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Taking Science to School: Learning and Teaching Science in Grades K-8 7 Participation in Scientific Practices and Discourse Main Findings in the Chapter: The norms of scientific argument, explanation, and the evaluation of evidence differ from those in everyday life. Students need support to learn appropriate norms and language for productive participation in the discourses of science. Children’s experiences vary with their cultural, linguistic, and economic background. Such differences mean that students arrive in the classroom with varying levels of experience with science and varying degrees of comfort with the norms of scientific practice. It may be hard for teachers to recognize the strengths that diverse learners bring to the science classroom. However, all students can be successful in science and bring resources that can be built on to develop scientific proficiency. Motivation and attitudes toward science play a critical role in science learning, fostering students’ use of effective learning strategies that result in deeper understanding of science. Classroom instruction and the classroom context can be designed in ways that enhance motivation and support productive participation in science. In this chapter, we examine research related to Strand 4: participate productively in scientific practices and discourse. We begin with a discussion of talk and argument. Argumentation is a central activity of scientists, and students need to learn both the language and norms for argumentation
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Taking Science to School: Learning and Teaching Science in Grades K-8 in science. This discussion of talk and argument leads naturally into consideration of the role of cultural habits and values in learning science. Science brings its own norms for both social and cognitive participation, which often differ quite markedly from children’s experiences in everyday settings. Finally, we consider how motivation and identity play a role in science learning and successful participation in science. TALK AND ARGUMENT According to Bazerman (1988), the central activity of scientists is argumentation in communities of practice for the purpose of persuading colleagues of the validity of one’s own ideas and the ideas of others (see Latour, 1987). The focus of these arguments is on establishing agreement about the truth of symbolic objects. For example, Bazerman (1988) analyzed Newton’s journal articles over a period of years and concluded that experiments are communicated in a way meant to ensure that his interpretations would seem both logical and inevitable to readers. Newton employed a host of rhetorical devices, from the order of experiments reported (which often did not match their actual sequence) to the wording of sentences, all orchestrated to maximize the likelihood that readers would literally come to see things his way. In spite of its centrality in science, genuine scientific argumentation is rarely observed in classrooms. Instead, most of the talk comes from teachers, and it seems oriented primarily toward persuading students of the validity of the scientific worldview (Ogborn et al., 1996). As Mehan (1979) described in his now-classic analysis of the structure of talk in school, the tacit turn-taking rules that guide the interaction of teachers and students seem guaranteed to preclude argument of any kind, and perhaps even genuine conversation. Mehan reported that the discourse structure he most frequently observed was one he called the initiate-response-evaluate triad. This familiar form of exchange begins with a teacher asking a question, usually one to which the answer is already known. A student is called on and responds, and the teacher then follows up with a comment that communicates an evaluation of the response. These sequences are intended to find out if the student can provide the answer expected by the teacher, not to communicate anything previously unknown, put forth a claim, justify or debate a point, or offer a novel interpretation. Many teachers are uncomfortable with argument, perhaps understandably, given that many teach in contexts in which much of their time is spent mediating conflict and persuading students of the value of civil exchange. Skill and persistence are required to help students grasp the difference between scientific argument, which rests on plausibility and evidence and has
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Taking Science to School: Learning and Teaching Science in Grades K-8 the goal of shared understanding, and everyday argument, which relies on power and persuasiveness and assumes that the goal is winning. It is not straightforward to get a middle schooler to see the distinction between disagreeing with an idea and disagreeing with a person. Moreover, orchestrating effective scientific argument requires having sufficient knowledge of both children and content to perceive on the fly what is scientifically fruitful in students’ talk. Young students tend to use language that is ambiguous, fragmentary, or even contradictory, especially in heated conversation, so the content and structure of their arguments can be difficult to follow. Yet if the educational goal is to help students understand not just the conclusions of science, but also how one knows and why one believes, then talk needs to focus on how evidence is used in