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Ready, Set, SCIENCE!
Putting Research to Work in K-8 Science Classrooms Sarah Michaels, Andrew W. Shouse, and Heidi A. Schweingruber Board on Science Education Center for Education Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS Washington, D.C. www.nap.edu
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS â¢ 500 Fifth Street, N.W. â¢ Washington, DC 20001 NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance. This study was supported by the Merck Institute for Science Education. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommenda- tions expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Merck Institute for Science Education. Copyright 2008 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America Suggested citation: Michaels, S., Shouse, A.W., and Schweingruber, H.A. (2008). Ready, Set, Science! Putting Research toWork in K-8 Science Classrooms. Board on Science Education, Center for Education, Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Michaels, Sarah, 1953- Ready, set, science! : putting research to work in K-8 science classrooms / Sarah Michaels, Andrew W. Shouse, and Heidi A. Schweingruber. p. cm. ISBN-13: 978-0-309-10614-6 (pbk.) ISBN-10: 0-309-10614-1 (pbk.) ISBN-13: 978-0-309-10615-3 (pdf) ISBN-10: 0-309-10615-X (pdf) 1. ScienceâStudy and teaching (Elementary)âUnited States. 2. ScienceâStudy and teaching (Secondary)âUnited States. 3. Researchâ United States. 4. Education, SecondaryâCurriculaâUnited States. I. Shouse, Andrew W. II. Schweingruber, Heidi A. III. Title. LB1585.3.M53 2007 372.35'044âdc22 2007030504 The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the fed- eral government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone is president of the National Academy of Sciences. The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. Charles M. Vest is president of the National Academy of Engineering. The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent mem- bers of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Harvey V. Fineberg is president of the Institute of Medicine. The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academyâs purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone and Dr. Charles M. Vest are chair and vice chair, respectively, of the National Research Council. www.national-academies.org
OVERSIGHT GROUP ON SCIENCE LEARNING, KINDERGARTEN THROUGH EIGHTH GRADE PRACTITIONER VOLUME KEVIN J. CROWLEY, Department of Instruction and Learning, University of Pittsburgh JANET ENGLISH, KOCE-TV, PBS, Huntington Beach, California SISTER MARY GERTRUDE HENNESSEY, St. Ann School, Stoughton, Wisconsin BRIAN J. REISER, Department of Learning Sciences, Northwestern University LEONA SCHAUBLE, Department of Teaching and Learning, Vanderbilt University DEBORAH SMITH, Woodcreek Elementary Magnet School for Math, Science, and Technology, Lansing, Michigan C. JEAN MOON, Director, Board on Science Education ANDREW W. SHOUSE, Study Director, Senior Program Officer HEIDI A. SCHWEINGRUBER, Senior Program Officer VICTORIA N. WARD, Senior Program Assistant BOARD ON SCIENCE EDUCATION CARL E. WIEMAN (Chair), Department of Physics, University of Colorado, Boulder ALICE M. AGOGINO, Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of California, Berkeley PHILIP BELL, Cognitive Studies in Education, University of Washington, Seattle WILLIAM BONVILLIAN, Washington Office, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Washington, DC JOHN BRANSFORD, Department of Curriculum and Instruction, University of Washington, ADAM GAMORAN, Wisconsin Center for Education Research, University of Wisconsin, SHARON R. LONG, Department of Biological Sciences, Stanford University BRETT D. MOUDLING, Utah Office of Education, Salt Lake City CARLO PARRAVANO, Merck Institute for Science Education, Merck & Co., Inc., Rahway, New Jersey HELEN R. QUINN, Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, Stanford University SUSAN R. SINGER, Department of Biology, Carleton College JAMES P. SPILLANE, Department of Education and Social Policy, Northwestern University WILLIAM B. WOOD, Department of Cellular and Developmental Biology, University of Colorado, Boulder C. JEAN MOON, Director HEIDI A. SCHWEINGRUBER, Senior Program Officer ANDREW W. SHOUSE, Senior Program Officer MICHAEL A. FEDER, Program Officer THOMAS E. KELLER, Program Officer VICTORIA N. WARD, Senior Program Assistant
Contents Foreword ix Preface xiii 1 A New Vision of Science in Education 1 The Importance of Teaching Science Well 2 What Scientists Really Do 3 The Language of Science 4 Rethinking Childrenâs Capacity for Scientific Understanding 6 Science Class: SEEING OURSELVES IN MEASUREMENT 9 Science Class: MEASURING AND GRAPHING HEIGHT 11 Building on Knowledge, Interest, and Experience 14 For Further Reading 16 2 Four Strands of Science Learning 17 The Four Strands 18 Science Class: BIODIVERSITY IN A CITY SCHOOLYARD 22 Examining the Four Strands in Instruction 28 The Interrelated Nature of the Four Strands 32 Science as Practice: Doing and Learning Together 34 For Further Reading 36 3 Foundational Knowledge and Conceptual Change 37 Identifying a Shared Base of Understanding in Young Children 38 Seeing Nature in New Ways 41 vi
