Many participants and presenters during the workshop noted that the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts (CCSS for ELA) and the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) point to the importance of equipping students with a set of tools for critical thinking and making sense of the world, and building new knowledge upon prior knowledge in a cohesive manner. In language arts, teachers develop the means by which students can access, understand, produce, and communicate language for many purposes. In the study of science, students and teachers engage in science and engineering practices and apply crosscutting concepts to deepen their understanding of each field’s disciplinary core ideas. The aspects of literacy in science included in the CCSS for ELA and the NGSS intersect and point to a new direction for instruction. The intersection also presents both challenges that need to be addressed and opportunities for mutual benefit at the classroom and school level, through professional development, and on a larger scale across systems. Many participants stressed over the course of the workshop that reading, writing, and language are natural and authentic parts of doing science. Similarly, literacy is a powerful tool for reasoning and making sense of the world. Thus, they said, reading, writing, and language do not merely overlap with science but are woven throughout all of the disciplines in school.
This chapter includes an overview of the themes and messages that emerged during the workshop, as well as steps suggested by individual participants to catalyze action.
TEXT AND TALK
Several participants presented their ideas about the nature of text and talk in science and how teachers can help students engage in the sense-making process through these means. Catherine O’Connor, Jonathan Osborne, Ann Palincsar, and Mary Schleppegrell addressed issues around text, and Okhee Lee and Sarah Michaels offered presentations focused on scientific discourse in the classroom. According to these presentations, reading, writing, and well-structured talk are all natural and critical parts of engaging in science. The unique ways that scientists write and talk requires that teachers not only give their students tools and scaffolds to help them master challenging language but also the necessary time to grapple with these challenges. Helping students develop effective reading, writing, and discourse skills means that teachers must possess key knowledge, pedagogy, and strategies, they noted.
Several presentations focused on science texts. These presenters pointed out that text plays an important and authentic role in the classroom at all levels of K-12 education. The texts used in K-12 classrooms include a variety of sources and forms, including the textbook, but also journal articles, popular magazines addressing science topics, reference materials, and Web content. As these presenters pointed out, each form of science texts is unique and often challenging for students to comprehend. The texts often include unique sentence constructions and contain words that differ from everyday and even general academic language. Science texts can be more complex and dense than other types of texts that students encounter, and are generally multimodal, including prose, but also graphs, tables, and other pictorial representations. Several presenters pointed out that because of these unique features of science texts, teachers need to support students in making sense of what they read. Specific scaffolds do exist for this purpose. However, as O’Connor stressed, students also need time to grapple with these challenging texts and to see their teachers engaging in these productive struggles.
The discourse that happens in the classroom is also important to the sense-making process. Michaels pointed to the importance of making thinking public as a means for learning how to construct scientific explanations. Just as scientific text is unique from other texts, so too is the talk. Lee suggested that scientific talk is “precise, explicit, and complex.” Gaining access to this language and way of speaking is essential for all students, and is facilitated by a close look at the receptive and productive practices and ways of speaking required. Lee offered such a framework at the workshop. However, as Michaels argued, these unique ways of speaking in science about ideas will require a major shift in strategies away from
the traditional Initiation-Response-Evaluation model (Mehan, 1979) that most teachers experienced themselves and learned through their preparation. To support teachers in this shift, teachers need “talk moves,” she said. In her view, this high-leverage strategy is essential to successful implementation of both the CCSS for ELA and the NGSS.
The workshop included four specific examples of curricula that are successfully addressing literacy for science in different age-level settings. In addition to describing the development and key elements of these approaches, teachers implementing each of these curricula presented specific illustrations from their classrooms and their views on their experiences. Across the presentations, presenters identified a number of themes. First, these curricula demonstrate that curricula that successfully integrate science and literacy currently exist and are being effectively implemented across various levels of K-12. Importantly, a number of presentations included data that show that student outcomes in both science and literacy can improve as a result of using these curricula, including outcomes among diverse student populations. Longitudinal data presented showed that in some cases, benefits of the curriculum can persist for years beyond use of the curricula.
Jacqueline Barber described Seeds of Science/Roots of Reading, a science curriculum for elementary students. The model of this curriculum is based on four key components—Do, Talk, Read, and Write. The curriculum pairs first-hand and second-hand investigations centered around answering a question about a scientific phenomenon. The need to answer a scientific question gives each activity purpose, and the overarching goal is to help students be able to construct scientific explanations and make arguments. Teachers support this process through scaffolding that they fade over time. Sherrie Roland shared detailed illustrations of her implementation, emphasizing that integrating literacy for science is not only possible for typical students who are on or above grade level, but is also possible for students who are English language learners and students with special needs.
Nancy Romance described Science IDEAS, a curriculum developed for older elementary students. This curriculum is used in place of the language arts block and provides the content about which students read and write. The curriculum places scientific concepts at the center from which the practices emanate. Propositional concept maps are a key element of Science IDEAS, and they are used to build on what students already know and show how new concepts build on this knowledge and relate to each other. Students engage in hands-on investi-
gation paired with reading, science journaling, and other activities to build and revise their maps about key science ideas over the course of a unit with teacher support. Students engage in problem solving and reflection. She said a key purpose of this approach is to help students build on their understanding of the world in a cohesive manner. Evaluation of Science IDEAS has indicated that this approach benefits students in both language arts and science and that these benefits are long-lasting.
LeeAnn Sutherland described Investigating and Questioning our World through Science and Technology (IQWST), a science curriculum for middle school students. Designed to help foster cohesion both within and across physical science, chemistry, earth science, and life science, IQWST seeks to build students’ skills in sense-making and using claims, evidence, and reasoning to develop explanations for driving questions. The curriculum is organized into 8- to 10-week units, during which students engage in investigations, reading, writing, and talking. Deborah Peek-Brown shared her observations about IQWST in the classroom. In her view, learning to use the language of argumentation is more than a way of talking or writing; it is a way of thinking about the world. IQWST uses a supported, iterative process to help students learn to communicate their thinking to others.
Susan Goldman and Cynthia Greenleaf shared their perspectives on Project READi, a curriculum for students at the middle and high school levels. Greenleaf shared that this curriculum is designed to supplement an existing curriculum that includes hands-on investigation. It consists of text-based modules composed of carefully selected and sequenced readings that help students develop causal models of explanations of scientific phenomena. Students are encouraged to grapple with the evidence presented within and across texts to be able to answer questions, like “How do we know?” or “How do we make sense of our differences?” A key aspect of Project READi is helping students to shift their way of approaching reading in science to one of active engagement and orientation to looking for evidence and support for claims. Greenleaf shared that this approach has been effective but has required adequate support for teachers.
The workshop included five case studies that focused on how to prepare teachers to teach science in ways that help students to make sense of the world, addressing the particular element of how to prepare them to integrate literacy for science. Two of these cases described ways to prepare preservice teachers, and three cases focused on professional development for practicing teachers.
Across these presentations, several common themes emerged. First, these approaches for preparing teachers emphasized engaging teachers in experiences that mirror those that their students should be engaging in, including working in communities, engaging in hands-on activities, reading, and writing. Many presenters emphasized helping teachers become aware of their own strategies for making sense of text. Constructing a culture for learning where it was acceptable to ask questions and make mistakes proved important for teachers as well as for their students, according to these presenters.
Each of the cases had unique aspects as well. Elizabeth Davis emphasized that novice teachers need not only to gain knowledge of disciplinary content but also knowledge of pedagogy, ways that students learn and common difficulties they encounter. Teachers need to be equipped with a set of strategies and many opportunities to practice them. Mark Windschitl emphasized his program at the University of Washington focuses on four core strategies—planning for engagement, eliciting student ideas, supporting ongoing changes in thinking, and pressing for evidence-based explanations. He indicated that their students learn how to plan units around compelling, anchoring events as they learn to enact science practices. Novice teachers engage first in short practice opportunities and move toward longer and more complex practice experiences with students. Attention is given to how to elicit student ideas and help them work toward building evidence-based explanations for scientific phenomena.
Jean Moon described Next Generation Science Exemplar-Based Professional Learning Systems, which makes extensive use of video exemplars to help teachers see what is possible and what literacy for science can look like. Teachers across K-12 meet face to face and engage with Web-based content as they build their knowledge and strategies.