science for the construction of explanations. “A prominent, if not central, feature of the language of scientific enquiry is debate and argumentation around competing theories, methodologies, and aims. Such language activities are central to doing and learning science. Thus, developing an understanding of science and appropriating the syntactic, semantic, and pragmatic components of its language require students to engage in practicing and using its discourse” (Duschl and Osborne, 2002, p. 40). As described in Chapter 6, Gertrude Hennessey, who taught science to students in all grades at her small, rural elementary school, made the development of argument an explicit goal of instruction, starting with first graders. Her goals for these young children were modest, focused primarily on helping students become adept at stating their own beliefs and providing reasons for them. By the fourth grade, however, students were expected to understand and appeal to the scientific criteria of intelligibility, plausibility, fruitfulness, and conceptual coherence for evaluating their evolving beliefs. By sixth grade, students were expected to be actively monitoring the beliefs of their peers, considering the fit of competing explanations to the patterns of evidence that they were observing in their investigations (Hennessey, 2002). Even understanding that more than one explanation is possible and that alternative explanations should be examined and entertained may take some getting used to (Kuhn, 1991). To keep this awareness at the center of students’ attention, it may be helpful to feature alternative beliefs and explanations, socioscientific issues, and problem-based learning situations as occasional topics of classroom discussion. Eichinger et al. (1991) found that productive argumentation in classrooms is more likely to occur when students are permitted and encouraged to talk and work directly with each other, rather than always having their talk mediated through the teacher. These researchers favored collaborative problem-solving groups as a structure for encouraging peer-to-peer discourse, but they also noted that these groups are not successful unless the teacher works actively to support class-
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Taking Science to School: Learning and Teaching Science in Grades K-8 room norms that emphasize responsibility, tolerance, and the construction of arguments based on theory and evidence. Without teacher intervention, students do not spontaneously adopt either the general social norms or the specific scientific epistemic grounds for conducting productive dialogic discourse (Osborne et al., 2001). Herrenkhol and Guerra (1998) examined the effectiveness of directly teaching specific audience roles for encouraging productive scientific argumentation in the elementary grades. As small teams of fourth graders reported the results of their investigations to the whole class, the audience members were asked to assume responsibility for checking on the presenters by taking one of the following roles: (1) asking clarification questions about predictions and theories, (2) challenging claims about their results, or (3) raising questions about the relationships among their predictions, theories, and results. When students were assigned these roles, the discourse patterns in the classroom showed increased negotiation of shared understanding, monitoring of comprehension, challenges to others’ perspectives, and coordination of theories and evidence. In addition to its emphasis on discourse patterns, such as forms of scientific argument, science is also associated with a style of language use that does not match everyday kinds of talk. Specialized kinds of activities, like science, are often associated with specialized forms of language. Science, mathematics—and, for that matter, ham radio and drug selling—are activities conducted by organized groups of people who tend to communicate in particular linguistic styles, sometimes called “registers” (Halliday, 1988). Scientific language tends to emphasize the passive voice, especially in its textual forms, and as a result, people are rarely present in science talk or text, as either agents or participants (Lemke, 1990). Scientific language often features abstract nouns that are derived from verbs (e.g., “the revolution of the earth around the sun”) and technical terms that have different meanings than in everyday use (e.g., “force,” “energy”). Narrative and dramatic accounts are avoided, as are colloquial expressions and ambiguous words, such as pronouns with unclear referents. The impression lent by these features of scientific style is that the text is communicating a simple and veridical description of the way the world actually is—a straightforward reading of the book of nature (Olson, 1994), rather than a complex social activity conducted by humans. For these reasons, Lemke (1990) suggests that teachers work deliberately to provide opportunities for students to practice at “talking science.” This goal may be accomplished through a variety of means, such as teaching students how to combine scientific terms in complex sentences, discussing their commonsense theories on science topics, teaching students the genres of science writing, and bridging colloquial and scientific language, for example, by asking students to translate back and forth between scientific and colloquial statements or questions.
