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How Students Learn: History, Mathematics, and Science in the Classroom 10 Teaching to Promote the Development of Scientific Knowledge and Reasoning About Light at the Elementary School Level Shirley J. Magnusson and Annemarie Sullivan Palincsar Children at play outside or with unfamiliar materials look as though they might be answering such questions as: What does this do? How does this work? What does this feel like? What can I do with it? Why did that happen? This natural curiosity and exploration of the world around them have led some people to refer to children as “natural” scientists. Certainly these are the very types of questions that scientists pursue. Yet children are not scientists. Curiosity about how the world works makes engaging children in science relatively easy, and their proclivity to observe and reason (see Chapter 1, Box 1-1) is a powerful tool that children bring to the science classroom. But there is a great deal of difference between the casual observation and reasoning children engage in and the more disciplined efforts of scientists. How do we help students develop scientific ideas and ways of knowing?1 Introducing children to the culture of science—its types of reasoning, tools of observation and measurement, and standards of evidence, as well as the values and beliefs underlying the production of scientific knowledge—is a major instructional challenge. Yet our work and that of others suggest that children are able to take on these learning challenges successfully even in the earliest elementary grades.2
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How Students Learn: History, Mathematics, and Science in the Classroom THE STUDY OF LIGHT Unlike mathematics, in which topics such as whole-number arithmetic are foundational for the study of rational number, and both are foundational for the study of functions, there is currently little agreement on the selection and sequencing of specific topics in science, particularly at the elementary level.3 What clearly is foundational for later science study, however, is learning what it means to engage in scientific inquiry—learning the difference between casual and scientific investigations. That learning can be accomplished in the context of many different specific topics. In this chapter, we choose light as our topic of focus because it affords several benefits. The first is practical: the topic involves relatively simple concepts that children can understand from investigating with relatively simple materials. For example, our bodies and the sun make shadows that can be studied, and similar studies can occur with common flashlights and classroom materials. Pencil and paper, and perhaps some means of measuring distance, are all that is needed for data collection. Children can also study light using simple light boxes (Elementary Science Study’s Optics unit4) in which light bulbs are placed in cardboard boxes containing openings covered with construction paper masks that control the amount of light emanating from the box. Thin slits in the masks make the thin beams of light necessary for studies of reflection and refraction. Multiple wider openings covered with different colored cellophane filters enable investigations mixing colors of light. And again, pencil and paper are all that are needed for data collection showing the paths of light. In addition, developing scientific knowledge of light challenges us to conceptualize aspects of the world that we do not directly experience—a critical element of much scientific study. For example, light travels, yet we do not see it do so; we infer its travel when we turn on a flashlight in the dark and see a lighted spot across the room. Developing scientific knowledge often requires conceptual change5 in which we come to view the physical world in new ways.6 Students must learn that things are not always what they seem—itself a major conceptual leap. The study of light gives children an accessible opportunity to see the world differently and to challenge their existing conceptions. We see the world around us because light reflects from objects to our eyes, and yet we do not sense that what we see is the result of reflected light. Some children, moreover, view shadows as objects instead of understanding that shadows are created when light is blocked. Conceptual development is required if they are to understand the relationship among a light source, an object, and the shadow cast by that object. Working with flashlights can provide children an opportunity to challenge directly everyday conceptions about shadows, providing them with a powerful early experi-
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How Students Learn: History, Mathematics, and Science in the Classroom ence of scientific ways of knowing. Because casual observation of the behavior of light can be misleading, but a relatively accessible investigation of light can be illuminating, the study of light demonstrates the contrast between casual observation and experimentation. For all these reasons, then, the study of light supports children’s understanding that relationships in the physical world are not self-evident and that constructing scientific knowledge from observation of the world is different from their everyday reasoning. Three major instructional challenges parallel the principles of How People Learn as they apply to the study of light: (1) providing students with opportunities to develop deep conceptual understanding of targeted aspects of light, and of standards and norms in science for investigating and drawing conclusions (both about light and more generally); (2) supporting students in building or bridging from prior knowledge and experience to scientific concepts; and (3) encouraging children to engage in the kind of metacognitive questioning of their own thinking that is requisite to scientific practice. Conceptual Understanding How People Learn suggests that learning for understanding requires the organization of knowledge around core concepts. Thus while light can be studied with tools that are easy to use and opportunities to observe the behavior of light abound, if the classroom activity described in this chapter were simply a set of experiences and observations, it would leave students with little deep knowledge. Experiencing many individual activities (e.g., seeing that light reflects from wood as well as mirrors) does not ensure that students understand the overarching concepts about light outlined below that allow them to predict how light will behave in a wide variety of circumstances. As a result, a major focus in this chapter is on the role of the teacher in guiding students’ observations, reasoning, and understanding so that core concepts are grasped. What conceptual understandings do we consider to be core? As suggested above, grasping the differences between everyday observations and reasoning and those of science is not only core in our approach to teaching about light, but also paramount in providing a foundation for further science study. Salient concepts include the following: Standards of the scientific community for understanding and communicating ideas and explanations about how the world works are different from everyday standards. Science requires careful observations that are recorded accurately and precisely, and organized so that patterns can be observed in the data. Patterns in observations are stated as knowledge claims.
