct my research--early science education--derive from a lack of operational definitions, such that when competing claims are made for the efficacy of one type of science instruction vs. another, the arguments are hopelessly disjointed. The aim of the paper is not to resolve the current claims and counterclaims about the most effective pedagogies in science education, but rather to note that the assessment of one approach vs. the other is all too often defended on the basis of strongly held beliefs, rather than on the results of replicable experiments, designed around operational definitions of the teaching methods being investigated. A detailed example of operational definitions from my own research on elementary school science instruction is provided. In addition, the paper addresses the issue of how casual use of labels-both within the discipline and when communicating with the public-may inadvertently "undo" the benefits of operational definitions.




Published In

PNAS, 110 Suppl 3, 14075-14080.