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Taking Science to School: Learning and Teaching Science in Grades K-8 CULTURAL VALUES AND NORMS1 Scientific thinking is both like and unlike the forms of thinking that individuals employ in their everyday lives. For example, in both science and everyday problem solving, people make inferences about the relationships between causes and effects by detecting and evaluating patterns of covariation between potential causes and outcomes (Kelley, 1973; Shultz, 1982). However, it is much less common for people to deliberately apply strategies and heuristics (such as the control-of-variables strategy) to definitively and systematically rule out factors that are not causal, although one does observe this form of thinking in certain specialized contexts, for example, those that call for accurate diagnosis (e.g., car repair, medicine). Moreover, causal relationships that go beyond simple, one cause/one effect can be very difficult for people to detect (Perkins and Grotzer, 2000). Similarly, people do not simply hold a catalog of unrelated beliefs; instead, they use their knowledge to make inferences that are internally consistent and that support explanations and predictions about novel cases (Gopnik and Meltzoff, 1997). Even third graders prefer explanations that are logically consistent (Samarapungavan, 1992). However, this does not necessarily mean that novices are explicitly aware of their beliefs and maintain or discard them by systematically appraising their adherence to the criteria that scientists deliberately apply when they evaluate alternative theories. Because scientific and everyday thinking do not overlap perfectly, students sometimes find it confusing to grasp the rules of the game as they move between contexts. For example, it has been observed that when they are presumed to be designing and conducting experiments to learn about the causal structure of a complex system, children frequently are doing something else altogether—in some cases, trying to replicate outcomes that they consider interesting or favorable (Kuhn and Phelps, 1982; Tschirgi, 1980; Schauble, Klopfer, and Raghavan, 1991). Negotiating the sometimes subtle transitions between everyday thinking and the thinking valued in domains like science is a challenge for all students. Moreover, it may be particularly difficult for students who have had less experience with the forms of reasoning and talk that are privileged in American middle-class schools. Mainstream students (those who are white, middle- or upper-class, and native speakers of standard English) are more likely than culturally or linguistically diverse students to encounter ways of talking, thinking, and interacting in schools that are continuous with the practices (including knowledge, language, skills, and reasoning) and the expectations that they bring from home. 1 This section draws on the commissioned paper by Ellice Forman and Wendy Sink, “Sociocultural Approaches to Learning Science in Classrooms.”
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Taking Science to School: Learning and Teaching Science in Grades K-8 Any discussion of culture needs to include a caution about the inappropriateness of portraying individuals as possessing trait-like thinking styles typical of cultural, racial, or gender categories. In place of this oversimplified and stereotypical view, Gutierrez and Rogoff (2003) propose that one conceives of individuals as developing a wide range of repertoires of practice—ways of behaving, thinking, and interpreting—for engaging with the varieties of communities and institutions that they encounter in their everyday lives. From this perspective, each person is continually developing an evergrowing multicultural repertoire, fashioned by participating in their everyday rounds of practical activity, which involve historically evolving cultural practices and tools (Cole, 1996; Erickson, 2004). Children are not passive recipients who simply receive or are molded by culture; instead, as they encounter cultural practices and routines, they are affected by them but also transform them, so that the relationships between culture and personal meaning are always fluid and complex. That said, we note that people’s histories vary, and one’s fluidity in negotiating the transition across cultures and settings may be simultaneously supported and constrained by one’s history. This is important, because classrooms are not neutral settings; they are “saturated with specific cultural and communicative norms” (Foster, Lewis, and Onafowora, 2003, p. 263). An implication is that the educational success of immigrant or U.S.-born racial/ ethnic minority students may depend on their access to cultural and communicative norms that come for free or at much less cost to other students. The structure of classroom norms is often left tacit, making it difficult for students to figure out the rules on their own, especially if these ways of thinking, talking, and behaving are not as frequently encountered in their home communities (Ladson-Billings, 1995; Delpit, 1995). For example, it is common for Yup’ik children in Alaska to learn by observing experienced adults and participating actively as helpers in adult work and other activities. Verbal interaction is not central to the learning process; observation and participation are considered more important (Lipka, 1998). Similarly, Rogoff and colleagues (2003) have identified a form of learning that they call “intent participation,” in which children learn from keen observation, with little direct instruction. Rogoff et al. report that this pattern of learning tends to be prevalent in communities that are less stratified by age than those in the United States, communities in which children enter contexts of adult activity, including work, with relatively few barriers to their presence or full participation. The strong emphasis in school on explicit verbal instruction may be disconcerting to children from backgrounds that favor intent participation or other forms of learning. Moreover, the specific patterns and uses of discourse, such as the practice of asking questions whose answer is already known to the questioner, may also seem unfamiliar and possibly even bizarre to some.