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How Students Learn: History, Mathematics, and Science in the Classroom Claims are judged on the quality of the evidence supporting or disconfirming them. Hypotheses take on the status of claims only after they have been tested. Claims are subject to challenge and not considered new scientific knowledge until the scientific community accepts them. These understandings are foundational for all future study of science. There are also core concepts regarding the topic of light that we want students to master. These will vary somewhat, however, according to the grade level and the amount of time that will be devoted to the topic. These concepts include the following: All objects (experienced in our everyday lives) reflect and absorb light, and some objects also transmit light. Dark or black objects mainly absorb light; light or white objects mainly reflect light. There is an inverse relationship between light reflected from and absorbed by an object: more reflected light means less absorbed light. Light reflects from objects in a particular way: the angle of incoming light equals the angle of reflected light. What we see is light reflected from objects. There must be a source of light for us to see an object. Sources of illumination can produce light (e.g., the sun) or reflect light (e.g., the moon). When an object blocks a source of light, a shadow is formed. Shadows are dark because there is no light reaching them to be reflected to our eyes. The distance of an object from a source of light it blocks determines the size of the object’s shadow. The shape of an object’s shadow depends on the angle of the object to the light, so the shadow of an object may have more than one shape. The color of an object is the color of light reflected from the object. The colors of light come from white light, which can be separated into many colors. The color of an object depends on the extent to which particular colors of light in white light are reflected and absorbed. Other concepts—such as the nature of light as both a wave and a particle—are beyond what elementary students need to understand. But teachers need to know these core concepts to deal effectively with questions that may arise, as we discuss later in this chapter.
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How Students Learn: History, Mathematics, and Science in the Classroom Prior Knowledge Students bring many prior conceptions about light to the classroom. Some of these are influenced relatively easily. For example, some students believe a shadow is an object, but this conception is not deeply held, and simple experiments with light can provide convincing evidence to the contrary. Other scientifically inaccurate conceptions are not so easily changed by simple experiments. A very common belief is that light reflects only from shiny objects, such as a mirror or shiny metals. This is hardly surprising; reflections from shiny objects are strikingly obvious, while observing reflection from objects with no apparent shine requires a tool (e.g., a simple device such as a piece of paper strategically placed to show reflected light, or a more sophisticated device such as an electronic meter that measures light energy). In fact, the nature of light has puzzled scientists for centuries.7 Part of the challenge to our understanding is that the behaviors and effects of light are not easily determined by our senses. Light travels too fast for us to see it traveling, and our observation of light that has traveled great distances, such as light from the sun and other stars, provides no direct evidence of the time it has taken to reach us. Scientists have determined that light exerts pressure, but this is not something we can feel. We see because light is reflected to our eyes, but we have no way of experiencing that directly. We commonly think of color as an intrinsic characteristic of an object because we do not experience what actually occurs: that the color we see is the color of light reflected from the object. Furthermore, grasping this notion requires understanding that white light is made up of colors of light that are differentially absorbed and reflected by objects. If none are reflected, we see black, and if all are reflected, we see white, and this is counter to our experience with colored pigments that make a dark color when mixed together. Finally, perhaps the strongest testimony to the complex nature of light is the fact that scientists use two very different models to characterize light: a particle and a wave. Because daily experience reinforces ideas that may be quite different from scientific understanding, fostering conceptual change requires supporting students in paying close attention to how they reason from what they observe. For this reason, the approach to teaching we suggest in this chapter provides students with a great many opportunities to make and test knowledge claims, and to examine the adequacy of their own and others’ reasoning in doing so. Once again, however, the role of the teacher is critical. As we will see, the prior conceptions with which students work may lead them to simply not notice, quickly dismiss, or not believe what they do not expect to see.
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How Students Learn: History, Mathematics, and Science in the Classroom Metacognition Young children, and indeed many adults, assume that things are as they appear, and no further questioning is required. That light reflects off objects only if they are shiny may appear to be true and in no need of further questioning. Science, however, is about questioning—even when something seems obvious—because explanation is at the heart of scientific activity. Thus the search for an explanation for why shiny objects reflect light must include an answer to the question of why nonshiny objects do not. Such a search, of course, would lead to evidence refuting the notion that only shiny objects reflect light. Engaging children in science, then, means engaging them in a whole new approach to questioning. Indeed, it means asking them to question in ways most of us do not in daily life. It means questioning the typical assurance we feel from evidence that confirms our prior beliefs, and asking in what ways the evidence is incomplete and may be countered by additional evidence. To develop thinking in this way is a major instructional challenge for science teaching. THE STUDY OF LIGHT THROUGH INQUIRY With the above principles in mind, we turn now to the learning of science through investigative activity in the classroom, or inquiry-based instruction.8 Investigations in which students directly observe phenomena, we believe, serve several critical functions. First, when students experiment with light and observe phenomena they do not expect, these discrepant experiences can directly challenge their inaccurate or partially developed conceptions. Students will need many opportunities to observe and discuss the behavior of light that behaves in unexpected ways if they are to develop scientific conceptions of light. Inquiry that is designed to occur over weeks and allows students to work with many different materials can provide that experience. The opportunity for repeated cycles of investigation allows students to ask the same questions in new contexts and new questions in increasingly understood contexts as they work to bring their understanding of the world in line with what scientists think. Equally important, participation in well-designed guided-inquiry instruction provides students with a first-hand experience of the norms of conducting scientific investigation. But inquiry is a time- and resource-intensive activity, and student investigations do not always lead to observations and experiences that support the targeted knowledge. Therefore, we combine first-hand investigations with second-hand investigations in which students work with the notebook of a fictitious scientist to see where her inquiry, supported by more sophisticated tools, led. This second-hand inquiry provides a common investigative experience that allows the teacher to direct attention to steps in the
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How Students Learn: History, Mathematics, and Science in the Classroom reasoning process pursued by the scientist that led to the development of core concepts. Moreover, it allows students to see that while scientists engage in a similar type of inquiry, more sophisticated tools, more control over conditions, and larger sample sizes are critical to drawing conclusions that can be generalized with some confidence. A Heuristic for Teaching and Learning Science Through Guided Inquiry To aid our discussion of the unfolding of instruction, we present a heuristic—a thinking tool—to support planning, enacting, and evaluating guided-inquiry instruction with elementary school teachers.9 This heuristic (see Figure 10-110), which shares many features with other researched-based approaches to teaching elementary science through investigation,11 represents instruction in terms of cycles with phases. The words in all capital letters in Figure 10-1 indicate the phases, and the lines with arrows show the progression from one phase to the next. Reporting is a key phase in this conception of instruction; it is the occasion when groups of students report the results of their investigations to their classmates. Students are expected to report on knowledge claims they feel confident in making and providing evidence for those claims from the data they collected during investigation. This expectation lends accountability to students’ investigative activity that is often absent when they are simply expected to observe phenomena. To make a claim, students will need precise and accurate data, and to have a FIGURE 10-1 A cycle of investigation in guided-inquiry science.
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How Students Learn: History, Mathematics, and Science in the Classroom claim that is meaningful to the class, they will need to understand the relationship between the question that prompted investigation and the way in which their investigation has enabled them to come up with an answer. Multiple lines leading from one phase to another indicate the two basic emphases of investigative activity in science: generating knowledge that describes how the world works (outer loop), and generating and testing theories to explain those relationships (inner loop). The reporting phase always marks the end of a cycle of inquiry, at which point a decision is made about whether to engage in another cycle with the same question and investigative context, or to re-engage with a novel investigative context or a new question. Cycles focused on developing knowledge claims about empirical relationships generally precede cycles in the same topic area focused on developing explanations for those relationships. Thinking and discussing explanations may occur in other cycles, but the focus of the cycle represented by the inner loop is on testing explanations. Each phase in the heuristic presents different learning opportunities and teaching challenges. Each also provides opportunities to focus on ideas describing the physical world (concepts and theories or content) as well as the means by which we systematically explore the nature of the physical world (methods and reasoning or process). Each phase requires different types of thinking and activity on the part of the students and the teacher; hence, each has a unique role to play in supporting the development of scientific knowledge and ways of knowing. The following illustrations of teacher and student activity in each phase of instruction are drawn from our work in elementary school classrooms.12 The Engage Phase Description. Each unit of study begins with an engagement phase, which orients thinking and learning in a particular direction. In the elementary classroom, a version of the classic KWL (i.e., what do I Know, what do I Want to learn, what have I Learned) can be a fine way to initiate engagement. In contrast to the typical use of KWL in the language arts, however, to maximize the value of having students identify what they know, teachers should invite students to identify how they have come to know the topic area. Doing so can develop students’ awareness that “knowing” can mean different things. Does their knowledge arise from something they actually observed? If so, where and when did that occur, and under what circumstances? Or did others observe it and report it to them? If so, how confident were they in what was reported and why? If a student reports knowledge from something written in a book, what other information was provided? Were any data provided to substantiate the claim? How extensive was the information provided regarding what the student reports knowing? This dis-
