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New insight into science education


Anyone who teaches has dealt with the rapid appearance and spread of advanced information and communications technology that has changed the way students and society think about, produce, and consume information. In most classes today, students’ smart phones have access to more information than could even fit in their classrooms if it were printed in traditional textbooks. But they also have access to the equivalent of TV, radio and all of their friends. This is a very complicated question for educational researchers, but a recent paper from an NSPIRE graduate argues that it shouldn’t just be an “educational researcher’s” question. Drawing on interdisciplinary training that focused on the interrelations of science and public policy, Devlin Montfort analyzed interviews and surveys with NSF grantees studying and using communications technology in their classrooms to identify the underlying differences in how stakeholders view this issue. This changes the question from the empirically based “how does technology X affect students?” to the more normative (and therefore interesting and accessible to policymakers and the general public), “how should technology X help achieve our goals in education?”. While the empirical study of educational practices is obviously important in improving education, its traditional separation from public policy debates has hindered the potential benefits of this research. This work begins to close this gap by placing the research on terms of the public and policies it is intended to inform.

Address Goals

This work informs best educational practices for training interdisciplinay science and engineering students.