Dimensions of Research

There are three dimensions of research questions driving this ongoing project:

1.) What science is actively in use by students in their everyday lives and how does that relate to school science?

This the broad question addressed by the presentation at the 2012 Association for Science Teacher Education conference.  Teachers participating in the early stages of the project helped us examine how instruction in science that is evident in the students’ built (everyday) environments influenced what they learned.

2.) How and what do students (people) learn from activities that require manual manipulation of concrete materials?

This is the question taken up by the presentation at the 2007 Crossroads in Science Education conference.  The Vexation discussed in the conference paper concerns inquiring into what we expect to be learned from “hands-on” activity.  This inquiry can be applied to what is learned through hands-on science in school and what is learned through work in the construction trades as skilled worker develops expertise in his/her work.

3.) How does context influence how teachers talk about science concepts and what needs to be taught and learned?  Of particular interest were the following contexts: (a) formal contexts such as textbooks, (b) construction engineering contexts, and (c) the context of everyday life?

This is the subject of the presentation at the 2010 National Association of Research in Science Teaching conference.  The problem we begin with is how do teachers interpret the idea of “useful” science and how does that relate to the science they are expected to teach.

Topic Outlines for the Three SELS Units

As part of our investigation in to useful science, we looked carefully at three areas of construction engineering that seemed to hold promise for developing science.  The three areas expressed in terms of formal course offerings in a school or college setting are: (a) Thermodynamics, (b) Electricity, and (c) Mechanics and Materials.  Of these three areas, we recognize immediately that the first two are part of a school science curriculum and the third (Mechanics & Materials) is outside the typical curriculum.

Part of our investigation was to make a concept outline for each topic area of the ideas that we thought were most accessible for student learning and use.  These outlines continue to be reviewed and revised.

* Thermodynamics Topic Outline

* Electricity Topic Outline

* Mechanics & Materials Topic Outline

SELS Assessments

We worked to develop assessments for teachers to use who were trying out the ideas presented in the SELS project.  These assessments were designed from the topic outlines and comprised of items that equally represented standard science as presented in textbooks and construction-related science as experienced in everyday environments.  We attempted to make the assessments sensitive to differences in student learning between “standard” science and “useful” or science in the “built” environments.

* Electricity Assessment

* Electricity Assessment Answers

* Mechanics & Materials Assessment

* Thermodynamics Assessment (Form A) & answers

* Thermodynamics Assessment (Form B) & answers

Relevant Papers/Presentations

Flick,L. B., Sadri, P., Morrell, P. D., Wainwright, C., Schepige, A. (April 2009). Analysis of University Teaching in Science and Mathematics Undergraduate Courses. School Science and Mathematics 109 (4),197-211.

Brown,S., Flick, L., & Fiez, T. (January, 2009). An investigation of the presence and development of social capital in an electrical engineering laboratory, Journal of Engineering Education, 98 (1), 93-102.

Flick,L. B. & Tomlinson, M. (2006). Helping students understand the minds-on side of learning science. In M. McMahon, P. Simmons, R. Sommers, D. DeBaets, & F. Crawley (Eds. National Association for Research in Science Teaching). Assessment in science: Practical experiences and education research (pp. 183-196). Arlington, VA: NSTA Press.

Flick,L. B. (2005). Being An Elementary Science Teacher Educator. In K. Appleton (Ed.) Contemporary Issues In Elementary Science Teacher Education. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc., Publishers.


Flick,L. B. (2009). AnInvestigation of the Presence and Development of Social Capital in an Electrical Engineering Laboratory, Annals of Research on Engineering Education,


Flick,L. B. & Lederman, N. G. (2004). Scientific Inquiry and Nature of Science: Implications Teaching, Learning, and Teacher Education. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers.