ing work with scientific representations to reasoning about the scientific phenomena they represent. To exploit their utility, students need support in working with interpreting and creating data representations that carry meaning. Access to scientific data in the form of data sets, data collected through observation and experimentation, interaction with simulations, and visualizations can become an important part of providing opportunities for students to experience and reason about scientific phenomena.
Having laid out central features of doing science in K-8 classrooms and the challenges that learners face, we now shift our focus to examine the ways in which teachers and instructional materials can act to support student learning. Research has uncovered several types of complementary strategies that can be part of instructional support for students learning science as practice. The areas of support build on what is known about learning in general and about science in particular. In this section we discuss the means of supporting science learning as students engage in science as practice—designing and conducting investigations, developing arguments, and building and refining models and explanations.
Our discussion of support for student learning relies heavily on forms of guidance that are, in part, embedded in curriculum materials. However, this is not to suggest that teachers are somehow less important to the process. On the contrary, no system of instruction can operate without skillful teachers. Curriculum materials, specific instructional approaches (project-based science, coherent instruction focused on conceptual change), and software tools, such as scaffolded simulations and visualization tools, offer useful structure to student learning experiences, but they cannot dictate learning. In all these examples, the teacher plays a critical role in realizing these designs. Even if the intervention is represented by carefully specified curriculum materials (e.g., Blumenfeld et al., 2000; Singer et al., 2000), the teacher plays a role in how the instructional materials are enacted. In most of these designs, teachers need to carefully orchestrate classroom discussions to establish research questions; consider hypotheses; establish classroom norms for evidence; compare results; help elucidate, question, and critique conceptual models; and so on.
In all of these cases, teachers’ beliefs and understandings of the discipline and of the pedagogy shape how they interpret and put the design ideas of the materials into action (Ball and Cohen, 1996; Clandinin and Connelly, 1991). For example, Schneider, Krajcik, and Blumenfeld (2005) found a range of enactments of critical aspects of the project-based science approach (such as attention to students’ prior ideas), resulting from particu-