Our basic assumptions about how things work can be very resistant to change, even in the face of new knowledge. We need to find ways of accommodating new information within the frameworks that we already have in our minds. We learn to adapt new ideas to our existing habits of thought.
Many FASTly activities offer strategies to help students examine and critique their assumptions. These include:
- using images and word clouds to help students make concrete and visible the assumptions contained in popular information sources such as Wikipedia. Activity: Science in Words
- using idea sorting exercises to reveal the degree to which students see particular ideas as connected, and revisiting them to monitor change. Activity: Knowledge…for What?
- using surveys and reflection activities to help students articulate what they believe before starting an activity. Activity: Miracle Survey
- inviting students to articulate and question the way they see and interpret everyday objects and experiences and giving them space to reflect on their accounts. Activity: Photo Scrapbook
- using activities that provoke a sense of dissonance when, for example, students realize they are not all working from the same information. Activity: Projectile Motion
The process of learning about faith and science is clouded by the assumptions that teachers and students bring to the practice. These may include assumptions about what faith is, what science is, what the Bible is, and how faith and science relate to each other. For instance, many assume that faith and science are inherently opposed to one another, or that the relationship between them is basically a matter of claims about rival sets of facts or that science and virtues are not connected. Teaching about faith and science is more likely to be fruitful if these assumptions are brought to the surface and examined.
Being inquisitive about the world and asking life’s hard questions are part of a robust faith. Genuine learning about faith and science is not simply a matter of gaining ammunition to defend opinions we already hold. Seeking truth includes exploring whether our current assumptions are adequate and how we need to grow. In order to make progress in understanding both faith and science, we need strategies for making existing assumptions visible, for provoking critical reflection on them, and for pointing the way to alternatives.
Look out for strategies in FASTly activities that focus on challenging and refining our assumptions, and consider how they can enhance your teaching.