Monday, January 25, 2010

the absense of bold guessing

In classes full of 20 or 30 students do we find time available for students to develop scientific reasoning? It can happen quietly in a wood shop, but when we have that many kids in a class, it takes courage to raise your hand and guess the answer the teacher has in mind, knowing of course that you may be wrong and face embarrassment for your "wrong" answer. We thus discourage what William Whewell described as "bold guessing,"
Bold Guessing. -- Advances in knowledge are not commonly made without the previous exercise of some boldness and license in guessing. The discovery of new truths, requires, undoubtedly, minds careful and scrupulous in examining what is suggested, but it requires, no less, such as are quick and fertile in suggesting. What is invention except the talent of rapidly calling before us many possibilities and selecting the appropriate one?
Whewell in describing the methods of Keppler in his book, History of the Inductive Sciences, 1837, outlined four important points as follows:
1. Bold Guessing, as described above.
2. Erroneous guessing -- recognizing "All who discover truths must have reasoned upon many errors to obtain each truth."
3. Skill in devising means of testing the truth of guesses.
4. Willingness to abandon an erroneous guess or untenable hypothesis as soon as it is recognized.
These are the kinds of lessons we learn when we have woodworking, crafts, the arts, and laboratory science as the center of the educational process... where students learn by doing in a project based learning environment... But that we won't get by sitting quietly at your desk or on your hands. And so, if our purpose is to develop complaisant conformity in support the consumer economy, we have the perfect educational model. If we want to develop students for creativity and problem solving as will be required by the future we face, we need to make a few changes.

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