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sábado, 10 de enero de 2015

Inclusion in Science Education

It´s been a long time since I write a poset here. Moving to the United States and starting a Ph.D program kept me busy. Now with 2015 starting I am taking the opportunity to re-start writing and to give a little different focus on the blog.

This blog started to narrate my experiences as a middle school chemistry teacher in Mexico. The experience was wonderful and made me realize how much I wanted to learn about research in education and how to improve science education. I am currently enrolled in a Ph.D in Learning Sciences and Policy program a big change coming from the physical sciences and something that has made me rethinking my identity in a lot of ways (If you are interested in this road towards a researcher identity and what is like to move from the physical sciences to the social sciences look here. I am keeping a separate blog for this purpose because my mind still has trouble wrapping around my two identities). Currently my research project is focused on identifying the factors that make middle school children want or not a future career in science, this project is part of the National Activation Lab (Important to say any views presented her do not represent the ones of my employer, advisor, university, etc). This blog will still focus on ways to improve education in chemistry and how to avoid chemophobia however,  I will start blogging also about education in STEM in general.

This semester I am taking a class called "Design of Educational Systems" with the objective of learning how to design instruction for education purposes. In this class we are assigned to teams and that team to a real life client. My client (which will remain anonymous for this and future posts on the topic) is a teacher that wants us to design instruction for a high school biology classroom. the syllabus has a lot of things related to chemistry: energy, mass, DNA, cycles and photosynthesis. The interesting thing about this project is that this classroom has a significant number of special ed students (the two other members of the team are special ed researcher, meaning I am the "science ed expert" of the team). The topic of inclusion is very on vogue right now in the United States and there is a lot of research on its pros and cons (For a review see here), the topic is also very controversial. The review I cited was found the following things in the literature:

"(a) the impact of inclusion programs on the academic performance and social development of students with disabilities has been mixed; (b) the placement of students without disabilities in inclusion programs does not appear to interfere with their academic performance and has several social benefits for these students; and (c) teachers' responses to inclusion programs are complex, are shaped by multiple variables, and change over time." (Salend & Garrick 1999)
Though this review was written 15 years ago lots of the things mentioned are still relevant. Despite the large body of research on inclusion there is little related to special ed in science education. One of the reasons for this is that special education encompasses an umbrella of things that can go from autism to learning disabilities to blindness to ADHD. This makes research on the topic and instruction difficult because two different kids labeled as "special education" can have totally different needs in the classroom.

I decided to try to participate in the debate doing a series of posts on my experience developing this specific type of instruction. Because of IRB and ethics I can´t give really specific details about some things but I can definitely talk about my reflections and learning of the process. I hope with this any teacher that stumbles into my blog can read something that might help him support these kids in a better way. I also intend to help start a discussion among people who do research in science about a topic that is not really talked about. We usually talk about autism when complaining about antivaxers. And we talk about improving scientific literacy to avoid chemophobia in the general population. I think we can also talk about how these kids that have a totally different perception and experiences in this world learn and perceive science. I think we can learn from them better ways to become as scientists closer to society.

Thanks for reading and see you readers soon ! 

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