Samson Nashon

Samson NashonDr. Nashon is a science educator. His research focuses on ways of teaching and learning. His area of specialization focuses on students’ alternative understandings that have roots in cultural backgrounds and curricula, and are accommodative of students with varying degrees of abilities. His research is dominantly qualitative, borrowing primarily from contemporary theories of constructivism. His most recent research projects include the ongoing Metacognition and Reflective Inquiry (MRI), East African Students’ Ways of Knowing (EASWOK), The Status of Physics 12 in BC, The Nature of Analogies Kenyan Physics Teachers Use, and Students’ Access To Senior Science and Mathematics Courses in Rural BC. Previous studies include, The Role of Practical Work in Science, and The Kind of Science in Kenyan “Harambee Schools.

Dr. Nashon’s experience as a former high school teacher of physics and mathematics, teacher educator, and as an editor of curriculum materials related to science, provides him with a lens through which he examines the link between theory and practice in the classroom, the nature of science curricula, how the curricula material is taught, and the role that students’ preconceptions play in the teaching and learning of such material. He is currently involved in teaching a physics methods course to preservice teachers, Foundations Research Methods, Action Research Methods, and several science education courses to graduate students.

My research focuses broadly on ways of teaching and learning science, and is characterized by three main emphases.

Understanding the nature of science curriculum and instruction and development of theoretical and pedagogical models to improve the practice of science teaching: Understanding the nature of science curriculum and instruction was the focus of my DES, MEd, and EdD dissertation topics. In both the DES and MEd theses, I explored questions about and proffered suggestions regarding the nature of science offered and the associated pedagogy in Kenyan high schools. My EdD dissertation also raised questions about the viability of the widely used anthropomorphic analogies in Kenyan high school science instruction. Further, my doctoral work has formed the foundation for part of my research program here at UBC, which focuses on the development of theoretical and pedagogical models to improve the practice of science teaching, including “Working with Analogies” (WWA) published in OISE Papers for STSE Education (Nashon, 2000), Canadian Journal Science Mathematics and Technology Education (Nashon, 2004), and Research In Science Education (Nashon, 2004). WWA has also been elaborated in my EdD dissertation. I have also developed “School Physics Instructional Model” (SPIM) based on insights from the study (Nashon, 2006), High school science in BC: The status of physics 12 (Nashon, 2007), which highlights the issues of instruction and teacher beliefs as among the key factors influencing student subject choice.

Understanding the science learner: I investigate the nature and character of the conceptions of science that learners hold from a phenomenological perspective. Also, I elucidate the effect of learners’ prior knowledge and experience, socio–cultural background and learning contexts on their individual and group learning through research projects such as, The Nature of Metaphorical, Analogical and Simile–like Expressions for HIV/AIDS: A case study of Ugandan Biology Classrooms, which revealed how Ugandan students’ preconceived understandings of HIV/AIDS affect classroom instruction about the science of HIV/AIDS. The study served as a motivation for a 2006 – 2010 SSHRC funded study, East African Students’ Ways of Knowing in Science Discourses, which aimed to investigate and elucidate EA students’ ways of understanding the world. Within this realm of research, a 2010-2015 SSHRC funded study that investigated the effect of students’ learning on teachers’ teaching in East Africa was developed with very interesting insights being generated and disseminated through various academic and professional media or fora.

Understanding the deep meta–level mechanisms of science learning: This line of research focuses on identifying, describing, and understanding the underlying higher–order learning processes or agents that govern knowledge construction including: (a) Metacognition, as is the case in the SSHRC funded multi–national research collaborative study, Metacognition and Reflective Inquiry (MRI): Learning Across Contexts, which is providing theoretical insights into how students engage metacognition in novel problem solving situations. The study has led to the inclusion of a field trip to an amusement park in our physics methods course for pre–service teachers here at UBC with the intent of fostering appreciations of the richness of this context in providing novel learning opportunities for students. As an offshoot, “BC Brightest Minds Competition”, with myself as one of the two lead facilitators and sponsored by Pacific National Exhibition (PNE), was inaugurated in 2006 as an annual event. (b) Ways of knowing through one’s position/view on the nature of science and cultural lens(es), such as the 2006–2010 SSHRC funded research project, East African Students’ Ways of Knowing in Science Discourses on which I was principal investigator. It examined East African students’ Ways of Knowing in science through case studies of selected Kenyan schools. The study concluded that students’ Ways of Knowing are shaped by their socio–cultural backgrounds, which in turn translate into their worldviews and perceptions of science. The study, which commenced in September 2006, investigated East African students’ Ways of Knowing in the context of science curriculum implemented through a program that integrated analysis of Jua Kali (an informal sector defined by UNESCO as “small–scale manufacturing and technology–based services”) production activities with conventional classroom science. Building on findings from this study another SSHRC funded study (2010 – 2015), Teacher Pedagogy and School Culture: The Effect of Student Learning on Science Teachers’ Teaching and Culture in East Africa on which I am the principal investigator, was framed to investigate the transformations in East African science teachers’ teaching culture, their pedagogies, and collective school culture as they navigate through and experience their students’ learning mediated through science curricular reforms. The 2006–2010 SSHRC funded study revealed the importance of the effect of students’ learning experiences on teachers’ teaching culture, their pedagogies, and school culture. Understanding this effect has been critical to helping Kenyan science teachers design curricular and pedagogical models to enhance science teaching through local contexts. Moreover, student learning and performance are very important motives behind any curricular or pedagogical reform. It is hoped that the study will provide new insights into teachers’ PCK in cultural contexts beyond Western perspectives. In all, the studies I conduct are largely framed around the three emphases. It is my objective to share research findings with others through forums such as collaborative course development and implementation, mentorship programs for graduate students, national and international conferences, and print publications.

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