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Taking Science to School: Learning and Teaching Science in Grades K-8 9 Teaching Science as Practice Main Findings in the Chapter: Students learn science by actively engaging in the practices of science, including conducting investigations; sharing ideas with peers; specialized ways of talking and writing; mechanical, mathematical, and computer-based modeling; and development of representations of phenomena. All major aspects of inquiry, including managing the process, making sense of data, and discussion and reflection on the results, may require guidance. Instruction needs to build incrementally toward more sophisticated understanding and practices. To advance students’ conceptual understanding, prior knowledge and questions should be evoked and linked to experiences with experiments, data, and phenomena. Practices can be supported with explicit structures or by providing criteria that help guide the work. Discourse and classroom discussion are key to supporting learning in science. Students need encouragement and guidance to articulate their ideas and recognize that explanation rather than facts is the goal of the scientific enterprise. Ongoing assessment is an integral part of instruction that can foster student learning when appropriately designed and used regularly. Children come to school with powerful resources on which science instruction can build. Even young children can learn to explain natural phenomena, design and conduct empirical investigations, and engage in mean-
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Taking Science to School: Learning and Teaching Science in Grades K-8 ingful evidence-based argumentation. Through instruction, teachers can take much better advantage of the resources children bring to school than is commonly the case in K-8 science classrooms in the United States. Although K-8 science instruction has long been a subject of research, breakthroughs in research on teaching and learning have dramatically altered understanding of how children learn science and what can be done to structure, support, and develop their knowledge, use, and understanding of science. In this chapter we focus on the classroom-level implications of the learning and instruction research. The chapter is divided into four sections. First, we begin with a description of typical instruction in U.S. K-8 science classrooms. In the second section we present the contrasting view of science as practice put forth in the instructional research, pointing to promising evidence of student learning when instruction is framed around science as practice. In the third section we look more closely at the common forms of scientific practice that students engage in across different types of instructional design, pointing to the challenges students encounter as they do so. Fourth, we characterize strategies that teachers and curriculum developers can use to promote student learning of science through practice. We close with the major conclusions that can be drawn from current research on science instruction. In order to have a productive and meaningful discussion of science instruction, we need to be clear about what questions about science instruction research can and cannot answer. First, some pedagogical debates rest on differences in values rather than questions that are answerable through empirical research and, accordingly, cannot be resolved in this chapter. For example, one may be tempted to ask “Is inquiry better than direct instruction?” However, when comparing inquiry and direct instruction, the critical question is “Better for what?” Advocates of one or the other instructional approach may have different underlying visions for what it means to learn science. Thus, we need to be clear about what our goals for science learning are and ask how inquiry and direct instruction compare in reaching specific educational goals. Second, this chapter does not provide a blanket endorsement of particular strategies for instruction (e.g., group work, computer-mediated activities, hands-on science, explicit instruction). These general instructional approaches are underspecified and gloss over important considerations of instructional goals. Computers, for example, can be used in many ways—to facilitate drill and practice exercises or to provide access to powerful analytical tools and real scientific data sets, such as visualizations of real-time climate data. Group work can be used to simply divide up the work among students (e.g., one handling the experimental apparatus, another taking notes) or groups may work more organically—debating evidence or coming to consensus about interpretations of empirical findings. Depending on the goals of a specific lesson, one or sev-
