Elements of Learning

ISLS is a philosophical approach to learning.  The program engages participants in a transformative science experience that influences subsequent curriculum development and implementation while encouraging civic engagement.  Program goals include:
  • engaging students and teachers as scholars in challenging experiences designed around the principles of science;
  • broadening attitudes about education shifting traditional roles of teacher and student making all scholar-peers;
  • a focus on high school/university students in developing authentic science experiences where results transform local environments;
  • to ignite and sustain interests in pursuing careers in teaching and science;
  • integrate principles from the science of learning to increase the quality, quantity, and diversity of tools and methods for science educators;
  • continue development and implementation of formative and heuristic assessments that include group work and evidence of inquiry-based science;
  • increase and sustain collaboration among different groups increasing efficacy and efficiency of reform;
  • develop an action research, case study approach for assessment of learning as experienced by community members, and
  • explore development of group assessment that models the group assessment inherent in science research.

Educational Technology

The end of the 20th Century marked the end of a period of education where students and teachers were reliant on printed resources. The technological landscape of the 21st Century permits anywhere/anytime access to information and scientific databases, real-time collaborations, and vast communication networks, all with functionality at a cost unheard of ten years ago. This transformation is not limited to what and how technology is used or how learners interact with their environments from the personal to the educational, but also extends to how students come to know and construct knowledge. The 21st Century student communicates and creates content not only for personal viewing, but also for the globally connected community to see and respond to. Motivation and engagement of learners therefore transforms, as well. ISLS fosters personalized and networked learning environments where participants construct knowledge for the world to see from the vast online applications and resources available. Students and teachers participating in ISLS use mobile technologies, and receive professional development and support using web 2.0 technologies such as Google Apps, access to learning management systems, as well as exposure to various other forms of both educational and scientific technologies. Together through the use of the technology, participants build and share their learning experience.

Inquiry Based Science

Science is a way of knowing the world around us.  It is an approach based on human curiosity guided by reason.  Inquiry based science begins with observation from our senses or from prior knowledge that we have already learned.  When we use our senses to observe, we believe that we are being unbiased and objective.  But many things we see are influenced by prior knowledge and we see and sense often times what we are taught to observe.  Inquiry based learning places students in the central role as observers, asking them to record data as accurately as they can using thier senses and extensions of their senses through instrumentation.  We ask them to record what they see not what they are told to see.  Inquiry based science then asks students to make sense of these data, to ask questions about what they mean and to develop hypothesis from those questions that allow them to think critically about their data.  Through reason applied to accurate observation, often bolstered by experiment develops scientific knowledge, a way of making sense and knowing the world.  ISLS asks students to engage in inquiry, in investigations based on their careful observations, thoughtful analyses and critical reflections of what they have discovered.  It is through the development of these skills that students will be able to find answers to the myriad of unanswered questions facing us in the 21st Century

Transformative Relationships

Important elements of the ISLS vision supporting a 21st Century Learning paradigm are shown below. Nontraditional partnerships help foster intra- and interpersonal development -- in which students and teachers develop a congruent sense of themselves as learners and as contributors to others’ learning and team goals -- as they focus on and develop cognitive complexity in STEM disciplines. This approach investigates the attitudes and learning of educators as well as students.

21st Century Learning

The term 21st Century Learning has several meanings. As we define it here, 21st Century Learning refers to a paradigm shift: it is an approach to education that treats students as constructors of knowledge (Kegan 1982, 1994; Baxter Magolda 1999), where process is as important as content; where the social aspects of learning are valued; where critical thinking, problem solving and inquiry are pillars for educating students (Wieman 2007); where interdisciplinary approaches are valued; where classes have relevancy to real world issues; where achievement is more important than making a grade (Coyle 2009); and where reflection is a part of every learning process (Schon D.A. 1982; OLN LCI, 2007). In this approach, 21st Century skills are incorporated into 21st Century Learning—developing life and career skills, learning and innovation skills, information media and technology skills, all enveloping core subjects and 21st Century themes (Framework 2009). Unfortunately, the prevailing educational paradigm still embraces a 20th Century view of education (Kegan 1994). Although educators may believe our current focus in education is on improving learning by students, our classrooms model teacher-centered environments where teachers deliver content to students (Wesch 2009). To improve learning by students requires a paradigm shift to environments filled with the 21st Century Learning landscapes described above. To bring about a paradigm shift requires us as a society to understand why this shift is needed. Our ISLS years of experience have convinced us that piecemeal solutions will not improve student learning. Our vision calls for paradigm shift, nontraditional partnerships and thinking in new ways. References Baxter Magolda, M.B. 1999. Creating contexts for learning and self-authorship: Constructive-developmental pedagogy. Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press. Coyle, D. 2009. The talent code: Greatness isn’t born. It’s grown. Here’s how. New York: Bantam. Kegan, R. 1994. In over our heads: The mental demands of modern life. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Kegan, R. 1982. The evolving self. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. OLN LCI. 2007. Ohio Learning Network Learning Community Initiative. Last Updated 6 July 2007. http://wiki.lci.oln.org/page/Step+One%3A+Overview. (accessed 08/14/ 2009). Partnership for 21st Century Skills. 2004. Framework for 21st Century Learning. http://www.21stcenturyskills.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=254&Itemid=120. (accessed 08/14/2009). Schon, D.A. 1983. The reflective practitioner. New York: Basic Books. Wesch, M. 2009. From knowledgeable to knowledge-able: Learning in new media environments. Academic commons (January 7, 2009). http://www.academiccommons.org/commons/essay/knowledgable-knowledge-able. (accessed 14 Aug 2009). Wieman, C. 2007. Why not try a scientific approach to science education? Change 39(5):9–15.