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Taking Science to School: Learning and Teaching Science in Grades K-8 Lee and Luyks (2006) point out that, as yet, there is little research focused directly on how cultural norms and values may either affect or be capitalized on for the learning of disciplinary knowledge, such as science. For the most part, research on student diversity and research on science learning have been separate literatures that do not frequently contact each other. Similarly, instruction for English language learners typically focuses primarily on English language and literacy development and does not give as much attention to instruction in content domains, such as science (National Research Council, 1997). However, the research that does exist suggests that two principles can provide some guidance. First is the need to make visible and inspectable the norms and patterns of thinking that constitute the rules of the game in the science classroom, rather than leaving them implicit. If what is valued is left for students to figure out, then those who have had greater home experience with those patterns of thinking will have a clear advantage. Varying solutions to the problem of making the rules of the game understandable have been advocated, although as yet research does not support whether some may be more effective than others. Lee and Fradd (1996, 1998) suggest that when introducing disciplinary forms of activity, such as scientific inquiry, that may be unfamiliar to students, teachers should begin with explicit, structured, direct instruction. Over time, as students’ grasp of the objectives and procedures develops, teachers can cede increasing control and initiative to them. The goal is to establish and maintain instructional congruence, which Lee (2002) describes as mediating the nature of academic disciplines with students’ language and cultural experiences to make science accessible, meaningful, and relevant. Students need opportunities to explicitly consider and master new ways of thinking, while teachers balance challenge and comfort by ensuring that students understand that their own home norms and practices are valued even as they encounter some that are less familiar. Lucas et al. (2005) pursued a somewhat different approach to achieving the same goal. Specifically, they made the development, critique, and revision of norms for scientific thinking an ongoing instructional enterprise in a sixth grade classroom over the course of an academic year. Early in the fall, students proposed, debated, and came to agreement on classroom criteria for evaluating “what counts as a good scientific question” and “what we think is persuasive evidence.” For example, everyone agreed that a good question was one to which one did not already know the answer, and that more interesting questions were ones for which one couldn’t just ask someone or look up the answer. The resulting list of criteria was used as a focal class reference as students worked in small teams to design and then pursue investigations in pond ecology.
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Taking Science to School: Learning and Teaching Science in Grades K-8 However, by midyear, students began to argue that the criteria needed to be revised, because new ideas about good questions and good evidence were coming to light as they evaluated their own work and the work of other teams. For example, students argued that they should amend the list by adding the criterion that a good question encourages “piggybacking”—their term for the idea that good questions are inspired by (or piggyback on) the findings of others and in turn, inspire related additional questions. This change reflected the students’ growing understanding that a frequent source of new and interesting questions was the methods pursued by or the findings of other teams. Such shifts in their criteria for questions and evidence accompanied the shift from conceiving of investigation as an activity conducted independently to advance one’s own knowledge toward understanding that a larger community can share responsibility for building and evaluating a publicly shared base of related knowledge. If clarifying the norms and thinking patterns characteristic of science is the first important principle for supporting learning for all students, the second is the value of capitalizing on the continuities between students’ everyday thinking, knowledge, and resources and those of practicing scientists. Ann Rosebery and Beth Warren have worked for a decade and a half at identifying key points of contact between students’ ways of knowing and scientific ways of knowing. Their phrase “points of contact” is intended to capture the recognition that there are both continuities and discontinuities between students’ thinking, tool use, and talk and that of science. In their Cheche Konnen project, conducted with Haitian Creole students and their teachers (the name is translated as “search for knowledge”), Warren and Rosebery observed that the children regularly and spontaneously evoked analogies, arguments, and narratives as a means of making sense of the phenomena they were exploring. For example, one young student who was investigating animal behavior—in this case, the preference of ants for different kinds of habitats—imaginatively