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Taking Science to School: Learning and Teaching Science in Grades K-8 eral instructional strategies may be appropriate, and none will be an instructional panacea. Thus, we discuss a variety of instructional interventions that incorporate inquiry, group work, computers, and explicit instruction and suggest how these strategies can be useful for reaching particular goals. Third, our argument rests heavily on a growing number of small-scale, long-term intervention studies that demonstrate the profound learning effects that well-designed, high-quality science instruction can have, as well as a few controlled quasi-experimental studies. However, we acknowledge that we do not have strong evidence of these interventions at scale, and we adapt the nature of our claims accordingly. We point to features of instruction that are common across research programs that we view as “best bets” for organizing instruction. We recognize that instructional practice is situated in a layered and interactive system in which curriculum and assessment policy, teacher knowledge, and professional development opportunities have a profound effect on instructional quality. The research points in fruitful directions and uncovers what is possible under certain conditions. Much work remains to be done to identify how to put the necessary conditions in place and support students’ learning of the type of science articulated here. Furthermore, the studies do not allow one to conclude that a particular design approach is the most effective way to achieve a particular set of goals in contrast to other approaches. However, these studies do reveal the kinds of science classroom learning environments that are possible, what students can achieve therein, and what challenges remain to be addressed in instructional design. They help us explore what K-8 science teaching and learning could become. CURRENT INSTRUCTIONAL PRACTICE Typical science instruction in the United States does not support learning across the four strands of proficiency of our framework (see Box 2-1). Pursuing the strands framework implies providing students with opportunities to learn topics in depth, to use science in meaningful contexts, and to engage in scientific practices. In contrast, as noted earlier, the U.S. curriculum and standards are seen as “a mile wide and an inch deep.” Typical classroom activity structures convey either a passive and narrow view of science learning or an activity-oriented approach devoid of question-probing and only loosely related to conceptual learning goals (O’Sullivan and Weiss, 1999). Further, U.S. textbooks fail to guide teachers in how to build on students’ understanding, to contextualize science in meaningful problems, or to treat complex ideas other than superficially (Kesidou and Roseman, 2002; Schmidt, Houang, and Cogan, 2000). Of course, what children learn is not solely dictated by curriculum and standards “content,” but also by ways in which their encounters with cur-
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Taking Science to School: Learning and Teaching Science in Grades K-8 riculum are structured—the things students typically do in science classrooms. Analyses of pedagogy in classrooms corroborate the findings about curriculum and standards. As teachers aspire to cover a broad but thin curriculum, they give insufficient attention to students’ understanding and focus on superficial recall-level questions (Weiss and Pasley, 2004; Weiss et al., 2003). The recurring activities in science classrooms offer entrée to a narrow slice of scientific practice, leaving students with a limited sense of science and what it means to understand and use science. A steady stream of reading sections from textbooks, taking notes on definitions of key terms, and taking exams that test recall, for example, leaves students with a distinct, and problematic, sense of what it means to know and do science. Linn and Eylon (in press) have characterized the typical activity structure in U.S. science classrooms as “motivate, inform, and assess” in which teachers “motivate” a scientific idea (perhaps with a surprising demonstration), present the normative view, and then assess students’ understanding. This is analogous to patterns observed in U.S. mathematics classrooms (Stigler and Hiebert, 1999). Immersed in these patterns, students come to view science as a compilation of “right answers” provided and confirmed by teachers or textbooks. In class, students expect to be asked to recall facts on demand, rather than thinking about science as a sense-making activity requiring analysis, discussion, and debate (Carey and Smith, 1993; Smith et al., 2000). In contrast to U.S. science classrooms, in Japan, a nation whose students outscore U.S. students, classroom activity patterns are quite different. Japanese students contribute their ideas in solving problems collectively and critically discuss alternative solutions to problems. Students in classroom environments like these come to expect that these public, social acts of reasoning and dialogue are a regular part of classroom life and learning across the disciplines (Linn et al., 2000; Stigler and Hiebert, 1999). In sum, the patterns in U.S. pedagogy, curriculum materials, and curriculum standards exhibit a tendency to treat science as “final form” science (Duschl, 1990), in which science consists of solved problems and theories to be transmitted. The dynamics of the discipline—asking questions, finding ways to explore them empirically, investigating and evaluating competing alternative models, arguing—are severely lacking in the enacted U.S. curriculum, classrooms, and, most importantly, in students’ expectations about science and what it means to learn and do science in schools. The learning and instruction research suggests a dramatic departure from this typical approach, revealing that science instruction can be much more powerful and can take on new forms that enable students to participate in science as practice and to master core conceptual domains more fully. In the next section we sketch in broad brushstrokes an image of science as practice