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How Students Learn: History, Mathematics, and Science in the Classroom cussion can provide the grist for later comparisons of ways of knowing in everyday life versus in science, history, or the language arts. It also affords teachers an opportunity to draw out and learn about students’ prior knowledge, metacognitive awareness, and reasoning abilities. For example, in a class beginning to investigate how light interacts with matter, one student stated that he already knew the answer because he knew that objects were opaque, transparent, or translucent. This statement indicated to the teacher that the student might assume light interacts with an object in only one way, which could limit what he observed. Knowing of this possibility, the teacher would want to monitor for it, and possibly raise questions about the thoroughness of students’ observations. The scientific community defines for itself what knowing in particular ways means. For example, in each discipline (e.g., physics, chemistry, biology), the community defines what are acceptable methods for data collection and what constitutes precise and accurate observation. The community also dictates what constitutes a valuable contribution to the knowledge base. The relative value of a contribution is a function of the extent to which it extends, refines, or challenges particular theories of how the world works. In our everyday world, we do not have a community determining the validity of our thinking or experiences. Thus, the initial conversation when beginning a new area of study provides an important opportunity for the teacher to ascertain children’s awareness of the roots of their knowledge, as well as the expectations of the scientific community. For example, when students describe knowing something about the physical world but indicate that their knowledge did not arise from observation or direct experience, the teacher might ask them to think about what they have observed that might be the kind of evidence scientists would expect to have. When students do provide evidence, the teacher might ask them questions about that evidence such as those above, reflecting the norm that systematic study under controlled conditions is a hallmark of the practice of science, and that evidence not obtained under those conditions would lead scientific thinkers to be skeptical about the knowledge claim. The next step in engagement is to begin to focus the conversation about the topic of study in ways that are likely to support the learning goals. For example, showing students the kinds of materials and equipment available for investigating can lead to a productive conversation about phenomena they can explore. Focusing on ideas that were generated during the KWL activity, the children can be encouraged to suggest ways they might investigate to determine whether those ideas are scientifically accurate (meaning that the claims can be backed by evidence from investigation). Students can also be encouraged to identify what cannot easily be studied within the classroom (because of the nature of the phenomenon or a lack of resources or time) and might be better studied in a second-hand way (i.e., through
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How Students Learn: History, Mathematics, and Science in the Classroom reading or hearing about what others have studied and concluded from first-hand investigation). For example, we observed a group of third graders studying light who had numerous questions about black holes, the speed of light, and light sources on different planets, all of which they decided were best pursued through second-hand investigation. At the end of engagement, the students should have a sense of a general question they are trying to answer (e.g., How does light interact with matter?), and should have identified a particular question or questions to be the focus of the first cycle of investigation. To this end, a teacher might (1) focus the class on a particular phenomenon to study and have them suggest specific questions, (2) draw upon conflicting ideas that were identified in the KWL activity and have the class frame a question for study that can inform the conflict, or (3) draw on a question that was identified during the discussion that is a profitable beginning for investigation. Illustration. What does this kind of beginning look like in a classroom? In a kindergarten classroom,13 after a brief opportunity for the children to state what they thought they knew about light and how it behaved, the teacher, Ms. Kingsley, arranged for pairs of students to take turns using flashlights in an area of the classroom that had been darkened. This activity provided children an opportunity to become familiar with investigative materials and phenomena that Ms. Kingsley knew would be the focus of later investigation. The children responded to this activity in a variety of ways, from initially becoming focused on finding spiders to dwelling later on the effects they could create with flashlights. For example, one student commented on the colors she saw as she shone the flashlight on the wall in the darkened area: “There’s color. When it shines on a color, then it’s the color, green, or white, or red, or black. And then you put the light on the ceiling, it’s gone.” In the following interaction, the children “discover” reflection: [Anisha walks forward under the loft, holding the flashlight with her left hand at an angle to the mirror that she holds flat in front of her.] Anisha Oh Deanna, look, I can bounce the light. [Deanna holds the mirror so light is bouncing directly behind her.] Deanna [excitedly] If you look back, maybe you can see the light. A third student focused on what he saw while holding objects in the beam of light. The following interchange occurred when the students explored with large cardboard cutouts of letters of the alphabet.
