Thus, multiple approaches are needed in order for students to develop the ability to think about scientific thinking.

Classroom investigations can be an exciting way for students to develop a strong grasp of science content, the practices of scientific work, and the nature of science itself. However, investigations in current practice are typically not well suited to support student learning.

An effective science education system must reflect a rich, practice-based notion of science. This means rethinking what counts as science in order to better incorporate the strands of science learning. Investigations need not and should not be sequentially scripted, superficial experiences with predetermined outcomes, nor should they be chaotic, unstructured explorations that yield little in the way of real understanding. Effective investigations should be organized, structured activities that guide students in using scientific methods to work on meaningful problems.

Investigations that support student learning require teachers who understand how scientific problems evolve, and teachers themselves will need to have firsthand experiences akin to those they create for their students. Schools, universities, foundations, science centers, museums, and government agencies must find ways for teachers to have these experiences, building their knowledge and comfort with science practice in order to create an effective environment for student learning.

For Further Reading

Herrenkohl, L.R., and Guerra, M.R. (1998). Participant structures, scientific discourse, and student engagement in fourth grade. Cognition and Instruction, 16(4), 431-473.

McNeill, K.L., Lizotte, D.J., Krajcik, J., and Marx, R.W. (2006). Supporting students’ construction of scientific explanations by fading scaffolds in instructional materials. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 15(2), 153-191.

National Research Council. (2007). Teaching science as practice. Chapter 9 in Committee on Science Learning, Kindergarten Through Eighth Grade, Taking science to school: Learning and teaching science in grades K-8 (pp. 251-295). R.A. Duschl, H.A. Schweingruber, and A.W. Shouse (Eds.). Center for Education, Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

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