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Taking Science to School: Learning and Teaching Science in Grades K-8 that can support K-8 students in learning science across the strands and point out how this diverges from current practice. APPROACHES TO SCIENCE AS PRACTICE IN RESEARCH-BASED INSTRUCTIONAL DESIGN Scientific practice itself is multifaceted, and so are instructional programs that frame science as practice. Researchers have designed and studied several instructional programs in which students develop scientific explanations and models, participate in scientific argumentation, and design and conduct scientific investigations. Although different programs may emphasize one aspect or another of the strands, they all reflect an approach to science in which students own and engage in aspects of scientific practice modeled on expert practice. Underlying science as practice are meaningful problems that students work on. This is a crucial shift away from typical K-8 science instruction. A meaningful problems approach explores how to teach the skills in the context of their application (Collins, Brown, and Newman, 1989). As we have argued throughout this report, rather than teaching individual skills separately and having students practice them, skills can be taught as needed, in the context of a larger investigation linked to questions developed with students. To call a problem meaningful, however, implies two senses of “meaning.” One sense is that a problem is meaningful from a disciplinary perspective—it frames scientific concepts, disciplinary practices, and evidence bases that can be coordinated to articulate and examine central principles and questions within a scientific discipline. Another sense of “meaning” in meaningful problems is that these problems are made intelligible and compelling to students. For example, a problem might draw on issues related to the local ecology. Educators and materials developers can enhance the meaningfulness of problems by drawing on ones that situate learning in the context of networks of ideas and practices. While the programs of research we review take different approaches to engaging students in science practice, they all work from problems that are, in this sense, meaningful to students. It is also important to bear in mind that here and throughout this chapter, the instructional programs we present are not mutually exclusive hypotheses about instruction. On the contrary, as becomes evident shortly, these are variations on a theme of common elements. Here we discuss the interventions themselves and evidence that children can in fact engage in science as practice in meaningful and productive ways. We do so to underscore the empirical basis of this work before going more deeply into details
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Taking Science to School: Learning and Teaching Science in Grades K-8 about the practices themselves. After providing a broad overview of the interventions and summarizing the evidence that K-8 students can in fact engage in science as practice in meaningful ways, in the next major section we return to finer-grained characterizations of what science as practice looks like in the classroom, and how it can be supported.1 Designing and Conducting Empirical Investigations in K-8 Classrooms One approach to science as practice is teaching students to design and conduct empirical investigations. Testing ideas by gathering empirical evidence is a mainstay of science education. Researchers have found that, with appropriate instruction, K-8 students can engage in making hypotheses, gathering evidence, designing investigations, evaluating hypotheses in light of evidence, and in the process they can build their understanding of the phenomena they are investigating (Crawford, Krajcik, and Marx, 1999; Geier et al., in press; Kuhn, Schauble, and Garcia-Mila, 1992; Lehrer and Schauble, 2002; Metz, 2000, 2004; Schneider et al., 2002). Contrary to current practice, which provides students with narrowly conceived, even misleading opportunities to “do science” (e.g., focusing exclusively on validating theories by following lockstep laboratory experiments or doing activities with no clear intellectual goal), these instructional programs engage children in designing and conducting scientific investigations and answering complex questions. These investigations take place over several weeks or months and require careful attention to students’ initial and emerging understanding of the phenomena and instruction designed to gradually build their knowledge and skills. Metz (2004), for example, reported on second, fourth, and fifth grade students’ efforts to design and conduct scientific investigations in the context of a life science unit. The unit gradually built in opportunities for children to master research methods and instrumentation as they learned about animal behavior. After 6 to 7 weeks of instruction, children were invested in the problem, knowledgeable about the domain, and familiar with tools and research design. At that point they were asked to think about a new species (crickets) and to propose researchable questions that they could examine empirically. Metz found that, with strong instructional guidance, children could design and carry out their own investigations—posing questions, determining appropriate methods of inquiry, carrying out the study, and reporting and critiquing their own results. 1 As our goal is to frame the commonalities of approaches, and the current research base prohibits parsing approaches further by their relative empirical warrants, the following approaches are presented in no particular order.