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How Students Learn: History, Mathematics, and Science in the Classroom Jeremy [working with a letter] Ooo, this makes a shadow. A different shadow [than the one he just saw]. [He picks up the letter G and hands it to his partner.] See if the G makes a shadow. Hazel It does make a shadow. See, look at this. When the children described their observations to the class, Ms. Kingsley was able to use those observations to elicit the children’s current ideas about light and shadows and how they might investigate those ideas. In a fourth-grade classroom,14 the teacher, Ms. Lacey, introduced her students to the study of light by asking them what they wondered about light. The children identified over 100 “wonderings,” including questions about how we see, why we see rainbows of color from some glass objects or jewelry, what makes light from the plastic sticks you bend to make them “glow” in the dark, what are black holes, and how fast is the speed of light. The next day, students were given a written assessment about light, presented as an opportunity for them to identify their current thinking about the nature and behavior of light. After reviewing students’ responses, Ms. Lacey wrote statements on the board (see Table 10-1) indicating the variety of ideas the class held about light. The variation in views of light exhibited by the students provided a reason to investigate to determine the accuracy of the ideas and the relationships among them. TABLE 10-1 Fourth Graders’ Initial Ideas About Light Light travels. Light can be blocked by materials. Light travels in a curved path. Light can shine through materials. Light travels in a straight line. Light can go into materials. Light travels in all directions. Light can bounce off of materials. Later in the unit on light, Ms. Lacey turned to other wonderings the students had about color and light. In the following excerpt, she ascertains whether students’ questions came from what they had been told, read, or observed, and she prompted one student to hypothesize about color from what had previously been learned about the behavior of light. Ms. Lacey I know you guys had a few questions about color, so I’m wondering what you know or would like to know about color? What is it you think you want to learn? Levon? Levon When I said that my shirt’s a light blue, you said how do we know it? And you said we might be able to tell.
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How Students Learn: History, Mathematics, and Science in the Classroom Derek Yes, because some were really see-through and reflection together, but we had to decide which one to put it in. Ms. Lacey Do you think you might have another claim here? Kevin Light can do two things with one object. With the introduction of the idea that light can interact with matter in more than one way, the students embarked upon a second cycle of investigation with the same materials, with the intent of determining which if any objects exhibited the behavior claimed by Kevin and Derek. From this second round of investigation, all groups determined that multiple behaviors can occur with some objects, but there was uncertainty about whether these interactions occur with some types of materials and not others (see Figure 10-5). Nevertheless, the significance of this day’s findings is that they represent a different conceptual organization from that of the first cycle (see Figure 10-4) to the extent that light is not confined to behaving in only one way. At the same time, the possibilities for the behavior of light have increased significantly, and only the case of four types of interaction has been ruled out in discussion by the community (following interaction comparing what different groups meant by “blocked” versus “absorbed”). FIGURE 10-5 Community knowledge from the second cycle of investigation (first-hand). R = reflect; T = transmit; A = absorb.
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How Students Learn: History, Mathematics, and Science in the Classroom In addition, some students expressed puzzlement about how light could interact with a material in more than one way. In response to this question, one group introduced the idea that there was a quantitative relationship among the multiple behaviors observed when light interacted with an object: Miles If you said that light can reflect, transmit, and absorb, absorb means to block. How can it be blocked … and still go through? Corey If just a little bit came through, then most of it was blocked. Ms. Lacey Would you draw him a picture, please? [Corey and Andy draw setup.] Corey Here’s the light, a little being blocked inside, and a little of it comes out … Andy Some of it’s reflecting. During the third cycle of investigation, in which the students and the teacher interactively read a Lesley Park notebook text about light using reciprocal teaching strategies,44 the students encountered more evidence that light can interact with matter in multiple ways (see Figure 10-6). This led to conversation concerning how general a claim might be made about the behavior of light: Andy Can all objects reflect, absorb, and transmit? Tommy? Tommy Most of them. Andy Corey? FIGURE 10-6 Community knowledge from the third cycle of investigation (second-hand).
