What are Caselets?

Current calls for science education teaching reform at the higher education level promote the use of inquiry-based science experiences in the classroom in order to achieve higher science literacy and a stronger understanding of the basic concepts and processes of the nature of science.

Caselets are an abbreviated form of case discussions, a professional development tool used with K-12 teachers to present teaching dilemmas through videos or written narratives. Teachers read the teaching dilemmas and follow up with reflection and  discussion with peer teachers. Case discussions are an excellent means of reflection-on-action as they help meet the goals of developing awareness of active practitioners. Caselets were developed to be used as a similar teaching tool for science graduate student instructors who traditionally receive little to no teaching  support.  The caselets presented in this web site focus on teaching science as inquiry.  They can be used in short  periods of time and are designed to help these instructors work through teaching and learning issues that arise when attempting to teach science as an inquiry process.

Why Use Caselets?

Science teaching preparation and professional development materials are abundant for K-12 teachers. However, there is a general lack of supporting resources for higher education instructors who are trying to implement science teaching reform, especially materials which are pedagogically-specific. This situation is exacerbated when we consider that it is common for undergraduate laboratory classes to be taught by graduate students. These novice instructors are typically fresh from their undergraduate programs and often have not experienced how it is to learn science through inquiring. Therefore, they tend to have a difficult time translating new theory into practice. Additionally, teaching preparation for graduate student science instructors has been greatly neglected.

“Caselets” offer one means for instructors teaching science as inquiry in laboratory environments to develop teaching skills. The length of caselets and the specifically chosen reflection and discussion questions allow them to be used in short time frames (10-20) minutes, so teacher mentors have flexibility in when they actually distribute the caselets. If teaching preparation time is limited, caselets can be used to prepare for the preparation session, during the session as a compliment to an aspect of a past or upcoming lab, or as a post-preparation session activity.

 

Teaching Science as Inquiry

When we “teach science as inquiry,” we teach that science is an inquiry process. For learners to engage in science as inquiry, they “do” science in means similar to scientists’ efforts: make observations, generate hypotheses, design methodologies, collect data, draw conclusions, and communicate findings. Teaching science as inquiry encourages the development of metacognitive skills students need to actively engage in the scientific process. This means that as instructors, we must provide learning activities that promote these skills and all aspects of science as inquiry. Many of the caselets you read will explore some of these activities.