projected himself into the habitat, assuming an “ant’s eye view,” a perspective that resulted in his raising doubts about one of the key attributes of comparison in the design of the investigation. His original intention had been to set up an experiment to establish whether ants prefer an environment that is dark to one that is brightly lit, but as this student imagined himself as an ant crawling through the soil, he began to wonder how either side of the chamber—lit or unlit—could possibly appear “light” to an ant wandering around underneath the soil. As he pointed out, “When we put dirt in there, they—they were a little bit walking around but almost all of them were under the dirt, in the darkness” (Warren et al., 2001, p. 541). Researchers who observe scientists and mathematicians at work have pointed out that, for professionals, too, imagination, narrative, and projec-
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Taking Science to School: Learning and Teaching Science in Grades K-8 tion of oneself as an actor into the context of the investigation appear to serve as important resources for meaning making and discovery (Ochs, Gonzales, and Jacoby, 1996). Over the 15 years of its existence, the Cheche Konnen program has been demonstrating that urban, language-minority students can engage in high-level scientific reasoning and problem solving if they are taught in ways that respect their interests and sense-making (Hudicourt-Barnes, 2003). PRODUCTIVE PARTICIPATION Engagement with science begins with willingness to participate in the science classroom, but it must go beyond simply participating to participating in ways that advance science learning. Engle and Conant’s (2002) definition of “productive disciplinary engagement” is a useful frame for thinking about active engagement in the classroom that is grounded in disciplinary norms for both social and cognitive activity. In their view, productive disciplinary engagement refers to classrooms in which “there is contact between what students are doing and the issues and practices of a discipline’s discourse” (Engle and Conant, 2002, p. 402). Furthermore, “students’ engagement is productive to the extent that they make intellectual progress. What constitutes productivity depends on the discipline, the specific task and topic, and where students are when they begin addressing a problem” (p. 403). They further distinguish how engagement and disciplinary engagement might be distinct from productive disciplinary engagement. Engle and Conant define engagement in terms of students actively speaking, listening, responding, and working and high levels of on-task behavior. Greater engagement can be inferred when more students in the group make substantive contributions to the topic under discussion and their contributions are made in coordination with each other. Engagement also means that students attend to each other, express emotional involvement, and spontaneously reengage with the topic and continue with it over a sustained period of time. Finally, it means that few students are involved in unrelated or off-task activities. These hallmarks of engagement do not, however, ensure that students are engaged in meaningful ways with the discipline of science. Disciplinary engagement expands to include scientific content and experimental activities (including argumentation based on logic and data patterns). For disciplinary engagement to occur, there must be “some contact between what students are doing and the issues and practices of a discipline’s discourse” (Engle and Conant, 2002, p. 402). Herrenkohl and Guerra (1998) suggest that some identifying features of disciplinary engagement in science include (1) monitoring comprehension, that is, students asking questions to be sure that they fully understand perspectives posed by other students; (2) chal-
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Taking Science to School: Learning and Teaching Science in Grades K-8 lenging others’ perspectives and claims; and (3) coordinating bits of knowledge that can be construed as coordinating theories with evidence. Finally, to be productively engaged in the discipline, students must make intellectual progress. Whether progress can be considered productive depends on the discipline, the specific task and topic, and where students begin. Productive disciplinary engagement encompasses the additional criteria of demonstrated change over time in student investigations, complexity of argumentation, and use of previous investigations to generate new questions, new concepts, and new investigations. In this section, we discuss the characteristics of individuals and classrooms that play a role in shaping students’ engagement with science. These include motivation, attitudes, identity, interactions between students’ values and norms and those of the science classroom, and, finally, characteristics of instruction that foster productive participation. We note that students’ motivation, attitudes, and identity toward science develop partly as a consequence of their experience of educational, social, and cultural environments. The educational environment in particular has an important influence on how students view science, their beliefs about their own ability to do science, and whether they feel supported to participate fully in the scientific