engage in coherent instructional tasks, are able to hear and build on the contributions of their peers, and have scientific reasoning modeled for them by teachers and peers, they gradually take on the language and forms of competence that are valued in science.
But how does one listen through cultural differences? How does one ensure that every student participates in the conversation and is held to the same rigorous standards in providing evidence, justifying claims, and representing ideas in ways that others can understand? How does one promote equity and access in the face of tremendous sociolinguistic diversity? How can teachers create the conditions for rigorous science talk simultaneously with children from many different cultures and language backgrounds?
According to researchers, there are two effective strategies that teachers can use. First, they need to make the rules of participation visible in the science classroom, instead of assuming that students implicitly know what the rules are. When engaging in new or unfamiliar scientific activities, teachers may need to provide explicit, detailed accounts of expectations, including, if necessary, structured or scripted roles to play in discussions.
The goal should be to establish and maintain what Okhee Lee has described as instructional congruence.8 With instructional congruence, the nature of an academic discipline is meshed with students’ language and cultural experiences to make science accessible, meaningful, and relevant. Students are given opportunities to master new ways of thinking and participating, while teachers ensure that students know that their existing norms and practices are valued.
The work of establishing, understanding, and modifying classroom norms for scientific thinking must be ongoing. Students themselves can help create these norms by proposing, debating, and establishing criteria for what counts as a good scientific question or what counts as persuasive evidence. For example, in one particular classroom, criteria for judging good questions and persuasive evidence were adopted by the students as the norm. Then, midyear, new ideas about questions and evidence surfaced as students evaluated their work. Some students argued that they should amend their criteria of what qualified as a good question by adding that a good question should encourage “piggybacking” (good questions are inspired by the findings of others and in turn inspire related