Two other case studies illustrated a more sustained level of professional development. In the case of Quality Teaching for English Learners at the International Newcomers’ Academy, Aida Walqui described how her organization worked with the school over a period of three years to help build teacher skill and knowledge, as well as teacher capacity in the form of training in-house coaches and facilitators, and understanding and support among administrators. Key to their support of students just beginning to learn English is a “pedagogy of promise,” where students are viewed as apprentices as they learn the language of school and science through engagement in the science practices. Brett Moulding described Partnership for Effective Science Teaching and Learning, another three-year professional development program with a primary focus on science perfor-
mance. In this approach, teachers engage in a process that mirrors that of their students and learn to think about science concepts in relation to causality, patterns, and systems, and to construct explanations through gathering, reasoning, and communicating.
SUPPORT FOR LITERACY FOR SCIENCE ON VARIOUS SCALES
The workshop featured several examples of support for literacy for science occurring across multiple schools in a network, district, or state. The purpose of these presentations was to learn from the experiences of those working to make systemic change to K-12 science education. Although the approaches varied greatly based on location, scope, and goals, these larger scale supports yielded several common aspects. First, broader efforts to bring about changes in teacher knowledge, approaches, and strategies involved fostering communities of learning and strategies that emulated approaches to be used with students. However, effecting these changes began with working to create a shared vision for science education, and more specifically literacy for science. This process required time and engagement with individuals at all levels of the system, and was often facilitated by supportive policies at the district or state levels. Often changes were phased in. Several presenters described their efforts to build capacity in their systems to support and sustain the changes through training trainers, working with principals, or supporting “trailblazing schools,” among other strategies. Finally, a multistate effort is under way to consider the needs of English language learners as the CCSS and NGSS are implemented. Each of the individual approaches to supporting science education on a larger scale is summarized below.
Kiran Purohit of New Visions for Public Schools described her experiences working with one New York charter school, New Visions High School for Advanced Math and Science. New Visions supports a network of public and charter schools across New York City. A key aspect of their support involved implementing the Literacy Design Collaborative, which supports reading and writing across disciplines. One key feature that Purohit shared with the participants at the workshop included innovative ways to engage community experts throughout science investigations beginning with the planning phase. Cross-disciplinary teacher groups are also central to their approach and help to focus teachers around evaluating writing and their overall needs as students.
Maria Santos shared her experiences in leading systems change at the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD), a large, urban district with many low-income students. Santos described the system-wide plan that they have begun
implementing in phases. Supported by key policies and funding, OUSD identified three goals related to literacy for science that they have worked to address: close reading of complex text, academic discussion, and evidence-based writing. Santos stressed the importance of engaging all adults at all levels of the system to build a shared vision. They have also used many vehicles and tools to enact change, including fostering “trailblazer schools,” establishing summer institutes, and providing extensive professional development to both teachers and administrators. OUSD also engages principal supervisors and specialists in dialog and facilitated sessions about science education as well.
Sam Shaw discussed his experiences leading state-wide change in science education in South Dakota. He described three initiatives, bolstered by their governor’s package to support teachers, to create a shared vision for science education based on the framework. The first of these initiatives was the creation of Science Academies where a set of facilitators and later other science teachers engaged in professional development to build understanding of new ways of teaching science. Second, they engaged teachers in supplemental training around literacy in science standards of the Common Core, ultimately working to analyze and adapt science lessons to address obtaining, as well as evaluating and communicating information. Finally, Shaw will be working to determine how his state should move forward with adoption of the new South Dakota science standards in a seamless fashion. Like other presentations, the lesson from South Dakota shows that the change process and building a shared vision across stakeholders takes time.
THEMES FROM THE WORKSHOP
David Pearson, chair of the workshop planning committee, summarized some themes that he identified on each day of the workshop. He noted that the presentations on the first day focused primarily on the conceptual issues regarding how literacy in science is portrayed in CCSS for ELA and NGSS, principles and practices important to both literacy and science, the nature of science texts and discourse, and features of science curricula that encourage the literacy in science practices called for in the standards documents. Pearson identified six themes that he said emerged to him across the range of topics discussed, and other committee and audience members expanded upon these and other ideas.
Pearson suggested that one theme that he saw emerge on Day 1 was the centrality of questions. Questions provide the reason for engaging in science, whether it is through hands-on investigation or engagement with science texts. Related
to this notion is student engagement, a second, often implicit, theme noted by Pearson. He said when students have a reason to read, a reason to learn terminology, and compelling and interesting content, their level of engagement increases, as well as their stamina and cognitive effort. Student engagement is key to any learning, Pearson stated, but it has been the hallmark of project-based learning in science in particular for some time.
Coherence is a third theme he suggested. As students learn to make sense of the world, constructing causal explanations of scientific phenomena, they are building on their prior knowledge. Pearson noted that coherence should exist within science texts as well as in science curricula. Brian Reiser added that this curricular coherence is best when it is not only within a single strand (i.e., life science) but also across science strands (e.g., life science and chemistry).
Within these cultures of hands-on, problem-based learning, Pearson noted that content, literacy, and scientific practices do not merely overlap, but are integrated and interwoven throughout the disciplines. Reading, writing, and oral language are interwoven not just through science, but also mathematics, social studies, and literature. Several curriculum developers and teachers described a number of examples of the ways in which science and literacy can be effectively integrated.
Representation was, to Pearson, a theme that emerged from a number of presentations, a term that he stated has more than one meaning. In one sense, representation can mean mapping an icon to an idea, but it can also mean transforming information and showing an idea in a new way, such as from a verbal idea to an image or even transforming an idea from one verbal form to another verbal form. In this way, representation is at the intersection of science ideas and their integral relationship with language. Helen Quinn argued that representation, along with fostering rich language development, and reasoning and analysis form the underpinnings of any successful approach to learning. “Representation is key to learning,” Quinn stated. “For students to learn to represent their own ideas through building their own models is a very important part of learning.”
Teachers also need to experience the struggles that their students experience in reading and writing, Pearson commented. Although some teachers can relate to their students who struggle with writing, few go through experiences that enable them to empathize with their students who struggle with reading, according to Pearson. He and his colleagues have found that when teachers are forced to engage with a highly challenging text in a training situation, they become more attuned to the need to build an infrastructure of strategies for making sense of difficult texts for their students.
In Pearson’s view, another key conceptual issue that emerged through discussion was the transfer of authority in the classroom. Sarah Michaels and Susan Pimentel both stressed the need for teachers to open discussion in the classroom, he noted, and to “let go” more, letting students lead the discussion to a much greater degree. As Michaels stated, “Kids are much more powerful learners than we’ve let them be.” The purpose is to help students look to the evidence and to use their discourse to adjudicate disagreements as they work to construct explanations, rather than looking to the teacher for the correct answer. Many presenters noted that this requires addressing the culture of the classroom. A number of others noted that teachers need to see this occurring through video or other means to believe it is possible and to know how to elicit this type of discourse.
Helen Quinn shared her perspective that hands-on investigations and engagement with text is not an “either/or” proposition, and that students need to be using many types of texts. However, she suggested that these shifts in strategies require a lot of teachers, and that translating research to effective professional development for teachers is a big challenge for the field. Juan-Carlos Aguilar said he shared that concern and argued that care be taken to communicate clearly to teachers what the standards do and do not require of them.
The second day of the workshop addressed the supports that are needed to help teachers implement literacy for science practices in the classroom, including the necessary professional development, as well as the administrative and systemic supports. Pearson and several other participants summarized some issues that they said had emerged, and they and other individual audience members suggested a few areas that could be addressed through policy and research.
One of the main supports that teachers need is time, Pearson stated. Repeatedly during the workshop, participants stated that students and teachers need time to engage in productive struggle, grapple with challenging science texts, and explore content deeply. They need time for sense-making and the revision process. Pimentel noted that a big message for her was the need to slow down in the classroom. Elizabeth Moje shared her view that the field needs to help teachers learn how to engage students in more “doing” of science within the existing structures and time constraints of schools, particularly secondary schools where students move from class to class. In addition to this classroom time, teachers need time to develop new strategies and they, along with administrators, need time to adjust to this new vision. Some participants indicated that this means giving teachers space away from high-stakes testing.
Pearson noted that the need for scaffolding emerged across many presentations. As he stated, scaffolding “is a part of our DNA as a profession.” These supports are needed for both teachers and their students, collectively and individually. These scaffolds are enabled by structure, but they are flexible and responsive. For both teachers and students, guidance helps with the acquisition of knowledge and practices. In regard to professional development, he said it is clear that teachers need approaches that mirror what should be happening with students in communities of practice. He also noted that scaffolds and strategies that teachers use must be flexible, rather than rigid routines. Another participant also cautioned against one-size-fits-all approaches, citing recent Program for International Student Assessment results that showed that as teachers had more autonomy in the classroom, their students’ test scores improved. He argued for an approach where groups of teachers work together to become “cogenerators and coreflectors on the instruction that they are trying to do.”
Pearson suggested that as teachers work to support classroom discourse and other literacy practices in service of science, they need a range of exemplars to use, particularly through video. According to Moje, videos can help elucidate complex practices. They are especially needed at the high school level and specifically related to literacy for science, in her view. She and others added that collections of videos need to be accompanied by descriptions and explanations, address a range of grade levels and developmental progressions, and show that adaptation and individualization is possible. Teachers also need access to a range of resources and tools, and to build their skills in differentiating instruction beyond access to video exemplars. Michaels shared her view that the CCSS for ELA and NGSS provide great opportunities for sharing resources and knowledge in the form of exemplars of great practice to achieve common goals.
IDEAS FOR POLICY AND RESEARCH
The final phase of the workshop asked panelists and participants to consider the policy implications of the topics discussed over the two days of the workshop, including potential barriers and supports from policy. Several panelists and participants suggested elevating in importance the profile of science in K-12 education to be more on par with literacy and mathematics at the school, district, state, and national levels to enact change on a wider scale. Quinn suggested that the workshop had offered “existence proofs,” showing that professional development can effectively shift teacher strategies in ways that demonstrably improve student learning. She and others suggested that policies that can create “space”
for teachers to learn new instructional strategies can be a necessary and important opportunity.
Jacqueline Barber indicated that, in her view, the NGSS has created an opening to elevate literacy for science at the policy level. Moreover, she suggested that existing data and policies can be used to engage policymakers to create supports for literacy for science in schools. “Don’t reinvent the policy wheel,” she cautioned. Others said they would like to see additional exploration of how to systematically change teacher strategies on a large scale without watering down the vision of the NGSS, along with a timeline for changes on this scale.
A number of practical and conceptual topics related to literacy for science in K-12 education were beyond the scope of what could be addressed in a two-day workshop. A primary topic that participants raised more than once was assessment. Pearson related his concern that attaching high stakes to assessment is problematic regardless of the method of assessment used. He suggested that the field needs to continue to push for better links between assessments, standards, and practices. Others had remaining questions about whether there should be separate assessments for literacy and science with “leakage” or a common assessment at the overlap, as well as how teachers would be evaluated on literacy for science practices.
The nature of the relationship between literacy and science was a topic that many suggested needs additional study. How the nature of evidence, argumentation, and explanation may differ across the disciplines of language arts and science is still an open question, in Pearson’s view. However, Pimentel added that the emphasis of claims, reasoning, and evidence in the CCSS for ELA is consistent with the similar emphases in the NGSS. In addition, she said, future research could address in more depth if and how practices and benefits in one discipline transfer to the other. For example, she asked, “If I focus on meaning-making during science, will my students get better at meaning-making in reading comprehension?” Similarly, research and further discussion can continue the conversation about the degree to which various tools, strategies, and practices can or should travel across disciplines. Others felt that more research was needed on the impact of literacy for science on ELA outcomes. More conversation is needed to clarify the roles of both teachers of science and ELA teachers, Pearson suggested. Moje offered that the focus for science teachers should be on science literacy only, as distinct from ELA more generally.
Finally, many panelists and presenters commented that innovations and research need to reach the field through professional development and other com-
munications. Pimentel stated, “Despite the challenges that exist to integrating science investigations and literacy for science on a large scale, I leave here really invigorated … because it shows what is possible. It shows that we need not keep high-level thinking … about content from any of our students.” As she summarized, presentations at the workshop showed that teachers must believe in the abilities of their students, and that all students are capable of learning at a high level.