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Taking Science to School: Learning and Teaching Science in Grades K-8 Of course, students do not learn how to do science only over extended periods of time through highly integrated units of study. Some topics can be treated more discretely and students can make measurable gains in a few days of instruction and practice. An example is the Klahr and Chen (2003) report on a classroom-based experiment that tested instructional approaches to teaching a control-of-variables strategy. In a short instructional sequence, students investigated balls rolling down a ramp to determine the factors that influence the distance the balls will roll. Instruction began with an “exploration and assessment” phase, in which the children were asked to make comparisons to determine how different variables affected the distance the balls rolled after leaving the ramp. Students used a wooden ramp that allowed them to manipulate two variables: the pitch of the ramp (high or low) and the texture of its surface (rough or smooth). In this phase, the children gained a base level of understanding of the phenomena and the test apparatus and were given an opportunity to think about the problem. In this study the performance of students who received instruction far surpassed that of those who did not, and their gains were sustained over time and transferred to new problems. Whether instruction aims at narrowly defined outcomes (as the Klahr and Chen study did) or long-term investigations and a range of integrated learning goals (as did Metz’s study), there is broad agreement that children need a base level of knowledge about a domain in order to work in meaningful ways on scientific problems. Although the aims of the studies described here varied they both suggest that students need familiarity and interest in the scientific problems and that their learning requires explicit guidance. These interventions also underscore that children will often need clear statements about basic conceptual knowledge in order to succeed in conducting investigations and in learning science generally. These statements may originate from teachers “telling,” or from children reading texts, or hearing from other experts. While these intervention studies suggest that students can learn science across the strands through highly scaffolded and carefully structured experiences designing and conducting investigations, we also note that having students design and conduct investigations may be particularly difficult and require a very high level of teacher knowledge and skill in order for students to master content across the strands (see, e.g., Roth, 2002). We elaborate on the features of problems that students investigate and the support they need to succeed in the next section. The emerging evidence suggests that learning how to design, set up, and carry out experiments and other kinds of scientific investigations can help students understand key scientific concepts, provide a context for understanding why science needs empirical evidence, and how tests can distinguish between explanations.
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Taking Science to School: Learning and Teaching Science in Grades K-8 Argumentation, Explanation, and Model Building in K-8 Classrooms Another common approach in the research literature is to create opportunities for students to engage in other aspects of scientific activity, such as argumentation, explanation, and model building. As scientists investigate empirical regularities in the world, they attempt to explain these regularities with theories and models, and to apply those models to new phenomena. Furthermore, the scientific community reaches consensus through a process of proposing and arguing about their own and others’ ideas through talk and writing, using the particular discourse conventions of the discipline. Some instructional interventions have brought these activities into the K-8 classroom. As students conduct investigations to develop and apply explanations to natural phenomena, they develop claims, defend them with evidence, and explain them, using scientific principles. With a focus on explanation, students attempt to produce evidence that supports a particular account or claim (McNeill et al., 2006; Sandoval, 2003; Sandoval and Reiser, 2004). An emphasis on scientific argument adds the element of convincing peers of the explanation, responding to critiques, and reaching consensus (Bell and Linn, 2000; Driver, Newton, and Osborne, 2000; Duschl and Osborne, 2002; Osborne, Erduran, and Simon, 2004). A focus on model building adds the element of representing patterns in data and formulating general models to explain candidate phenomena (Lehrer and Schauble, 2000b, 2004; Schwarz and White, 2005). Several elements emerge as critical in these approaches to argumentation, explanation, and model building. In these approaches, units of study are framed to address a question or set of questions about the natural world. The question may arise from benchmark lessons that elicit curiosity, from observations of perplexing natural phenomena, from a problem situated in the real world that can be addressed with scientific evidence, or from questions that scientists themselves are currently struggling to answer (Blumenfeld et al., 2000; Edelson, 2001; Linn et al., 1999). For example, Linn and colleagues used a documented cases of frog mutation in particular ecosystems and an overall pattern of increased mutations nationwide to frame a middle school environmental science unit. In this case there was no definitive scientific explanation for the pattern of mutated frogs; instead, students were engaged in a genuine scientific quandary and explored several competing explanations, including two leading hypotheses in the scientific community. One leading explanation entailed a type of parasite that scientists believe can physically interfere with the natural development of frog limbs, and the other involved a pesticide which, with exposure to sunlight, may interfere with the hormonal signals that control limb development. Once questions are framed and students understand and buy into them, they conduct inves-