community of the classroom. Consequently, we see productive participation as partly situation or context specific rather than as a stable personality trait that does not vary across settings. Motivation, Attitudes, and Identity Students’ motivation, their beliefs about science, and their identities as learners affect their participation in the science classroom and have consequences for the quality of their learning. More specifically, results of both experimental and classroom-based studies suggest that students’ own goals for science learning, their beliefs about their own ability in science, and the value they assign to science learning are likely to influence their cognitive engagement in science tasks (Lee and Anderson, 1993; Pintrich, Marx, and Boyle, 1993). Motivation, attitudes, and identity encompass cognitive components, such as beliefs about oneself and about science; emotional or affective components, such as values, interests, and attitudes; and behavioral components, such as persistence, effort, and attention. Researchers studying motivation have developed a dizzying array of theoretical frameworks, making it challenging to develop a coherent picture of motivation, attitudes, and identity and the factors that shape them. The wide array of constructs that researchers have developed in their attempts to understand the components of motivation and attitudes have been organized by reviewers of the literature into a few broad categories (for examples, see Pintrich, Marx, and Boyle, 1993; Wigfield et al., 2006; National Research Coun-
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Taking Science to School: Learning and Teaching Science in Grades K-8 cil and Institute of Medicine, 2004). We chose to use the three dimensions developed in the recent National Research Council report Engaging Schools (2004): components that relate to (1) the students’ feeling “I can do this”; (2) those that relate to the feeling “I want to do this”; and (3) those that relate to the feeling “I belong and this is an important part of who I am.” Beliefs About Oneself and About Science (“I Can Do Science”) In general, when children answer the question, Can I do this task? in the affirmative, they try harder, persist longer, perform better, and are motivated to select more challenging tasks (Wigfield et al., 2006). There is some evidence that a sense of being competent and efficacious as a science learner does influence learning. In a study of sixth and seventh grade science classrooms, students who reported feeling highly efficacious in science and who had a strong sense of competence in science tended to use deep learning strategies and were more focused on learning (Anderman and Young, 1994). Some researchers have suggested that students’ perceptions of their ability to learn science might interact with the process of conceptual change, so that if they have confidence in their own learning and thinking strategies, they may be more likely to change their own conceptions (Pintrich, Marx, and Boyle, 1993). Perceptions of ability usually vary from subject to subject and may vary from one context to another (National Research Council, 2004). Students will not exert effort in academic work if they are convinced they lack the capacity to succeed or have no control over outcomes (Atkinson, 1964; Eccles et al., 1983; Skinner, Wellborn, and Connell, 1990; Skinner, Zimmer-Gembeck, and Connell, 1998, cited in National Research Council, 2004). Students who have negative views of their competence and low expectations for success are more anxious in learning contexts and fearful of revealing their ignorance (Abu-Hilal, 2000; Bandalos, Yates, and Thorndike-Christ, 1995; Harter, 1992; Hembree, 1988, cited in National Research Council, 2004). Belief about the degree to which intellectual ability in a domain is fixed or malleable have also emerged as an import component of motivation. Americans tend to have a concept of intelligence or ability as inherited rather than as developed through effort (Chen and Stevenson, 1995; Dweck, 1999; Stevenson and Lee, 1990). A student who believes, for example, that ability in science is fixed and that she has low ability in it has little hope for success and therefore little reason to try. Gender differences in competence beliefs are reported as early as kindergarten or first grade, especially in such gender role–stereotyped domains as science. For example, boys hold higher competence beliefs than girls for mathematics and sports, even after all relevant differences in skill level are controlled. In contrast, girls have higher competence beliefs than boys for
