2. What is the expected progression of understanding, and what are the predictable points of difficulty that must be overcome?

3. What instructional interventions (e.g., curriculum materials, teaching practices, simulations or other technology tools, instructional activities) can move students along a path from their initial understanding to the desired outcome?

4. What general and discipline-specific norms and instructional practices best engage and support student learning?

5. How can students of both genders and of all cultural backgrounds, languages, and abilities become engaged in the instructional activities needed to move toward more sophisticated understanding?

6. How can the individual student’s understanding and progress be monitored?

The paragraphs below summarize the committee’s research recommendations corresponding to each of the above questions:

Questions 1 and 2. Insights into typical student preconceptions of a topic and the expected progression of student understanding require careful research on the typical trajectories of learning. This research aims (a) to identify how the nature and limits of children’s cognitive abilities change with age and instruction and (b) to uncover common preconceptions that either support learning (e.g., the ability to halve or double relatively easily in mathematics) or undermine it (e.g., the belief that temperature measures the amount of heat present). Past findings have suggested that students’ preconceptions are resilient, even after specific instruction to the contrary. That resilience highlights the importance of a carefully designed research program to inform and support teaching to achieve conceptual change from naive preconceptions toward a more sophisticated scientific understanding of a topic. Although research of this sort is often the domain of cognitive scientists and education researchers, their efforts can be enriched by the participation of experienced teachers and by detailed study of exemplary practice.

Question 3. Educational experiences intended to move students along a learning path constitute the core of what we consider to be “instruction.” The work of curriculum developers, teachers, and researchers helps to enable these experiences, which may involve specific structured sequences of investigations or the use of simulations, or they may take place across individual units or longer segments of instruction. Regardless of the source, how each of these experiences contributes to

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