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Purposeful Engagement in Science Learning

The Project-based Approach

Kabba E. Colley

Purposeful Engagement in Science Learning provides a blueprint of how teachers and their students can engage in science learning that mirrors the way science is practiced. It is written for K–16 science educators as well as those in the informal science education sector. The framework for this book is based on the project cycle, which is consistent with the process of scientific inquiry. Chapter One reviews the historical, philosophical and psychological foundations of project-based scientific inquiry (PBSI) and the evolution of this approach in the U.S. Chapter Two examines and synthesizes the research on PBSI. Chapter Three explores how to plan PBSI and offers practical strategies for veteran and novice science educators alike. Chapter Four presents different strategies for implementing PBSI with particular emphasis on factors to consider, including the roles and responsibilities of teachers and students. Chapter Five provides selected case histories of successful PBSI. Chapter Six deals with the different methods of evaluating and assessing students’ learning in PBSI environments and provides examples of performance-based assessments suitable for evaluating students’ learning. Chapter Seven examines the relationship between PBSI, after-school programs and community involvement. Finally, Chapter Eight identifies and describes relevant resources that could be used to support and enhance PBSI. This book is organized in a way that allows science educators to address the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), while at the same time, helping students learn science in ways that are relevant to their lives.
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This book was inspired by my students, who just wanted to know how to conduct PBSI without having to take specialized courses or engage in endless professional development activities. To these students, I owe a debt of gratitude for their tough questions and insistence that I provide an example by not only talking the talk but also walking the walk. This book would not have been possible without Dr. Binta M. Colley, my wife and partner in crime, who was never bored listening to my “Colley Theories,” who was never too tired to read my drafts at all times of the night and day, and who unceasingly edited my drafts and provided constructive feedback throughout. Thank you my Dear for all your loving support and encouragement. Although it would be impossble to name them all here, I wish to thank those who came before me, on whose shoulders I stand. Finally, special thanks to Dr. Robert F. Tinker, former Chief Scientific Officer at TERC Inc., and President Emeritus of Concord Consortium for his support and mentoring during the embryonic stage of my PBSI journey, and all my former colleagues at TERC, Inc., where the seeds for my interest in PBSI were sown.

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