Assistant teacher course/Theory formation/handout/Patterns for exercises in theory formation

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Patterns for exercises in theory formation[edit | edit source]

Scientific discovery[edit | edit source]

An existing theory is disproven and the pupils have to defend the theory by verifying the part of the theory that has supposedly been disproven. The assistant teachers can make the claim that the theory may actually have been disproven by the latest scientific results, which explains why the school books claim the theory is correct. If the pupils think they are actually involved in verifying a new scientific discovery they may be more interested to follow proper scientific procedure and may act and feel like researchers. The assistant teachers can prepare their presentation of a "scientific discovery" in a theater group to achieve more credibility. After the lesson the assistant teachers can explain that the "scientific discovery" was their own invention but that the attitude to be doing actual research was the sensible attitude, which the pupils should try to preserve.

Fragmented theories[edit | edit source]

Several theories are presented in fragments and the pupils have to assemble consistent theories from the fragments of the theories. The theories can be contradictory or can be similar but unrelated. If the theories are easily found in literature unusual terminology can help to discourage the use of literature to solve a problem that should be solvable with the materials presented. The pupils can be invited to form working groups to verify different hypotheses.

Rejecting the theory[edit | edit source]

Assistant teachers can prepare material that consists of several views or sources for the same foundations of a theory. The pupils can only form a consistent theory by choosing the views or sources that support the theory. Only one set of material supports the theory but the theory is incorrect and the material is faulty; the correct material disproves the theory. The pupils can show their scientific skills by discovering the set of material that supports the theory and by discovering that the theory is faulty even though an apparent puzzle fits together. The given task should be to confirm the theory with the material that is most suitable to confirm the theory. The pupils can learn to resist the temptation to assemble a puzzle from badly verified knowledge.

No theory applies[edit | edit source]

All theories explain the observations but no theory applies. Since all theories could apply the pupils cannot decide on a theory without further measurements or other information. The pupils can learn from this pattern to think further, to make their own observations and to avoid hasty conclusions.

Virtual theory[edit | edit source]

A virtual theory can assume circumstances to be different to measurable facts. Constructing a virtual theory may be a challenging task but the reward can be that the pupils can engage in actual research of an unknown phenomenon. All measurements for a virtual theory can be made with simulated equipment, so the pupils can make measurements, interpret the results and form their own theories to explain the measurements. A virtual theory can allow to teach scientific methodology in a simplified computer environment. An example for a virtual theory is Dragon Genetics, only the example doesn't allow any non-trivial measurements.

Group of theories but no GUT[edit | edit source]

A group of theories looks as if there could be a great unified theory (GUT) but the unifying theory is an overinterpretation and does not exist or is not as simple as the group of theories considered alone may seem to imply. The pupils can learn to avoid assembling a puzzle from insufficient data and building blocks that look as if they could be meant for assembly. The pupils can learn to look for details and evidence that disproves their theory and not just to look for confirmation.


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