Types of Conceptual Change 42 Using Prior Knowledge to Make Sense of the World 43 Science Class: MOLECULES IN MOTION 45 Examining Conceptual Change in Molecules in Motion 55 Building Understanding Over Multiple Years 56 For Further Reading 58 4 Organizing Science Education Around Core Concepts 59 Building on Core Concepts Over Time 60 Core Concepts in Relation to Standards and Benchmarks 62 Using Core Concepts to Build Learning Progressions 63 Science Class: THE MYSTERY BOX 66 Extending Scientific Discussion 70 Science Class: THE PROPERTIES OF AIR 72 Teaching the Atomic-Molecular Theory at the Middle School Level 76 Science Class: THE NATURE OF GASES 79 The Benefits of Focusing on Core Concepts and Learning Progressions 84 For Further Reading 86 5 Making Thinking Visible: Talk and Argument 87 Learning Through Talk and Argument 88 Encouraging Talk and Argument in the Classroom 89 Position-Driven Discussion 93 Science Class: ESTABLISHING CLASSROOM NORMS FOR DISCUSSION 95 Appreciating Cultural, Linguistic, and Experiential Differences 97 Strategies for Inclusiveness 100 Science Class: SUCCESSFULLY SUPPORTING DIVERSITY 104 For Further Reading 108 6 Making Thinking Visible: Modeling and Representation 109 Mathematics 110 Data 111 Scale Models, Diagrams, and Maps 113 Modeling and Learning Progressions 114 Science Class: REPRESENTING DATA 119 For Further Reading 126 Contents vii
7 Learning from Science Investigations 127 Creating Meaningful Problems 127 Sequencing Meaningful Instruction 129 Constructing and Defending Explanations 132 Scripting Student Roles 135 Science Class: DIFFERENTIATING MASS AND DENSITY 137 Science Class: LOOKING AT OUR SCIENTIFIC THINKING 142 For Further Reading 148 8 A System That Supports Science Learning 149 Teachers as Learners 151 Knowledge of Science 153 How Students Learn Science 155 Knowing How to Teach Science Effectively 156 Providing Teachers with Opportunities to Learn 157 Next Steps 162 Notes 167 Appendix A Questions for Practitioners 171 Appendix B Assessment Items Based on a Learning Progression for Atomic-Molecular Theory 176 Appendix C Academically Productive Talk 179 Appendix D Biographical Sketches of Oversight Group and Coauthors 181 Index 187 Acknowledgments 195 Credits 197 viii Ready, Set, SCIENCE!
Foreword Ready, Set, Science! makes the content of a major National Research Council study, Taking Science to School: Learning and Teaching Science in Grades K-8, accessible and useful to a very critical audienceâscience education practitioners who work with and support K-8 classroom teachers. It represents a collective commitment among the National Academies, its Board on Science Education, the Merck Institute for Science Education (this volumeâs sponsor), and the National Academies Press to make the products of the National Academies available in for- mats and language helpful to the work of practitioners. In the context of this book, the term âscience education practitionerâ refers to a cross section of individuals who work closely with teachers on science content and assessments, with instructional materials, and with teacher professional learn- ing experiences. Their titles may differ, depending on the districts in which they work. Generally they are called science specialist, curriculum developer, science instructional supervisor, teacher leader for science, or specialist in professional development and assessment. People in this collection of roles, while not in the same classroom on a daily basis, are pivotal when it comes to working with class- room teachers and administrators, and sometimes with parents and school board members, on science education matters. While Ready, Set, Science! was written to honor the unique informational needs of these midlevel practitioners, it does not exclude the interests of classroom teachers, administrators, or even parentsâquite the contrary. All school- and district-based science education roles as well as committed parents, extended family, and caretakers are part of a system that determines how students engage with the ideas of science. It is in the spirit of shaping that system around a common base of well-researched knowledge about learning and teaching science that Ready, Set, Science! makes a singularly important contribution to science education writ large. ix
Taking Science to School, the report on which Ready, Set, Science! is based, brought together current research literatures from cognitive and developmental psychology, science education, and the history and philosophy of science to syn- thesize what is known about how children in grades K through 8 learn the ideas and practices of science. The Foreword to that volume states that this research synthesis âhas the potential to change science education in fundamental ways.â We believe this statement to be even truer today, almost a year since the release of Taking Science to School. The response to Taking Science to School from the science education com- munity (locally as well as at the state and national levels), policy makers, and education researchers has been remarkable. The report provides a synthesis of research on learning and teaching too long absent from science education. As such, it offers a redefinition of and a framework for what it means to be profi- cient in science. It is this framework and its potential to reshape science education classrooms and the system of roles and actions that support those classrooms that is at the heart of Ready, Set, Science! This book will not answer every question about how to implement the ideas of Taking Science to School in a classroom or school system, but it will answer many. Cases of teaching and learning in science classrooms are presented to engage readers with the major conclusions and recommendations made in Taking Science to School, as well as the research base on which those conclusions and recommenda- tions rest. We often hear the expression about moving research into practice, and the classroom cases developed for Ready, Set, Science! seek that result. Dissemination of the knowledge that results from studies, workshops, or other activities undertaken by the Board on Science Education is a high prior- ity for board members and board staff. Effective dissemination strategies for its products are essential to fulfilling the founding mission of the National Academiesâto advise the nation, with an independent and evidence-based voice, on matters critical to science, engineering, and medicine. Science educators are essential to the overall enterprise of science in this country. Ready, Set, Science! both acknowledges and honors their critical contribution to the whole of the scientific enterprise. As a board with a clear link to the work of teachers, prac- titioners, teacher educators, teaching faculty, administrators, and caregivers, we expect to produce other field-oriented books based on our synthesis studies and workshop reports. We want to recognize and express our gratitude to Carlo Parravano as the individual with the founding idea for this volume. Given his many x Ready, Set, SCIENCE!