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How Students Learn: History, Mathematics, and Science in the Classroom Corey Yes, because it says right in here, “Light can be reflected, absorbed and transmitted by the same object.” Ms. Lacey I think we need to clarify something, because you said one thing, Corey, and Miles said something else. Andy’s question was “Can all objects reflect, absorb, and transmit light?” Alan No. It just says light can be reflected, absorbed, and transmitted by the same object. It doesn’t say anything about every object. Ms. Lacey So you say not all can. Do we have any data in our reading that tells us that not all things absorb, reflect, and transmit? Tommy We have evidence that all objects reflect and absorb [referring to a table in the notebook text]. The concept map representing the community’s understanding about light up to this point shows greater specification of the prevalence of relationships (“always” versus “sometimes”) and a narrowing of the possible relationships that can occur when light interacts with matter: light always reflects and is absorbed. Lesley’s quantitative data about the amount of reflection and transmission of light from an object as measured by a light meter supported additional conversation about the issue of quantitative relationships raised by one group in the previous cycle. However, students did not yet add those ideas to their class claims chart. In the fourth cycle of investigation, students returned to a first-hand investigation and were now quite comfortable with the idea that light can simultaneously interact with matter in multiple ways. In addition, despite not having tools to compare the brightness of the light, they qualitatively compared the amount of light behaving in particular ways. This is represented in the map in Figure 10-7. Do all students have the understanding represented in Figure 10-7? The excerpt below suggests that this is unlikely. In this excerpt, a student reveals that he and his partner did not think light would reflect from an object even after the class had established in the previous cycle that light always reflects: Ms. Lacey When you saw the blue felt, is that the claim you first thought? Kenny Yeah, we learned that this blue felt can do three—reflect, transmit, and absorb—at one, at this one object. And it did. It reflected a little, and transmitted some and it absorbed some.
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How Students Learn: History, Mathematics, and Science in the Classroom FIGURE 10-7 Community knowledge from the fourth cycle of investigation (first-hand). Ms. Lacey And when you started out, what did you think was going to happen? Kenny That it was only going to transmit and absorb. We didn’t think it would reflect. Ms. Lacey What do we know about materials and reflecting? Class They always reflect and absorb. We see the teacher checking on the student’s understanding, which is scientifically accurate. But we know that for such a claim—that light reflects off all materials—many experiences may be needed for that knowledge to be robust. Relationships such as this for which we have no direct experience or that are counterintuitive (we see reflected light from objects, not the objects themselves) take time and attention, as well as recursive tacking to knowledge-building processes and the conceptual framework that is emerging from those processes. Conceptual frameworks that represent the physical world in ways we have not experienced (e.g., the electromagnetic spectrum) or are counterintuitive (light is a particle and a wave) pose even greater challenges to the development of scientific knowledge. THE ROLE OF SUBJECT-SPECIFIC KNOWLEDGE IN EFFECTIVE SCIENCE INSTRUCTION At the core of teacher decision making featured in this chapter is the need to mediate the learning of individual students. To do this in a way that leads to targeted scientific knowledge and ways of knowing, teachers must be confident about their knowledge of the learning goals. That is, teachers
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How Students Learn: History, Mathematics, and Science in the Classroom must have sufficient subject matter knowledge, including aspects of the culture of science that guide knowledge production, to fully understand the nature of the learning goals. When students say that light “disappears” into paper but reflects off of mirrors, a teacher’s uncertainty about whether that claim is accurate will hamper effective decision making. When students claim an object is opaque and the question at hand is how light interacts with matter, the teacher needs to recognize that the word “opaque” describes the object and not light, and that an opaque object can reflect and absorb light and even transmit some light in certain cases (e.g., a piece of cardboard). At the same time, having accurate subject matter knowledge is not sufficient for effective teaching. When students claim that light is a gas, it is not sufficient for the teacher to know that light is energy, not a state of matter. The teacher also needs to know what observations of light might convince students that it is not a gas, which in turn is informed by knowing how students think of gases, what their experiences of gas and light have likely been, and what it is possible to observe within a classroom context. This knowledge is part of specialized knowledge for teaching called pedagogical content knowledge because it is derived from content knowledge that is specifically employed to facilitate learning. It is the knowledge that teachers have about how to make particular subject matter comprehensible to particular students.45 Pedagogical content knowledge includes knowledge of the concepts that students find most difficult, as well as ways to support their understanding of those concepts. For example, it is difficult for students to understand that the color of objects is the color of light reflected from them because we are not aware of the reflection. Having students use a white screen to examine the color of light reflected from colored objects can reveal this phenomenon in a way that is convincing to