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Taking Science to School: Learning and Teaching Science in Grades K-8 tigations whose purpose is to explore one or more possible claims about the question. Dealing with authentic scientific debates required that the educators and researchers involved in this intervention take great efforts to make the scientific problems accessible to students without sacrificing core scientific concepts required to understand ecosystem relations, and the role of hormones in development. To focus and support student learning teachers and instructional materials narrowed the focus and provided students with a handful of factors to investigate and a method or structured choice of methods to choose from in order to explore the problem. Interacting with Texts in the K-8 Classroom Reading and texts are important parts of scientific practice and play an important role in science classrooms. Much of the research on students’ interaction with text has been conducted by reading researchers and is often not well situated in the context of science curricula and pedagogy. A few studies do, however, consider the role of text in conjunction with scientific inquiry and the consequences for students learning. Concept-oriented reading instruction (CORI) is a program of research in which elementary students and teachers pursued the study of conceptual issues in science of the students’ choosing. In CORI, students were introduced to a complex knowledge domain, such as ecology or the solar system, for several weeks. They were then allowed to select a topic in that domain (such as a particular bird or animal) to study in depth and chose which books to read related to the topic. In the course of their inquiry about the topic, students received support in finding relevant resources, learned how to use those resources, and how to communicate what they learned to others. In conjunction with this text-based research, students participated in related inquiry, such as a habitat walk, specimen collection, feeder observations, feather experiments, and owl-pellet dissection. Students in CORI showed better reading comprehension of science-related texts and were more motivated to read about science than were students in traditional instruction (Guthrie et al., 2004). In another line of research, Palinscar and Magnusson have explored students’ and teachers’ use of text in the context of guided inquiry science instruction (Palincsar and Magnusson, 2005). They describe the interplay of first- and second-hand investigations and the support they provide for the development of scientific knowledge and reasoning. In the latter stages of their research, the researchers developed an innovative text-genre (a scientist’s notebook) to scaffold students’ and teachers’ use of text in an inquiry fashion. The innovative text is a hybrid of exposition, narration, description, and argumentation in which the imagined scientist’s voice personalizes the text for the reader. Use of the text supported students’ learning about the topics
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Taking Science to School: Learning and Teaching Science in Grades K-8 being studied (reflection and refraction). However, engaging students to interact with text in an inquiry fashion required careful mediation by the teachers. Likewise, teachers needed to be supported in developing instructional practices that supported the use of text as inquiry. Evidence of Student Learning Thus far we have briefly described science as practice as an instructional approach that presents scientific skills as integrated—the skills of data collection and analysis are encountered in places where they can be useful for learning about a phenomena. We have also contrasted this approach with prevailing patterns of current instructional practice that present content and process separately. The prevalent practice of separating process and content in instruction has often been premised on notions of what students can (and cannot) do. However, the evidence from instructional research suggests that students can in fact engage in science as practice in meaningful ways. Elementary Grades: Inquiry and Models The study of the inquiry skills of elementary school students by Metz (2004), described above, situates children’s learning of investigating skills in the context of a study of animal behavior. In these interventions, students develop questions, discuss ways to operationalize their questions in observations, and then collect data, interpret the data, and debate conclusions. In this work, students consider and critique different interpretations of data, and consider such factors as how different measurement or experimental procedures they or other students have chosen could affect what the data reveal about the underlying question. In this way, students exhibit some proficiency in coordinating theory and evidence, distinguishing between the intuitive appeal of their conjectures (their “theory”), and what the evidence actually reveals about the truth of their conjectures. In Metz’s analysis of investigations designed and conducted by a second and a fourth-fifth split grade class, all of the students succeeded in designing and carrying out investigations. Furthermore, more than 70 percent of the second graders and 87 percent of the fourth and fifth graders demonstrated knowledge that their research was in some respects “uncertain”—a precondition of posing scientific questions and an inevitable feature of scientific work. Upon reflection, 80 and 97 percent of these students, respectively, posited a strategy to address the uncertainty in their research design. Metz’s findings contrast sharply with views that young children cannot conduct scientific investigations or that they are necessarily bound to concrete experiences with natural phenomena.
