Science education research at CRDG began with the Foundational Approaches in Science Teaching (FAST) program in 1966. The three-year middle school FAST curriculum was novel in its authentic reflection of the practices of science—where students learn by experiencing the joys and frustrations of advancing and testing hypotheses; understanding that errors and misdirections are normal steps; and building the idea that even a well-supported hypothesis is tentative and subject to revision. FAST began a legacy of constructivist philosophy of learning at CRDG that continues today.
Constructivism makes the assumptions that learners build their own knowledge and understanding from their experiences. Knowledge development is incremental, and the knowledge that people hold in common is developed and clarified through interaction with others. Translated into classroom practice, students engage in experiential, hands-on learning through investigations that are carefully sequenced and connected to previous experience. This model places students in small collaborative groups with the teacher in the role of facilitator rather than an authority from whom knowledge is acquired.
CRDG’s current science program build upon and extends our long tradition in constructivism. Although new projects are firmly rooted in the twenty-first century, employing such strategies as interactive online delivery, online learning communities for teacher professional development, and citizen science as an organizing theme, the projects are also the beneficiaries of fifty years of research into how best to develop scientifically literate students who have both the background necessary for understanding the issues we face in our technological society and the foundational tools for further study in science.