them. Pedagogical content knowledge also includes knowledge of curriculum materials that are particularly effective for teaching particular topics. A still valuable resource for the study of light in the elementary grades is the Optics kit mentioned earlier that is part of Elementary Science Study curriculum materials developed in the 1960s. A teacher’s knowledge of these materials and how they can be used to support knowledge building is key to employing them effectively in mediating student learning. Finally, pedagogical content knowledge includes ways to assess student knowledge. A classic item to determine students’ understanding of how we see is a diagram with the sun, a tree, and a person looking at the tree.46 Students are asked to draw lines with arrows in the diagram to show how the person sees the tree. Arrows should be drawn from the sun to the tree to the person, but it is not uncommon for students to draw arrows from the sun to the person and the person to the tree. Use of this item at the beginning of a unit of study can provide a teacher with a wealth of information on current
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How Students Learn: History, Mathematics, and Science in the Classroom student thinking about how we see, as well as stimulate students to wonder about such questions. The more teachers know and understand about how their students think about particular concepts or topics of study, how that thinking might develop and unfold during systematic study of the topic, and how they might ascertain what students’ understanding of the topic is at any point in time, the better they are able to optimize knowledge building from students’ varied experiences and support students in developing desired scientific knowledge and ways of knowing. When and how to employ particular strategies in the service of supporting such knowledge building is a different issue, but the topic-specific knowledge for teaching that is identified as pedagogical content knowledge is a necessary element if students are to achieve the standards we have set. CONCLUSION Science instruction provides a rich context for applying what we know about how people learn. A successful teacher in this context is aware that he or she is supporting students in activating prior knowledge and in building upon and continuing to organize this knowledge so it can be used flexibly to make sense of and appreciate the world around them. To do this well, the teacher must be knowledgeable about the nature of science, including both the products—the powerful ideas of science—and the values, beliefs, and practices of the scientific community that guide the generation and evaluation of these powerful ideas. Furthermore, teachers must be knowledgeable about children and the processes of engaging them in knowledge building, reflecting upon their thinking and learning new ways of thinking. We have proposed and illustrated a heuristic for conceptualizing instruction relative to the opportunities and challenges of different aspects of inquiry-based instruction, which we have found useful in supporting teachers in effective decision making and evaluation of instruction. We have argued that the development of scientific knowledge and reasoning can be supported through both first- and second-hand investigations. Furthermore, we have proposed that the teacher draws upon a broad repertoire of practices for the purposes of establishing and maintaining the classroom as a learning community, and assessing, supporting, and extending the knowledge building of each member of that community. All of these elements are necessary for effective teaching in the twenty-first century, when our standards for learning are not just about the application of scientific knowledge, but also its evaluation and generation.
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How Students Learn: History, Mathematics, and Science in the Classroom NOTES 1. Schwab, 1964. 2. Hapgood et al., in press; Lehrer et al., 2001; Magnusson et al., 1997; Metz, 2004. 3. National Research Council, 2003. 4. These materials, originally developed in the 1960s, can be purchased from Delta Education: http://www.delta-education.com/. 5. Whereas some view conceptual change as referring to a change from existing ideas to new ones, we suggest that new ideas are often developed in parallel with existing ones. The new ideas are rooted in different values and beliefs—those of the scientific community rather than those guiding our daily lives. 6. Chi, 1992. 7. Galili and Hazan, 2000. 8. Our decision to focus on instruction in which investigation is central reflects the national standard that calls for science instruction to be inquiry based. 9. We use the term “guided” inquiry to signal that the teacher plays a prominent role in shaping the inquiry experience, guiding student thinking and activity to enable desired student learning from investigation. 10. Magnusson and Palincsar, 1995. 11. Barnes, 1976; Bybee et al., 1989; Karplus, 1964; Osborne and Freyberg, 1985; Lehrer and Schauble, 2000. 12. All of the instruction featured in this chapter was conducted by teachers who were a part of GIsML Community of Practice, a multiyear professional development effort aimed at identifying effective practice for inquiry-based science teaching. 13. This discussion draws on a study focused on children’s self-regulation during science instruction, which took place in a school in a relatively small district (about 4,600 students) that includes a state university. Approximately 45 percent of the students in this district pass the state standardized tests, and 52 percent are economically disadvantaged. 14. This class is in a school in a relatively small district (about 3,000 students) near a major industrial plant in a town with a state university. Approximately 38 percent of the students in this district pass the state standardized tests, and 63 percent are economically disadvantaged. 15. While we are featuring contexts in which there is a single question, teachers could choose to have a context in which children are investigating different questions related to the same phenomenon. However, it is important to recognize the substantially greater cognitive and procedural demands this approach places on the teacher, so it is not something we recommend if a teacher is inexperienced in conducting inquiry-based instruction. 16. Although it can be motivating and conceptually beneficial for students to be placed in the role of generating questions for investigation, the teacher needs to be mindful of the consequences of taking time to investigate questions that may be trivial or peripheral to the unity of study. The teacher may judge the time to be useful as students can still learn a great deal about investigation, but