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Taking Science to School: Learning and Teaching Science in Grades K-8 Similarly, Lehrer and Schauble have worked with elementary school teachers to support students in data modeling practices (Lehrer, Giles, and Schauble, 2002; Lehrer and Schauble, 2000a, 2004, in press). In this approach, students are involved in developing questions for investigation, deciding how to measure the variables of interest, and developing data displays to represent their results. A focus of the approach is involving students in grappling with the need to represent their data in ways that communicate what they believe the data show about the question of interest, rather than giving students ready-made procedures for graphically representing their data. Students create representations and debate their relative merits for helping analyze and communicate their findings. They then revise the representations and use them as a tool to analyze the scientific phenomenon. These representations become more abstract and model-like and less literal over time. In one study, fifth grade students developed graphical representations to analyze naturally occurring variation in growing plants (Lehrer and Schauble, 2004). These students were able to develop representations that captured the properties of the distributions, and they were able to use these tools in designing and conducting investigations of such variables as light and fertilizer on plant growth. The focus on the meaning of the data representation and its use to communicate among the community of students seemed to help learners develop more sophisticated understandings of distribution as a mathematical idea, and the biological variation in their samples it represents. Middle Grades: Problem-Based and Conceptual Change Approaches In the middle grades, one common approach to engage students in the practices of science is problem-based or project-based science (Blumenfeld et al., 1991; Edelson, Gordin, and Pea, 1999; Edelson and Reiser, 2006; Kolodner et al., 2003; Krajcik et al., 1998; Reiser et al., 2001; Singer et al., 2000). In these approaches, a research question about a problem can provide the context for extended investigations. Students learn the target science content and processes in the context of pursuing that question. For example, students learn about the particulate nature of matter and chemical reactions while investigating the quality of air in their community (Singer et al., 2000), or they learn about how species interact in ecosystems while investigating a mystery of what killed many plants and animals in a Galapagos island system (Reiser et al., 2001). Characteristics of this approach include establishing a need for the target understanding, through a problem students find compelling (Edelson, 2001), often a real-world application. Students then investigate the problem context and attempt to apply their findings to address the original problem. Often the projects include a culminating activity in which students apply what they have learned to address the problem,
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Taking Science to School: Learning and Teaching Science in Grades K-8 Classroom-Based Assessment Practices and Student Learning Outcomes In the form that supports learning, assessment is a ubiquitous aspect of classroom activity and is rarely a discrete event. It involves observing students at work and listening to what they say (Hogan, Nastasi, and Pressley, 2000), being clear with criteria, and making sure the criteria capture and reflect what counts in the subject area (Resnick and Resnick, 1991). It also involves analyzing student work in light of that criteria and paying attention to what they are thinking, attending as much to their reasoning as to what they don’t understand. It involves engaging students as active participants in an assessment activity or conversation, so that it becomes something they do, not merely something done to them (Duschl and Gitomer, 1997; White and Frederiksen, 1998). Finally, and most importantly, all kinds of formative assessment demand using assessment information in a way to inform teaching and learning (Black and Wiliam, 1998a). The majority of studies cited in this review were performed in middle school classrooms. Thus it is difficult to make any kind of claim about the differences in abilities of students of varying ages to participate in formative assessment. We can confidently say that the formative assessment strategies summarized here suggest middle school students are capable of participating in and benefiting from formative assessment to various degrees. More research needs to be performed in K-5 classrooms to determine if the result is similar for students of that age. CONCLUSIONS This chapter has presented a range of instructional approaches that can support the four strands of our framework for science proficiency. The programs of instruction we have discussed differ in the aspect of scientific practice they choose to make central—creating well-designed experiments, making sense of scientific phenomena through experiments, applying theories to make sense of data, constructing scientific explanations and models, and convincing a scientific community through scientific argumentation. Although the aspect of scientific practice that is emphasized varies, several common themes are in evidence across these interventions. The four strands of scientific proficiency come together in instructional approaches that involve learners in scientific practice. Rather than treating scientific content, scientific processes, epistemology, and participation independently in instruction, these proficiencies can be brought together as complementary aspects of science by engaging learners in such practices as investigation, argumentation, explanation, and model building. Teaching science as a practice brings these proficiencies together as they support one