years of leadership as director of the Merck Institute for Science Education, he understands the work and information needs of science education practi- tioners. Similarly, he understands the potential contributions to that work of the National Academies through its National Research Council. The Board on Science Education is grateful to the Merck Institute for Science Education for sponsoring Ready, Set, Science! and for helping us take a very important dissemination step. Our goal is for this to be the first of many translations of major studies for educator audiences. Carl E. Wieman, Chair C. Jean Moon, Director Board on Science Education Foreword xi
Preface Science education has risen to the top of the national and international agendas. International networks of scientists pursue basic questions about the natural world and build powerful technologies to improve health and standards of living. Meanwhile the United States and other nations are scrambling to figure out how to feed and support the scientific enterprise. In the United States this means that policy makers are calling on educators to vastly improve mathematics and sci- ence education. Scores on international tests of scientific proficiency are cited as evidence that the United States risks falling behind other countries, even those in the developing world. The requirement, under the No Child Left Behind Act, that states assess science learning beginning in the 2007-2008 school year testifies to the nationâs sense of urgency about science education. All of this sounds very familiar to science educators. After the launch of Sputnik in 1958, Americans worried that they were being overtaken in sci- ence and technology by the Soviet Union. In 1982 the National Commission for Excellence in Education warned of a ârising tide of mediocrityâ and called for âmore rigorous and measurable standardsâ in science and mathematics. In response to these and other calls to improve science education, new curricula were developed, state and local initiatives led to changes in the classroom, and new standards and benchmarks focused attention on what students need to learn in science. These reforms have had an important impact. Scores on tests of scientific achievement have risen in recent decades, especially for disadvantaged minority groups. Scientific research and other technical fields have become more diverse as more women and members of minority groups underrepresented in science have received the education they need to work in these fields. Continuing shortfalls in U.S. studentsâ scientific proficiency show that there is still a long way to go. xiii
Why has science education been a topic of concern for so long? Simply stated, teaching and learning science are challenging tasks, for a variety of reasons. Unlike many countries that have a national curriculum, the United States has a highly decentralized education system. Across states and even within individual districts, many schools do things differently and independently. As a result, there is great variability from classroom to classroom, school to school, and state to state, which makes it difficult to replicate and disseminate successful initiatives. Furthermore, many elementary school teachers and science teachers in middle schools and high schools have not received the preparation and sup- port they need to do the job theyâre being asked to do. Many teachers arenât familiar with all the areas of science they are expected to teach. In spite of the national investment in the development of new curricula, not all teachers have the high-quality materials they need. Moreover, teachers rarely get all the time and professional development they need to use new curricula well and to teach to new standards. Teachers, in short, have not been well supported to do the job they are being asked to do. Despite the important progress that has been made in science educa- tion, much more can be done to honor what teachers know and do and to support them with the tools, knowledge, and resources they need. Teachers, after all, are societyâs most valuable resource for improving science education and the most important agents of change in education. This book is designed to acknowledge and support the work of teachers while explaining the implications of new knowledge for classroom practice. Ready, Set, Science! is an account of groundbreaking recent research into teaching and learning science. It is designed to help practitioners make sense of new research and use this research to inform their classroom practice. This book is based on a report published in December 2006 from a 14- person committee of the National Research Council, entitled Taking Science to School: Learning and Teaching Science in Grades K-8. Over a period of two years, the committee made a comprehensive review of recent research on teaching and learning from a variety of academic disciplines. These disciplines include cognitive science, developmental psychology, education research, the design of effective learn- ing environments, the history and philosophy of science, and new interdisciplinary fields, such as neurobiology and sociocultural studies of the mind. It deliberated on the information it had gathered, identified gaps and questions, and gathered more information to fill these gaps. It held three public fact-finding meetings, reviewed unpublished research, and commissioned experts to prepare and present papers. xiv Ready, Set, SCIENCE!
At its fourth and fifth meetings, the committee intensely analyzed and discussed its findings and conclusions in the process of writing its report. Even before the committeeâs first meeting, the leadership of the Merck Institute for Science Education realized that the committeeâs report would contain information that would be extremely useful for everyone involved, directly or indirectly, in the teaching of science. The executive director of the Merck Institute, Carlo Parravano, asked the director of the Board on Science Education about the possibility of produc- ing a book based on the committeeâs report that would be focused directly on the needs of science education practitioners. The Board on Science Education and the leadership of the National Research Council agreed that such a book would have tre- mendous value, and the Merck Institute generously agreed to support the project. This book has been written for individuals who influence what happens in K-8 classrooms. That group includes teachers, of course, and it includes many other people as well. Science specialists who work with classroom teachers are a particularly important target audience. These individuals are in an ideal position to implement the ideas in this book through their work both with teachers and with school administrators. Other major audiences include curriculum supervi- sors, staff development experts, teacher educators, curriculum and assessment developers, and school principals. All of these individuals work in a system that determines what happens in the classroom. This book is intended to help every- one in this system work together toward common objectives. Just as the intended audiences for this book include a variety of groups, so it can be used in a variety of ways. Its primary purpose is to help K-8 science educators grapple with a burgeoning body of research on teaching and learn- ing science and to consider its implications for practice. To that end, individual teachers can use it to shape and reflect on what occurs in their classrooms. Teacher study groups and teacher leaders can use it as a guide for discussions and learning. Professional developers and university-based teacher educators can use it to shape the experiences and knowledge that teachers bring to their classrooms. School administrators and policy makers can use it to determine the kinds of support that teachers and other educators need to do their jobs well. Parents also will find much that is of interest in this book, since they are their childrenâs first teachers and have an important influence on science education in elementary and middle schools. This is not a how-to book, but rather a way to bring the best of research to practitioners and to contextualize research in familiar classroom settings. Those interested in using this book in professional education (e.g., science teacher education, teacher work groups, curriculum and Preface xv
assessment development, staff meetings) may draw on the accompanying ques- tions in Appendix A and extended examples in Appendixes B and C. This book contains the major observations and conclusions made in Taking Science to School: Learning and Teaching Science in Grades K-8. The committeeâs work has been reorganized and reshaped specifically for a practitioner audience. In addition, the book contains a number of elements that have been designed to make the committeeâs conclusions as useful as possible in a classroom setting. Most noticeably, most of the chapters feature stories that are designed to make the research findings described in this book more concrete. Most of these stories are based on real classroom experiences (although in some cases the names of the stu- dents and teachers and some of the details of the events have been changed). As a result, they illustrate the complexities that teachers grapple with every day. They show how teachers work to select and design rigorous and engaging instructional tasks, manage classrooms, orchestrate productive discussions with culturally and linguistically diverse groups of students, and help students make their thinking vis- ible using a variety of representational tools. In writing its report, the Committee on Science Learning, Kindergarten Through Eighth Grade made an important point that applies to this book as well. In some areas, current research is not robust enough to offer a detailed, step-by-step road map for improving science education. But the need for improvement is urgent, and enough is known to move forward. As a result, the committee offered what it called âbest betsâ for improving science education. These best bets are based on well-substantiated research, but additional documentation is needed through con- tinued research and careful evaluations of changing practices. By evaluating school, district, and state initiatives, these best bets can be transformed into well-researched alternatives for policy and practice. The world is changing much faster now than it was just a couple of decades ago. Countries with scientifically proficient workers are likely to fare much better than those without them. Good decisions on such issues as stem cell research, climate change, and energy policy require that people have a sound education in science. The underrepresentation of women and many minority groups in U.S. science remains a serious problem, especially as those groups become a larger percentage of the popula- tion. The gap between disadvantaged students and mainstream students in science learning continues to be an affront to American ideals of fairness and opportunity. Recent research can help teachers and other educators meet the many demands being made on them. This research points toward a kind of science education that differs substantially from what occurs in most science classrooms today. Itâs time to ready science education for the 21st century. xvi Ready, Set, SCIENCE!