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How Students Learn: History, Mathematics, and Science in the Classroom the teacher also may seek to reshape the question so it is not so conceptually distant as to sidetrack the focus relative to the desired content goals. 17. Hapgood et al., in press; Lehrer et al., 2001; Metz, 2004. 18. This person monitors the time the group is taking for the investigation to support the students in examining how efficiently they are working and deciding whether it is necessary to adjust the tempo of their activity to finish in the allotted time. 19. It is very reasonable for the teacher to discuss these issues with the whole class during the preparing-to-investigate phase and to invite the class to specify procedures. Addressing these matters with the whole class gives the teacher opportunities to model thinking for the benefit of all. However, while this is enabling for students when they are quite new to investigating, it constrains students’ development of the knowledge and skills needed to make these decisions independently. Thus it is important for the teacher to give students an opportunity to make these types of decisions on their own during some investigations. 20. Herrenkohl et al., 1999. 21. The students inadvertently interpreted the idea of categorizing to mean that light would behave in only one way with each object. This led many students to stop observing an object as soon as they had identified one way light behaved with it. 22. In both cases, the fact that we can see the object tells us that light is reflected. However, students had not yet established that relationship, so we refer here only to the direct evidence of light. 23. Blumenfeld and Meece, 1988. 24. Magnusson et al., in press. 25. This class is in a moderately sized district (about 16,700) students) in a town with a major university. Approximately 70 percent of the students in this district pass the state standardized tests, and 16 percent are economically disadvantaged. 26. Brown and Campione, 1994; Palincsar et al., 1993. 27. Campanario, 2002. 28. Osborne, 1983. 29. Magnusson et al., 1997. 30. Clement, 1993 31. We observed a group of children in a fourth-grade class working very hard to determine if black felt reflects light. They piled their materials in the bathroom in the classroom, taped around the door to block out any light, and studied the black felt. They were quite proud to report their evidence that it did indeed reflect light. 32. Chi, 1992. 33. Mortimer, 1995. 34. Driver et al., 1994. 35. National Research Council, 1996. 36. Crawford et al., 1996. 37. Magnusson and Palincsar, in press-b.
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How Students Learn: History, Mathematics, and Science in the Classroom 38. See Magnusson and Palincsar (in press-a) for discussion of the theory and principles underlying the development of these texts; Palincsar and Magnusson (2001), for a more complete description of Lesley’s notebook and of research investigating the use of these notebook texts; and Magnusson and Palincsar (in press-b) for a discussion of teaching from these notebook tests. 39. Klahr et al., 2001. 40. Magnusson et al., in press; Palincsar et al., 2001. 41. Newmann et al., 1995. 42. Einstein, 1950. 43. Ford, 1999. 44. Palincsar and Brown, 1984. 45. Magnusson et al., 1999; Wilson et al., 1988. 46. Eaton et al., 1984. REFERENCES Barnes, D. (1976). From communication to curriculum. Hammondsworth, UK: Penguin Books. Blumenfeld, P.C., and Meece, J.L. (1988). Task factors, teacher behavior, and students’ involvement and use of learning strategies in science. Elementary School Journal, 88(3), 235-250. Brown, A.L., and Campione, J.C. (1994). Guided discovery in a community of learners. In K. McGilly (Ed.), Classrooms lessons: Integrating cognitive theory and classroom practice (pp. 229-272). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Bybee, R.W., Buchwald, C.E., Crissman, S., Heil, D.R., Kuerbis, P.J., Matsumoto, C., and McInerney, J.D. (1989). Science and technology education for the elementary years: Frameworks for curriculum and instruction. Washington, DC: National Center for Improving Science Education. Campanario, J.M. (2002). The parallelism between scientists’ and students’ resistance to new scientific ideas. International Journal of Science Education, 24(10), 1095-1110. Chi, M.T.H. (1992). Conceptual change within and across ontological categories: Examples from learning and discovery in science. In R. Giere (Ed.), Cognitive models of science: Minnesota studies in the philosophy of science (pp. 129-186). Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press. Clement, J. (1993). Using bridging analogies and anchoring intuitions to deal with students’ preconceptions in physics. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 30, 1241-1257. Crawford, S.Y., Hurd, J.M., and Weller, A.C. (1996). From print to electronic: The transformation of scientific communication. Medford, NJ: Information Today. Driver, R., Asoko, H., Leach, J., Mortimer, E., and Scott, P. (1994). Constructing scientific knowledge in the classroom. Educational Researcher, 23(7), 5-12. Eaton, J.F., Anderson, C.W., and Smith, E.L. (1984). Students’ misconceptions interfere with science learning: Case studies of fifth-grade students. Elementary School Journal, 84, 365-379. Einstein, A. (1950). Out of my later years. New York: Philosophical Library.
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Representative terms from entire chapter: