A key challenge for enacting the vision of weaving science and literacy practices together effectively is preparing new and existing teachers. The workshop featured five case studies of programs that are successfully preparing science teachers to have the content knowledge, pedagogical strategies, and orientation to ways of building knowledge put forth in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), while also naturally and effectively weaving in literacy practices. Two of these case studies featured teacher preparation programs in university settings, and the remaining three featured different approaches to professional development for practicing teachers.
Each of the cases offered unique perspectives and approaches; however, several themes emerged from the presentations:
- Working in community and engaging in hands-on experiences along with reading, writing, and speaking are important for learning for both teachers and their students.
- Helping teachers to become aware of the strategies they use for sense-making can help them better understand their students’ needs.
- Learning how to construct a supportive classroom culture is an important element for successfully implementing new science practices.
PREPARING NOVICE TEACHERS
Case Study 1: Teacher Preparation at the University of Michigan
Elizabeth Davis, University of Michigan, described the preparation that novice teachers need to successfully weave science and literacy instruction together for their students.1 According to the NGSS, she stated, students need to have knowledge of core concepts and be able to use the eight science and engineering practices. So, it follows that their teachers need to be proficient in the eight practices, as shown in Box 5-1. However, to be effective, she said teachers must also have content knowledge specifically related to teaching, such as the common difficulties that students encounter and the strengths and weaknesses of various ways of representing science ideas. In addition, teachers also need a repertoire of teaching strategies that map onto NGSS and Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts (CCSS for ELA). In science, teachers need to develop strategies around supporting classroom discourse and eliciting student ideas. In domains emphasized in the CCSS for ELA, teachers also need knowledge of and understandings in literacy, including both the nature of literacy and pedagogical knowledge and strategies. Davis emphasized that these demands indicate the complexity of what novice teachers must master.
Davis described the teacher preparation program at the University of Michigan to illustrate one approach to meeting this challenge. For students at all levels, the teacher preparation program follows a coherent sequence of coursework that involves science methods courses, addresses differentiation of instruction, and, particularly germane to the topic of the workshop, includes a course in literacy in science. For secondary teacher education, the literacy course is not a general course about literacy development and strategies. Rather, it is specifically grounded in using literacy for teaching science. As Davis described, students learn specific techniques for helping children access and comprehend text in science. Further, the teacher preparation program has a practice-based orientation that consists of carefully planned opportunities to practice particular skills in teaching that increase in length and complexity over the course of the program.
Overall, Davis stated that the literacy for science aspect of the University of Michigan secondary teacher preparation program was designed to meet three main goals: (1) to develop recognition that scientific work is infused with literacy practices; (2) to expand students’ definition of text to include graphs, diagrams,
1For more information, see the following commissioned paper: Davis and Bricker (2013).
NGSS SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING PRACTICES
1. Asking questions (for science) and defining problems (for engineering).
2. Developing and using models.
3. Planning and carrying out investigations.
4. Analyzing and interpreting data.
5. Using mathematics and computational thinking.
6. Constructing explanations (for science) and designing solutions (for engineering).
7. Engaging in argument from evidence.
8. Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information.
NOTE: NGSS, Next Generation Science Standards.
SOURCE: National Research Council (2012).
models, and other representations; and (3) to prepare students to bridge everyday and scientific discourse in the classroom. She emphasized that these goals are necessary because often novice science teachers do not see the value of text and other forms of literacy in the science classroom.
Next, Davis described the University of Michigan novice teacher preparation program for elementary education students. As with the secondary teacher education program, the elementary education program is carefully sequenced. A focus on disciplinary literacy is infused throughout the program. Students begin their teacher preparation program with a course entitled “Children as Sensemakers.” This course supports novice teachers in seeing that “children are constantly making sense of the world” and helping them to develop the “knowledge and skills that are related to mediating that sense-making,” Davis explained. It also offers them supported opportunities to practice their emerging skills in combining text and hands-on experiences to help children make sense of scientific phenomena.
