throughs in teaching science. Students can often answer fact-based questions on tests that imply understanding, but misconceptions will surface as the students are questioned about scientific concepts.
Chèche Konnen (“search for knowledge” in Haitian Creole) was presented as an example of new approaches to science learning for grade school children. The approach focuses upon students’ personal knowledge as the foundations of sense-making. Further, the approach emphasizes the role of the specialized functions of language, including the students’ own language for communication when it is other than English; the role of language in developing skills of how to “argue” the scientific “evidence” they arrive at; the role of dialogue in sharing information and learning from others; and finally, how the specialized, scientific language of the subject matter, including technical terms and definitions, promote deep understanding of the concepts.
Teaching history for depth of understanding has generated new approaches that recognize that students need to learn about the assumptions any historian makes for connecting events and schemes into a narrative. The process involves learning that any historical account is a history and not the history. A core concept guiding history learning is how to determine, from all of the events possible to enumerate, the ones to single out as significant. The “rules for determining historical significance” become a lightening rod for class discussions in one innovative approach to teaching history. Through this process, students learn to understand the interpretative nature of history and to understand history as an evidentiary form of knowledge. Such an approach runs counter to the image of history as clusters of fixed names and dates that students need to memorize. As with the Chèche Konnen example of science learning, mastering the concepts of historical analysis, developing an evidentiary base, and debating the evidence all become tools in the history toolbox that students carry with them to analyze and solve new problems.
Expert teachers know the structure of the knowledge in their disciplines. This knowledge provides them with cognitive roadmaps to guide the assignments they give students, the assessments they use to gauge student progress, and the questions they ask in the give-and-take of classroom life. Expert teachers are sensitive to the aspects of the subject matter that are especially difficult and easy for students to grasp: they know the conceptual barriers that are likely to hinder learning, so they watch for these tell-tale signs of students’ misconceptions. In this way, both students’ prior knowledge and teachers’ knowledge of subject content become critical components of learners’ growth.