effective environments for learning science “emphasize the importance of class discussions for developing a language for talking about scientific ideas, for making students’ thinking explicit to the teacher and the rest of the class, and for learning to develop a line of argumentation that uses what one has learned to solve problems and explain phenomena and observations.” (Bransford et al., 1999, p. 171) Further, such environments are open to new ideas and ways of thinking, as the community members are both encouraged and expected to provide each other with feedback and work to incorporate new ideas into their thinking. The development of community and use of community as both stimulus and context for learning is well illustrated in the Chapter 3 vignettes and in the teachers’ stories of their own collaborative learning in Chapter 5.
A number of studies have examined learning environments that incorporate all four of these elements. In their studies of high school physics teaching and learning, Minstrell (1982, 1989, 1992) assessed the following research-based instructional techniques: making students’ thinking visible; bridging from students’ preconceptions to scientifically-based conceptions; and facilitating students’ ability to restructure their own knowledge. The approach depicts the teacher’s role as coach in developing student understanding of major ideas in physics such as force and motion, rather than as a dispenser of facts.
In their studies of young Haitian students’ development of scientific ideas, Rosebery et al. (1992) describe classrooms in which students explore their own questions, design studies, collect information, analyze data and
construct evidence, consult experts and literature to help them interpret their test results, and debate the conclusions they derive. The teacher’s role is to guide and support them as they explore problems, define questions, and build and argue about theories. The learning environment these researchers describe incorporates all the features discussed above.
Many research studies of environments in which students learn for understanding use standardized measures of student achievement, although these measures do not emphasize the kinds of deep understanding on which the research is focused. According to the National