ture of one’s thought processes. The learner comes to own a new idea or new way of thinking. Without this, school learning becomes a transitory experience with little application to future thought and action.
Research on student learning leads to a question of great practical importance: What kinds of learning experiences and learning environments promote science learning? The research synthesized in How People Learn (Bransford et al., 1999) suggests that effective teachers employ strategies that attend to four elements: learners, knowledge, assessment, and community.
Learner-centered environments pay careful attention to the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and beliefs that learners bring to the educational setting. Accomplished teachers respect and understand their students’ prior experiences and understandings and use these as a foundation on which to build new understandings (Duckworth, 1987; American Psychological Association, 1993). For example, in Chapter 3, Ms. Flores and Mr. Gilbert both elicited students’ knowledge before launching into their new topics and used what they learned to focus student inquiries. In Chapter 5, Joanna and her teacher colleagues at the science museum were carefully supported to begin with what they knew and pursue questions of interest in order to deepen and broaden their understandings.
Research on students who are learning English as a second language points clearly to the need for teachers’ attention to what these students bring to the science classroom (Fradd and Lee, 1999; Rosebery et al., 1992).
Students from diverse language backgrounds vary greatly in their abilities to express, communicate, discuss, and demonstrate their understandings of science and of scientific concepts by virtue of their developing language abilities (CCSSO, 1999). Further, like all students, they vary in what they understand of science; this is complicated by the fact that their home cultures may not have exposed them to science as generally taught in schools. As Fradd and Lee (1999) note, “the norms and values of science