Accordingly, teachers supported the students in making their ideas clear and accessible to others, through spoken language and visual aids. This made it possible for the students to engage in discussion, conjecture, decision making, and argumentation, with evidence.
In important but subtle ways, both teachers carefully tracked students’ thinking, including their occasional frustrations. They used particular “talk moves” to ensure that their students explicated their ideas fully and listened well to each other. Ms. Martinez and Mr. Dolens both asked for explanations of specific comments or conclusions made by students when they felt further clarification was needed.
Helping the students explicate and make public their thinking also served both Ms. Martinez and Mr. Dolens as teachers. They were better able to understand their students’ thinking about measurement and data display and guide it in productive ways.
To do this effectively, both teachers had to carefully establish norms for discussion, group work, and group presentations. Over a period of months, they emphasized and modeled the importance of listening well, working hard to make their ideas clear to others, and respectfully challenging ideas, not people, with evidence. Over time, their students developed a shared understanding of the norms of participation in science. They learned how to construct and present a scientific argument and how to engage in scientific debates.
This chapter introduces several major themes that we’ll revisit throughout this book. One such theme is that children are more competent and capable science learners than we once thought. Their capabilities and knowledge are a resource that can and should be accessed and built upon during science instruction.
Another theme is that science learning can be modeled in important ways on how real scientists do science. Children offer amazing promise for science learning when we compare their knowledge and skills to what scientists do in the course of their work.
Effectively changing science teaching and learning will require dramatic change on the part of those involved in the education system. This book urges the many educators who shape K-8 science learning to reexamine their work in light of current thinking about teaching and learning science. In order to be effective, science learning must be supported by a broad, complex education system that supports and guides good teaching.