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Taking Science to School: Learning and Teaching Science in Grades K-8 terest is determined by specific features of an activity or task. In sixth grade science classrooms, Lee and Brophy (1996) found evidence that students’ interest and motivation to learn were both domain general and situational. For example, students’ interest varied from task to task even within a single unit on matter and molecules. Interest is tied to the quality of learning (Alexander, Kulikowich, and Jetton, 1994; Hidi, 2001; Renninger, Ewen, and Lasher, 2002: Schiefele, 1996, 1999). For example, personal interest influences students’ selective attention, effort and willingness to persist at a task, and acquisition of new knowledge (Hidi, 1990). Situational interest is more influenced than personal interest by characteristics of the classroom and the nature of the task. For example, challenge, choice, novelty, fantasy, and surprise can increase students’ situational interest (Malone and Lepper, 1987). Recent studies suggest that interest is particularly predictive of achievement when there is a context that allows for choice. For example, interest in mathematics predicts achievement only at higher grade levels when students have a choice between more or less advanced courses (Koller, Baumert, and Schnabel, 2001). Research on the development of interest indicates that children tend to have general or universal interests at first, which become more specific relatively quickly (Eccles, Wigfield, and Schiefele, 1998; Todt, 1990). Between ages 3 and 8, gender-specific interests emerge (Eccles, 1987; Ruble and Martin, 1998). For example, Johnson et al. (2004) found that among 4-year-olds, boys were more likely to have strong individual interests in conceptual domains such as dinosaurs or dogs than were girls. Girls’ interests were generally more aligned with the arts (drawing, painting) or with activities related to forming and elaborating on social relationships (pretend play, dolls). Between ages 9 and 13, emerging self-concept is assumed to be linked more directly to social group affiliation and cognitive ability, leading to occupational interests consistent with one’s social class and ability self-concepts (Cook et al., 1996). After age 13 or 14, students develop more differentiated and individualized vocational interests based on a notion of their internal, unique self. The development of vocational interests is thus a process of continuous elimination of interests that do not fit the individual’s emerging sense of self, which includes gender, social group affiliation, ability, and then personal identity (Todt, 1990). Identity (“I Belong”) Identity involves how people view themselves, how they present themselves, and how others see them (Holland et al., 1998; Wenger, 1998). A child’s identity as a learner is contested and influenced by different practices in everyday interactions, as well as in the cultural institutions he uses (Bruner,
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Taking Science to School: Learning and Teaching Science in Grades K-8 1996; Ogbu, 1995). Research on identity and learning in specific domains builds on the premise that how one learns and what one learns are fundamentally related to the kind of person one wants to become. Developing an identity that includes excelling in science may be more challenging for some students than others. The culture of science is foreign to many students, both mainstream and nonmainstream, and the challenges of science learning may be greater for students whose cultural traditions are discontinuous with the ways of knowing characteristic of science and school science (Cobern, 1996; Jegede and Okebukola, 1991; Lee, 1999). It is also true, however, that nonmainstream students frequently bring values and practices to the classroom that can be seen as continuous with scientific practices. However, such experiences that could serve as intellectual resources for new learning in science classrooms may not be easily recognized. The challenge for these students in learning science is “to study a Western scientific way of knowing and at the same time respect and access the ideas, beliefs, and values of non-Western cultures” (Snively and Corsiglia, 2001, p. 24). The ability to make cultural transitions is critically important to nonmainstream students’ academic success. Giroux (1992), among others, has used the notion of border crossing to describe this process. To succeed academically, nonmainstream students must learn to negotiate the boundaries that separate their own cultural environments from the culture of science and school science (Aikenhead, 2001; Jegede and Aikenhead, 1999). Even within the cultural mainstream, relatively few children’s primary socialization is so science-oriented as to be perfectly continuous with the demands of school science. Thus, border crossing between the culture of science and the culture of the everyday world is demanding for all students in science classes (Driver et al., 1994). At times, students may find themselves caught in conflicts between what is expected of them in science classes and what they experience at home and in their community. If they appear too eager or willing to engage in science inquiry, they may find themselves estranged from their family or peers. If they appear reluctant to participate, they risk marginalization from school and subsequent loss of access to learning opportunities. Although some students may successfully bridge the cultural divide between home and school, others may become alienated and even actively resist learning science. In order to manage these differences, a child from a marginalized culture may temporarily adopt an identity for science learning experiences (Heath, 1982). Better understanding how children come to integrate science into their existing culture, rather than temporarily adopting an identity, may make it possible to create formal and informal science learning environments that are more accessible and meaningful.