Throughout the elementary teacher education program, the students build skills toward using informational texts, in preparation to meet the CCSS for ELA, but also in supporting children in obtaining, evaluating, and communicating scientific information. By way of example, Davis indicated that their teacher education students, or interns, learn how to assist students in comparing readings with physical models, as well as how to support students in making sense of their observations using writing in science journals and classroom talk.
In sum, Davis suggested that novice teacher preparation programs must provide students with disciplinary and pedagogical content knowledge, a set of high-leverage teaching strategies, and an understanding of their ethical obligations as teachers. Box 5-2 shows a set of experiences, strategies, and skills that novice teachers need in these programs to enact the visions of the NGSS and CCSS for ELA in Davis’ view. Specifically, she indicated that teacher education can use methods such as video exemplars, decompositions of strategies, and opportunities to approximate ideal practice. Preparation programs can also specifically address the “claim-evidence-reasoning” framework and teacher roles in productive classroom discourse. Last, Davis argued that programs can infuse disciplinary literacy throughout their programs by examining literacy-related products, developing discourse conventions, and supporting the infusion of literacy work into science investigations.
IMPLICATIONS OF NGSS AND CCSS FOR ELA FOR TEACHER EDUCATION
Novice teachers need to be able to:
- Hear and see the science in students’ talk, artifacts, and writing.
- Develop discourse norms that allow students to talk and write science.
- Develop and use scaffolding to support students in science-and literacy practices.
- Use, find, interpret, and evaluate informational text, and support students in doing so to generate, use, and evaluate a wide range of texts, including representations of ideas and of data, and support students in understanding these.
- Do all these things to support all of the students in the classroom.
NOTES: CCSS for ELA, Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts; NGSS, Next Generation Science Standards.
SOURCE: Davis and Bricker (2013).
Case Study 2: Teacher Preparation at the University of Washington
Mark Windschitl described how the secondary science teacher preparation program at the University of Washington helps novice teachers develop a repertoire of literacy support strategies.2 A graduate of that program, Lindsey Berk, currently teaching at Chinook Middle School in SeaTac, Washington, provided insight based on her experiences as well. Overall, Windschitl indicated that their teacher education program follows a model of four core teaching strategies, as shown in Figure 5-1, focusing on developing high-leverage strategies. As the model shows, they fit together and follow a sequence.
This approach to preparing science teachers is based ultimately upon what the goals are for students in the classroom. Windschitl indicated that in a science classroom where students are all contributing to knowledge production, students need relevant and compelling contexts for engaging in science, skills in representation that enable them to make their thinking visible to others, scaffolds and routines to facilitate science reading and writing, and sufficient time and opportunity to participate in refining ideas. He specifically addressed how literacy practices are woven in each of the four parts of their preparation model and used in the planning and implementing of 2- to 3-week science units.
Novice teachers first focus on planning for engagement with science ideas, Windschitl explained. A key aspect of this process is selecting a phenomenon that is relevant, compelling, and complex to explain. Topics that are based in phenomena that have great explanatory power are ideal, he said, because figuring out how to make sense of the selected event, observation, or phenomenon serves as the driving force behind all of the lessons in a given unit. The purpose is not to have students reproduce an answer from a textbook, but rather to plan experiences that allow students to generate ideas, gather evidence, develop explanations, and refine their ideas to produce an evidence-based explanation. The teacher preparation program involves helping novices unpack the existing curriculum and the NGSS to identify science ideas around which to plan “anchoring events.”
Next, Berk offered an example of an anchoring event that she planned. She focused on the spread of English ivy as an invasive species and trying to determine why it was harmful. Her students made observations and collected samples of English ivy. All subsequent activities, including readings, writing, discussions, and hands-on activities in the unit, were in service of understanding this anchor-
2For more information, see the following commissioned paper: Windschitl and Carlson (2013).
FIGURE 5-1 Model for science teacher preparation at the University of Washington.
SOURCE: Berk and Windschitl (2013).
ing, and culminated in developing a scientific explanation for this particular phenomenon.
After planning for engagement, novice science teachers focus on learning how to elicit student ideas, Berk stated. An important overarching element to this phase is the idea that teaching must specifically attend to ensuring that all students are able to contribute and access the curriculum. Eliciting student ideas can begin
with telling a story, showing an image, or viewing a video about the anchoring event. The discourse that follows requires that teachers have a set of skills in this domain. Discourse is so central to the approach of this program that students receive a primer on this topic on the first day of their teaching methods course. Further, the program emphasizes “discourse practices” rather than “teaching practices.”
Novice teachers learn how to provide students with a structure for representing their ideas and making their thinking available to others. In particular, they guide students in developing pictorial models accompanied by text that explain the phenomenon of the anchoring event. Each student produces a model that shows an event or a process and depicts change over time. They must also label what is observable in their model, as well as what is not observable because, as Windschitl stated, “in the world of science, what is unobservable nearly always explains what is observable in the world.” These models help students communicate their ideas in ways that practicing scientists use.
Berk illustrated the process of eliciting student ideas by describing a unit she created about force and motion. In this unit, students worked to explain how a person could do a “wall flip,” running up a wall to do a back flip. Each student created his or her own pictorial model and text explanations. Students discussed their ideas, and a class poster depicting the initial model was developed. This model became an object for student revision and refinement of ideas as they gained more knowledge over the course of the unit. Berk added that using pencil to create this initial model reinforces the idea that it will be revised over time. Figure 5-2 shows the scaffolds and the ways in which students shared and refined their ideas across the unit, and are described in more detail below.
The third skill that novice teachers learn is supporting students’ ongoing changes in thinking. Berk stated that this phase of learning in a unit constitutes the greatest amount of time. Often six or seven different activities can accompany this development of knowledge and understanding. Students may engage in a hands-on activity followed by reading or vice versa. An important part of preparing novice teachers for helping their students engage meaningfully with science texts is helping them become conscious of the processes they use themselves to make sense of texts. Explicitly addressing this awareness helps novice teachers more greatly appreciate what their students who do not yet use these strategies must learn to do. To help students learn these strategies, teachers use scaffolds during prereading, reading, and postreading.
FIGURE 5-2 Examples of scaffolds and student work.
SOURCE: Berk and Windschitl (2013).
Berk showed an example of a scaffold to support changes in thinking during her force and motion unit. She supported students in their creation of a poster that had columns for activities, observations students made during those activities, explanations for their observations based on readings of various texts, and ideas about how that activity contributed to understanding of the anchoring event.
Students worked in groups to compare their individual ideas for each cell of the chart and through discourse, students identified the best information to go on the class poster. Thus, readings are explicitly connected to first-hand investigation, and are always contextualized in service of explaining a compelling scientific phenomenon. Students produce all aspects of the class poster. As Berk stated, “Students get practice at taking complex ideas, making them concise and hearing how other students would put those ideas in one or two sentences.”
Berk said the revision process is a key aspect of supporting students’ change in thinking; however, most students do not know how to critique their own models or those of other students in the way that scientists do. Moreover, the models can be very complex, and talk around sense-making can move too quickly for many students, particularly for English language learners. To address these issues around the revision process, Berk developed a model while studying at the University of Washington that has become widely adopted in her area. She developed a system of using color-coded sticky notes, accompanied by a set of sentence stems to scaffold support for revisions. Four different colors were used to represent “revise part of an idea,” “add a new idea,” “remove or find out more,” and “questions.” Students wrote their ideas on the sticky notes using scientific language and terms and then placed them on the part of the model on the poster needing the revision. This method also ensures that the pace slows down to provide sufficient time for thinking and composing feedback to peers. She added that her students conduct one model revision to avoid “model fatigue” that can result from pressing students to revise two or more times.
The last three days of a unit are devoted to pressing for evidence-based explanations of the anchoring event. The purpose is to help students pull together the multiple models, texts, and revisions to create a final model. Writing these final causal explanations requires scaffolding, according to Windschitl. Necessary supports include providing a structure for writing these explanations, sufficient time to do so, prewriting activities, opportunities to rehearse their explanations, and strategies for breaking explanations into their smaller components. A key question that helps guide students as they begin to craft explanations is, “What is it you think we are trying to explain?” One strategy that Berk used to help students rehearse their final explanations was having students create new, more intricate pictorial models and text. She then had students post their papers on a larger poster, on which their peers could write feedback and ideas for further refining their final explanations.
PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT WITH PRACTICING TEACHERS
Case Study 3: Next Generation Science Exemplar-Based Professional Learning Systems
Jean Moon, Tidemark Institute, described a professional development model that she developed with a team of researchers.3 The model, Next Generation Science Exemplar-Based Professional Learning Systems (NGSX), is housed on a Web-based platform and based on video exemplars.4 Several principles guided the design of NGSX, Moon said. First, the model focuses on science. Participating teachers learn disciplinary core ideas in science and engage in scientific practices, such as explanation, argument, and modeling. Second, NGSX emphasizes student sense-making. Teachers analyze student discourse and work using video cases as they build core ideas and strategies. Third, NGSX explicitly addresses pedagogy and how teachers can support student practices and discourse, again using video exemplars. In Moon’s words, an approach that includes video exemplars helps to “get at something that’s very critical in getting to this new vision and that’s helping teachers imagine what this looks like and what it feels like.”
NGSX is a blended learning model organized into learning pathways, according to Moon. An array of resources, experts, tools, and tasks are all housed on a Web platform. Groups of teachers, who teach at all levels from elementary through high school, meet face-to-face in groups facilitated by one of the teachers in the group. Teachers then access the Web-based materials via laptop, smart phone, or tablet. Groups establish their own pace through the pathways, which each consist of eight or nine units. Each unit takes approximately three to four hours with additional “on your own” activities that tie previous units with current and future ones.
Moon described how teachers begin each pathway. They start by viewing a video that presents them with a challenge about a particular science construct that they will learn about. Teachers work together to progress through the pathway, but continue interface with the Website, uploading and posting pictures of their work. They also encounter expertise from scientists, as well as from pedagogical experts. The Website also possesses tools that help to “catalyze” social interaction.
For the initial pilot of NGSX, Units 1 to 3 focused directly on science content and centered on the following question: “What are models in science, and
3For more information, see the following commissioned paper: Moon (2013).
how are they evaluated and revisited?” Next, Units 4 and 5 addressed two questions: “How do I build classroom culture that supports public reasoning?” and “How do I build a classroom culture that supports all learners?” These two units emphasized the culture of scientific discourse in the classroom. Units 6 and 7 focused on argumentation and how to help students argue from evidence, as well as the types of tools teachers can use to help students refine models over time to develop deep explanations of phenomena. In each unit, Moon emphasized that science and literacy are “all very integrated.” She also stated that NGSX aims to situate professional development for teachers that is contextualized as closely as possible to teachers’ own classrooms and students. Throughout the professional development, teachers do experiments, talk with one another, write, and refine their ideas, documenting their experiences with photos and videos. Moon also indicated that she and her colleagues are using NGSX as a context for research.
Jocelyn Lloyd, a 1st-grade teacher at Woodland Academy in Worcester, Massachusetts, described her experiences as a recent participant in NGSX. Specific aspects of the professional development were particularly positive in her view. She noted that she and her colleagues were engaged in hands-on experiences right from the beginning, which contributed to her feeling that she “forgot she was in professional development.” The approach also made use of strategies that Lloyd has found useful with her students, namely learning by doing, but also processing information with others. Lloyd also appreciated having colleagues as facilitators, which she said fostered team-building. She said it also eliminated feelings of intimidation that can occur with an expert leader. With this group dynamic, she felt that it was acceptable not to have all the answers.
Lloyd then described in more detail the particular science content she encountered through NGSX, states of matter, and how she applied her new knowledge and strategies in her own classroom. She added that her classroom is composed of 22 students, 15 of whom are English language learners (ELLs) and all of whom receive free and reduced-cost school lunches. Her goals for her students not only focused on helping to learn about states of matter, but also helping the students learn to discuss, debate, predict, and collaborate to make sense of their observations. Lloyd paired several hands-on experiences with productive classroom discourse to share ideas. She indicated that she was able to use comparable types of experiences in writing in her classroom as she experienced herself in NGSX. In closing, she emphasized that the hands-on approach to professional development assisted her in internalizing the approaches to teaching science and in bringing the practices back to her classroom.
Case Study 4: Quality Teaching of English Learners at the International Newcomer Academy
Aida Walqui, WestEd, presented a professional development model for enacting literacy for science that she has used over the last three years at the International Newcomer Academy (INA) in Fort Worth, Texas, a school of more than 300 students who have just arrived in the United States from more than 35 different countries. More than half of the students are Spanish-speaking, but 25 other languages are spoken as well. She began her remarks indicating that the experiences of the partnership between Quality Teaching for English Learners (Q-TEL) and INA shows how professional development can support ambitious science learning with ELLs, who are present to varying degrees in all schools throughout the United States. She stated, “We used to think that kids needed English first, but now we see that students engaged with worthwhile science practices … also develop the ways linguistically of enacting those practices and developing literacy skills.”
Walqui indicated that Q-TEL is based on several key premises about English language learners (ELLs) that guide their work. First, they come to school with great potential, and it is critical to avoid deficit-based views of these students. Building on this idea, she stated, “Our role as educators is to grow [a student’s] potential through apprenticeship processes that work beyond their level of autonomy and both challenge and support students in their gradual appropriation of practices.” This mindset frames their “pedagogy of promise,” where students’ future success is assumed. To achieve this vision for English language learners, Q-TEL centers its approach on providing scaffolding that supports students and teachers. Walqui argued that teachers who possess the knowledge and strategies to serve the needs of ELL students to learn science well will serve all students well. However, the opposite is not the case, she stated.
Teachers who are to enact this vision of ambitious science learning for all need support that provides them with multiple opportunities to deepen their subject matter knowledge, grow their expertise in disciplinary pedagogy, learn to use existing curricula critically, tailor instruction responsively to context and student needs, and participate in learning communities of other teachers, according to Walqui. Even teachers who have participated in excellent teacher preparation programs continue to need these opportunities, she argued. With regard to literacy for science in particular, teachers need to continue to deepen their knowledge as well as their awareness of literacy practices as they are enacted when they read and use language. This thoughtfulness requires devoting time for planning and imple-
menting. Overall, Walqui stressed that professional development that succeeds in building teacher knowledge, expertise, and strategies cannot be achieved through a workshop, but rather requires time, ongoing support, and an orientation toward lifelong learning.
Walqui described the key features of the professional development program at INA. The school-wide program is long term and intensive over a three-year period. All teachers at INA participate in learning communities situated within their particular disciplines, and they experience a coherent set of supports that range from workshops to intensive coaching. The content of the professional development is multilayered and theory-driven, focusing both on disciplinary content and quality classroom interactions. Central to the Q-TEL approach is support for student “apprentices” as they move toward greater conceptual knowledge and facility with practices. Walqui emphasized that students must be actively invited to participate and supported with scaffolds that fade as independence increases.
Professional development at INA is nested, as shown in Figure 5-3, and designed to build institutional capacity. Walqui detailed the process. Facilitators spend six days working with educational leaders at the school, followed by one day with all staff across disciplines and five days with each team of teachers within a discipline. During these whole-day training sessions that teachers spend with their discipline-specific teams, they work on exemplar lessons learning scaffolding techniques and a repertoire of interactive strategies for increasing student engagement in the learning process. These exemplar lessons use a balance of hand-on activities, readings, and reflective discussions. Teachers who become coaches for other teachers within their discipline receive an additional four days of training, and some of them go on to become professional developers, spending an additional eight days in training. Coaches work with teachers following the workshops in four-day cycles. They meet with teachers prior to conducting classroom observations, observe, and then meet afterward to debrief. This reflective process enables teachers to see how changes in their strategies lead to changes in student participation and an increase in the rigor of the content. This nested approach builds the in-house capabilities and expertise of the entire school over a three-year period.
Tanya Warren, who has participated in the professional development over the past three years, described her work as a teacher of integrated physics and chemistry at International Newcomer Academy. She indicated that her participation in this professional development has led to dramatic shifts in both her thinking and teaching. For example, she said she previously felt students had to have a
FIGURE 5-3 Nested model of professional development at International Newcomer Academy.
SOURCE: Adapted from Walqui et al. (2013).
certain level of English proficiency to participate in various aspects of the curriculum. Now, she believes that the appropriate level of support is what is needed for all students to engage meaningfully with the material. In her words, “ELLs can be successful at many things I once thought were impossible.”
Describing a particular unit of study with her students focused on atomic structure, she shared what her previous approach to instruction would have been. Prior to her professional development, she would have had a teacher-centered approach with a PowerPoint presentation, readings, and a “foldable” writing assignment. Now, even though she continues to use the same curriculum, she has learned to adapt it by putting supports into place so that students directly engage with one other as they build knowledge. She has put into place a structure for
various activities within consistent and predictable routines. For example, students make observations and then write questions based on their observations. They then work in small groups to share their questions in a round-robin fashion, with the group working together to reach consensus about one of those questions to share with the whole class. Rules, such as no interrupting, are established to support these routines. The approaches to activities are designed to mimic those of practicing scientists, such as asking questions, making observations, interpreting diagrams, and collaborating with peers. Warren showed videos5 of students who had recently arrived in the United States engaging in scientific discussions with peers as they worked to refine and clarify their ideas. She emphasized that through this type of discourse, students developed their own voice and increased in confidence as they learned to use the language of science. She noted that the use of two different languages in the discussion did not impede their progress in beginning to enact scientific practices and develop conceptual knowledge. Warren added that her students demonstrated increasing mental stamina as they persevered during the sense-making process, and they learned to listen to one another to construct meaning together. Similarly, she said the professional community of teachers learned to collaborate to reflect and make sense of their own professional practices as science teachers.
Case Study 5: Partnership for Effective Science Teaching and Learning
Brett Moulding, Utah Partnership for Effective Science Teaching and Learning (PESTL), described PESTL’s intensive three-year, 330-hour professional development program for science teachers.6 Its developers used the expectations laid out in Taking Science to School, published in 2007, in designing the program, as well as Ready, Set, SCIENCE! in their first year of implementation. Since 2008, they have worked with two cohorts of 120 educators (2008-2011 and 2011-2014). Moulding focused his remarks on how they have approached helping teachers develop an understanding of science practices, crosscutting concepts, and core ideas in service of helping students communicate in science. A defining feature of the approach is the focus on “science performances,” which are multifaceted, authentic experiences in doing, thinking, and communicating science. He likened
5To watch the video, go to time 5:42 of Warren’s presentation at http://sites.nationalacademies.org/DBASSE/BOSE/DBASSE_087376 [August 2014].
6For more information, see the following commissioned paper: Moulding (2013).
science instruction without performance to watching a piano teacher and reading music but never playing the piano.
As Moulding described, the PESTL approach to professional development engages teachers in doing science performances themselves, as well as reflecting upon their instructional strategies. Overall, Moulding argued that professional development for science teachers must parallel very closely what science students should be doing. Performance in science, supported by instruction, assessment, materials, and professional development, is at the intersection of the disciplinary core ideas, crosscutting concepts, and science and engineering practices.
The professional development provides teachers with a structure for the crosscutting concepts in science. This structure links concepts around causality, patterns, and systems. Focusing on causality helps to support the reading and writing of science and constructing explanations, Moulding noted. Both teachers and students learn to look for patterns throughout their engagement with phenomena, which assists them with constructing and rehearsing their scientific explanations. Systems help in categorizing types of phenomena, including change and stability, matter and energy, and scale and proportion. The combination of defining systems, finding and using patterns for evidence, and determining cause and effect relationships in service of constructing explanations of scientific phenomena has proven to be a powerful tool, according to Moulding.
Moulding then described how this approach to professional development in science addresses the science and engineering practices. Teachers and their students move from gathering evidence to reasoning to communicating. He noted that while reasoning cuts across all areas, their professional development addresses it explicitly in detail through discussion with teachers because often teachers move from gathering to communicating, and “jump over reasoning.” These practices directly link to the CCSS for ELA and NGSS, as shown in Table 5-1. Showing these linkages to teachers has helped them understand the nature of evidence across disciplines, he added.
Moulding provided an example of this approach using the phenomenon of the variable timing of when quaking aspen7 leaves emerge. Teachers engage with this specific example, conducting science performances to explain this phenomenon. The process of constructing an explanation consists of five components:
7The quaking aspen is a tree native to North America, characterized by smooth white bark and heart-shaped leaves that “quake” when the wind blows. They grow clustered together in colonies connected by a common root system. Some aspen trees leaf out several weeks before other nearby aspen trees.
TABLE 5-1 Connections among Science, Engineering, and Literacy
|Practices||Science and Engineering Practices||Literacy Expectations|
SOURCE: Moulding (2013).
group performance, individual performance, classroom discourse, science reflection, and teacher reflection. The group performance begins with exploring the initial information about the quaking aspen and developing a set of questions. Teachers gather information from a variety of sources and investigate possible explanations for the variable timing of leafing. They develop pieces of evidence, using core ideas to support their emerging explanations.
During individual performance, teachers write their explanations about causality in a science journal. They must include sources of information and the evidence in their explanations. This period of individual work is followed by classroom discourse about the phenomenon. According to Moulding, “We believe that
their use of core ideas in science as evidence when connected to explanations is the most powerful shift in that vision for science education brought about. It also becomes a powerful shift in the way students construct writing by putting core ideas into the writing pieces that they do.”
Teachers are provided with devices to support obtaining information from valuable sources. Asking questions that do not have simple answers helps to move how teachers think about and obtain information about science ideas, Moulding said. They move from simply looking for information about scientific terms, like hydrogen bonding or evaporation, down to core ideas, like matter and energy. In Moulding’s experience, this shift has proven important in helping teachers see that the “world of science is simpler than what we have let them on to believe.”
In showing examples from two teachers, Moulding emphasized that their activities explicitly support looking for core concepts and reasoning in students’ reading, writing, and speaking. In addition, effective scientific classroom discourse also takes place within a supportive classroom culture with rules and an orientation towards collaboration and cooperation. He also indicated that teachers’ written reflections on their strategies suggest that science journaling and having long segments of time devoted to writing about core ideas, evidence, and explanations for phenomenon is a meaningful way for students to engage in the sense-making process.
For science writing to be a compelling activity, both teachers and students need interesting phenomena to write about, Moulding stated. Further, he added, both teachers and students need tools to support writing. A deep understanding of core ideas developed over time, as well as their own direct experiences with phenomena, information gathered through reading, and use of online sources, all support science writing. In addition, structures are put in place to support the use of scientific evidence in writing.
Moulding differentiated the roles of teachers. He noted that the science and engineering practices described in the NGSS constitute what students are to do. However, instructional strategies are what teachers use to develop these practices, tailored to specific scientific performances. He closed by reinforcing that the goal for teachers is for their students to be able to perform science, gather information, reason, and communicate effectively.
Following the presentations of the teacher preparation and professional development programs, the audience and presenters engaged in a discussion of crosscutting issues and lingering concerns. During the discussion, an audience member raised the issue of who retains authority for determining knowledge in the classroom. Allowing students to build their knowledge and understanding by gathering evidence, using reasoning, and constructing explanations means that teachers let go of being the source of authority. When teachers retain ultimate authority of knowledge, classroom discourse can focus on students trying to guess what answer the teacher wants, rather than using scientific reasoning and argument to construct the best explanations. Berk responded that students are used to having teachers decide what answers are right and wrong, and that it takes time to redirect class discussions toward the evidence. However, she added, doing so is possible and that when this is achieved, the knowledge of the entire class is elevated.
Additional discussion centered on the time needed for instructional strategies to change and solidify. One participant observed that teachers can “panic,” abandoning their planning, particularly in the moment during scientific discourse in the classroom. Lloyd indicated that this is especially difficult when a discussion is moving in an incorrect direction with students agreeing. When teachers face ambiguity or discomfort in these situations, it is easy to revert to previous instruction methods or ways in which teachers themselves were taught. Davis indicated that creating and showing video to teachers of themselves is one way to help teachers reflect upon their instructional strategies and to begin to become aware of when they are shifting away from productive scientific discourse. Warren affirmed this idea, and added that teachers not only need to debrief about their strategies, but also need time, often several years, to solidify their strategies in science teaching.
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