Clement Receives National Award for Research in Science Teaching

SRRI's own John Clement has received the Distinguished Contributions to Science Education Through Research Award from the National Association for Research in Science Teaching (NARST).

The award, announced on April 7, is granted to an individual who has made a continuing contribution, provided notable leadership, and had substantial impact on science education through research sustained over a period of at least 20 years.

Dean Andrew Effrat stated, "This prestigious award represents the highest recognition that NARST can bestow for contributions to the field of science education through exemplary, high quality research. It is a very significant honor for John and an important acknowledgment of his work."

One of Clement's contributions was to uncover learning difficulties experienced by science students. He found that students who could solve problems using complicated formulas sometimes did extremely poorly on very basic qualitative problems. Their responses revealed that these students tended to hold "alternative conceptions" that are opposed to what scientists have found to be true, for example, the incorrect idea that a heavy object falls more rapidly in a vacuum than a light object. He also uncovered a considerable number of positive intuitions students possess that are in agreement with scientific theory and that can be used as starting points for instruction. By using experiments and classroom discussions to first draw out and then contrast these two kinds of beliefs, science teachers can promote students' thinking and inquiry skills as well as their deeper understanding of science topics.

In discussing his research, John Clement explained, "This basic research on students' learning difficulties in science education has led to the development of curricula that are now being used by thousands of teachers, underlining the importance of the long term effects of research for changing practices in the field."