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Taking Science to School: Learning and Teaching Science in Grades K-8 Classrooms That Promote Productive Participation Findings from research on motivation, attitudes, and identity converge with findings from research on engagement with science to highlight the importance of the classroom in fostering productive participation. Engle and Conant argue that the preconditions for productive disciplinary engagement involve providing appropriately challenging activities, allowing students to take authority over their learning but making sure that their work can be scrutinized by others (teachers and students), and using criteria acceptable to scientific disciplines (e.g., logical consistency, explanatory power). In addition, students need to have access to the resources they need (texts, laboratory equipment, recording devices) to evaluate their claims and communicate them to others. One study (Cornelius and Herrenkohl, 2004) explicitly employed the notion of productive disciplinary engagement and connected it to analyses of participant structures and discourse. In their study of a pair of sixth grade girls investigating sinking and floating, the researchers found evidence that the students took an active role in generating ideas, engaging in scientific argumentation with their peers, and learning how to use persuasive discourse to convince others of the validity of those ideas. Other studies have demonstrated that K-8 students in both urban and suburban public schools can engage in such scientific activities as investigating floating and sinking (Herrenkohl et al., 1999; Lee and Fradd, 1996; Palincsar et al., 2001; Varelas, Luster, and Wenzel, 1999); ecology (Hogan and Corey, 2001; Rosebery, Warren, and Conant, 1992); the classification and growth of plants and animals (Brown, Reveles, and Kelly, 2005; Lehrer and Schauble, 2004; Lehrer et al., 2000; Warren and Rosebery, 1996); motion down inclined planes (Lehrer et al., 2000); and density functions of material kind (Lehrer et al., 2001). Most of the above studies employed ethnographic case analyses of a small number of classrooms or groups of students. A few studies employed a mixture of quantitative and qualitative analyses (Herrenkohl and Guerra, 1998; Lee and Fradd, 1996; Palincsar et al., 2001). The smallest number of studies focused on students in grades K-2 (e.g., Lehrer, Schauble, and Petrosino, 2001); the largest number of studies examined students in grades 5 or 6. These studies tend to define disciplinary engagement differently and tend to employ different tasks or focus on different participant populations, making it difficult to easily summarize results across studies (other than to show that young children, poor students, and students with mild disabilities are capable—under the right conditions—of high-level disciplinary engagement with scientific concepts and procedures in formal educational settings). Most of the studies reviewed demonstrate that disciplinary engagement can
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Taking Science to School: Learning and Teaching Science in Grades K-8 be achieved, but few appear to demonstrate productive disciplinary engagement (notable exceptions include Herrenkohl et al., 1999; Lehrer et al., 2001; Palincsar et al., 2001; Rosebery, Warren, and Conant, 1992). CONCLUSIONS As this chapter illustrates, science learning involves much more than individual cognitive activity. It is an inherently social and cultural process that requires mastery of specialized forms of discourse and comfort with norms of participation in the scientific community of the classroom. However, the rules for engaging in arguments and evaluating evidence that students learn in their everyday lives are sometimes dissimilar and even contradictory to those employed in science. Students often need support or explicit guidance to learn scientific norms for interacting with peers as they argue about evidence and clarify their own emerging understanding of science and scientific ideas. Genuine scientific argumentation with peer-to-peer interaction is rarely observed in science classrooms. Instead, teachers tend to dominate in a pattern of the teacher posing a question, the students responding, and the teacher following with an evaluative comment. Supporting argument in the science classroom requires a departure from this typical pattern. Variations in students’ cultural and linguistic backgrounds translate into quite different learning histories and stances toward science. Making the norms and patterns of thinking in science visible in the classroom is one approach to supporting science learning in diverse student populations. Another is to capitalize on the continuities between students’ everyday thinking, knowledge, and resources and those of practicing scientists. For all students, motivation and attitudes toward science play an important role in science learning. Becoming proficient in science requires students to actively engage in scientific tasks and participate in scientifically meaningful ways. Willingness to participate is shaped by students’ own beliefs, their previous experience with science, and aspects of the science classroom. For example, students’ belief in their ability in science, the value they place on science, their desire to master science, and their interest in science all have consequences for the quality of their engagement in the classroom and subsequent learning. In turn, instruction can be designed in ways that foster a positive orientation toward science and promote productive participation in science classrooms. Such approaches include offering choice, providing meaningful tasks and an appropriate level of challenge, giving students authority over their learning while making sure their work can be examined by others, and making sure they have access to the resources they need to evaluate their claims and communicate them to others.
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