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N.S.T.A. Handbook Examines Effective Science Instruction

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Anaheim, Calif.

Classrooms that emphasize group learning may be less effective at encouraging girls to study mathematics and science than traditional classrooms, according to a researcher who contributed to a new book on effective practices in science education.

"There is increasing evidence that cooperative groups that are not well organized ... are no better for girls than 'competitive' classrooms,'' Jane Butler-Kahle, a professor of science education at Miami University of Ohio, said here at the 42nd annual meeting of the National Science Teachers Association.

Ms. Kahle discussed overarching themes in gender-equity research at a special session in which contributors helped unveil the newly published "N.S.T.A. Handbook on Research on Science Teaching and Learning: Implications for Classroom Instruction on Problem-Solving.''

The book is the product of five years of work by a team of respected science educators and science-education researchers to distill what is known about effective practice in the field.

The 598-page reference book, which its authors say represents the most up-to-date knowledge available, is designed to be a springboard for future research as well as a practical guide to effective instruction, said Dorothy Gabel, a professor of science education at Indiana University who edited it.

A Detailed Guide

The work is divided into five sections that deal with areas of research such as "Teaching,'' "Learning,'' and "Problem-Solving.''

Subchapters cover such topics "Teachers as Learners in the Reform of Science Education'' and "Cultural Diversity in the Learning and Teaching of Science.''

Stanley Hegelson, a researcher at Ohio State University who has studied problem-solving techniques and is one of the handbook's more than 30 authors, said that the complexity of science subjects demands such detail.

"Problems are not content- or context-free,'' he argued. "It's not the same thing to try to solve a problem in biology as it is in physics, as it is in chemistry.''

Ms. Butler-Kahle, a well-known researcher in the field, contributed to a chapter called "Research on Gender Issues in the Classroom.''

She said the book also includes findings that girls attribute their success in science to hard work and failures to lack of ability, while boys perceive failure and success in almost exactly opposite ways.

She also noted a study showing that parents of 7th graders--students at the critical age when girls often abandon science and math courses--usually think that girls' grades are worse than boys' grades, no matter what the objective reality.

Copies of the handbook may be ordered for $65 from David Patterson at Macmillan Publishing Company, 866 Third Ave., 5th Floor, New York, N.Y. 10022. N.S.T.A. members receive a discount.

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