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Taking Science to School: Learning and Teaching Science in Grades K-8 another—students develop powerful scientific ideas through developing and testing knowledge claims and applying their understandings of the nature of science to guide and evaluate those processes. The practice of developing and defending knowledge claims involves students in participating in a scientific community as they learn from and attempt to convince their peers of scientific claims. Thus the practice of science is multidimensional, involving of course scientific reasoning, but also the social interaction that can realize these scientific processes (e.g., scientific arguments are to persuade peers of the claims and their interpretation) and the specialized discourse that provides the precision to communicate about these scientific tasks (e.g., language for evaluating explanations on plausibility, simplicity, and fit with evidence). Instructional interventions can profitably go beyond a focus on scientific content and reasoning processes and can help learners understand the epistemological underpinnings of scientific knowledge building by involving learners in the types of social interactions and discourse through which they can create and evaluate knowledge in their own scientific community. Providing carefully structured opportunities for students to engage in investigations and other key elements of scientific practice can advance their learning in science. Approaches vary in whether students are being asked to develop principles or to enrich their understanding of presented principles by applying them to make sense of data (theory building versus theory application). However, students encounter problems along the way, as they plan and carry out investigations or apply principles across a range of examples of targeted scientific phenomena. All major aspects of inquiry—managing the process, making sense of data, and articulation and reflection—may require guidance. The design efforts we have discussed in this chapter explore what resources students bring to instruction that can be built on, what kinds of guidance are needed, and how best to embed that guidance in the doing of the scientific investigation. Across these approaches there is a consistent emphasis on eliciting and building on students’ prior understandings. Earlier, we reviewed the types of understandings that students bring into science learning situations—prior conceptions about scientific phenomena, such as density, gravity, and diversity in living things, as well as epistemological understandings about the nature of science, such as what makes a convincing argument or what counts as scientific data. Instruction needs to build incrementally toward more sophisticated understandings and practices, eliciting these prior understandings, uncovering questions to be explained, and linking these to experiences with experiments, data, and phenomena to expand students’ conceptions. Support for practices may take the form of explicit structure that can make the practice more explicable or providing criteria that can help motivate and guide scientific work.
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Taking Science to School: Learning and Teaching Science in Grades K-8 We have also shown that scaffolding is needed to support students’ engagement in scientific practice. Young students can engage in aspects of scientific practice, but they need explicit support to do so effectively. In the design of instructional materials and their use by teachers, scaffolding pursues a balance between giving learners real responsibility for performing aspects of the scientific work, perhaps in a simplified version of the practice, while providing the structure that learners need to be able to succeed. Scaffolding can provide a structure that makes the process more explicit (e.g., by helping students understand and monitor whether their claims are supported with evidence) and more manageable (e.g., by providing a representation of inquiry steps for them to track their progress in an investigation), and it can prompt students to evaluate their thinking at critical points in a problem (e.g., by providing prompts for important reflective questions). Finally, discourse and classroom discussion in which students engage in articulation and reflection are key to many of these approaches. Students are encouraged to articulate their understandings and are helped to realize that explanation rather than facts are the goal of the scientific enterprise. Ongoing nudging is important in encouraging students to articulate their ideas and test their consistency, coherence, and accuracy. Managing investigations is complex and requires monitoring, and reflection is key to staying on track and changing direction when needed. REFERENCES Ball, D.L., and Cohen, D.K. (1996). Reform by the book: What is—or might be—the role of curriculum materials in teacher learning and instructional reform? Educational Researcher, 25(9), 6-8. Ballenger, C. (1997). Social identities, moral narratives, scientific argumentation: Science talk in a bilingual classroom. Language and Education, 11(1), 1-14. Barron, B. (2003). When smart groups fail. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 12(3), 307-359. Bell, B., and Cowie, B. (2001). Formative assessment and science education. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer Academic. Bell, P., and Linn, M.C. (2000). Scientific arguments as learning artifacts: Designing for learning from the web with KIE. International Journal of Science Education, 22, 797-817. Black, P. (1998). Formative assessment: Raising standards inside the classroom. School Science Review, 90(291), 39-46. Black, P., and Wiliam, D. (1998a). Assessment and classroom learning. Assessment in Education, 5(1), 7-74. Black, P., and Wiliam, D. (1998b). Inside the black box: Raising standards through classroom assessment. Phi Delta Kappan, 80(2), 139-148. Blumenfeld, P., Fishman, B.J., Krajcik, J., Marx, R.W., and Soloway, E. (2000). Creating usable innovations in systemic reform: Scaling-up technology-embedded project-based science in urban schools. Educational Psychologist, 35, 149-164.
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Representative terms from entire chapter: