National Academies Press: OpenBook

Science and Engineering for Grades 6-12: Investigation and Design at the Center (2019)

Chapter: 10 Conclusions, Recommendations, and Research Questions

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Suggested Citation:"10 Conclusions, Recommendations, and Research Questions." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Science and Engineering for Grades 6-12: Investigation and Design at the Center. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25216.
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10

Conclusions, Recommendations, and Research Questions

This report looks at the available information on science investigation and engineering design in middle and high schools and the approaches and strategies that can be used by teachers, professional development providers, administrative leaders, education researchers, and policy makers to help provide all students with high-quality learning experiences. Engaging all students in science investigation and engineering design requires significant changes to what both students and teachers do in the classroom. Because many aspects of science and engineering are part of students’ daily lives, contextualizing science learning by integrating what students bring to the classroom into science investigation and engineering design can facilitate learning. In addition, using inclusive pedagogies can make science and engineering learning accessible to all students. This chapter summarizes the conclusions the committee has made from the available evidence and provides recommendations for action as well as questions for future research. Substantial progress in optimal student learning and motivation is more likely when reform at various levels of the system (e.g., federal, state, district) through its diverse functions (e.g., resource distribution, establishment of policy) act in concert to provide high-quality educational experiences to support and nurture the learning of all students. This includes attention to the resources needed to prepare for, implement, and evaluate science and engineering learning that is three-dimensional and engages students with science and engineering practices, disciplinary core ideas, and crosscutting concepts simultaneously (the three dimensions described in A Framework for K–12 Science Education; hereafter referred to as the Framework).

Suggested Citation:"10 Conclusions, Recommendations, and Research Questions." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Science and Engineering for Grades 6-12: Investigation and Design at the Center. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25216.
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CONCLUSIONS

In reviewing the available information on science investigation and engineering design in middle and high schools, the committee made the following conclusions, which inform the interconnected recommendations that follow.

CONCLUSION 1: Engaging students in learning about natural phenomena and engineering challenges via science investigation and engineering design increases their understanding of how the world works. Investigation and design are more effective for supporting learning than traditional teaching methods. They engage students in doing science and engineering, increase their conceptual knowledge of science and engineering, and improve their reasoning and problem-solving skills.

Well-designed and implemented science investigation and engineering design experiences foster three-dimensional science learning in accordance with the ideas of the Framework. Although teachers generally select topics for investigations, the specifics of what the students do result from student questions that build on their own prior knowledge and experiences, including their local context, culture, and identity. Students grapple with data/information and using science ideas and concepts to support explanations of the causes of phenomena and to solve problems. Teachers attend to and respond to students’ thinking (classroom discourse and arguing from evidence), and guide students in using evidence from multiple sources to support their science explanations and/or solutions to engineering problems. Teachers and students recognize that there may be multiple acceptable explanations, outcomes, solutions, models, or designs. Investigation provides an opportunity for students to apply their thinking in new ways. They can learn about multiple related phenomena, see a known phenomenon in a new context, or identify analogous or related phenomena that share similar underlying causes. In addition, the same core ideas and crosscutting concepts can be relevant for multiple phenomena and this extension can provide an opportunity for students to apply their science and engineering knowledge.

CONCLUSION 2: Teachers can use students’ curiosity to motivate learning by choosing phenomena and design challenges that are interesting and engaging to students, including those that are locally and/or culturally relevant. Science investigation and engineering design give middle and high school students opportunities to engage in the wider world in new ways by providing agency for them to develop questions and establish the direction for their own learning experiences.

Suggested Citation:"10 Conclusions, Recommendations, and Research Questions." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Science and Engineering for Grades 6-12: Investigation and Design at the Center. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25216.
×

Students’ curiosity about the world around them can serve as a motivating factor to their learning. One way that science investigation and engineering design are valuable is that they can provide opportunities to connect to locally and culturally relevant experiences through phenomena that build on students’ prior knowledge and actively engage students in learning and reasoning about the natural and designed world. By keeping in mind the diverse backgrounds and experiences of the students and situating science and engineering topics in contexts relevant to students’ lives, investigation and design can increase motivation and engagement, increase a sense of belonging, deepen students’ understanding of science and engineering, and lead to more effective continued learning. When students have the opportunity to participate in multiple sustained experiences with investigation and design, those experiences provide a way to learn that explicitly engages students in science and engineering contexts that support understanding of the nature of science and engineering.

CONCLUSION 3: Science investigation and engineering design entail a dramatic shift in the classroom dynamic. Students ask questions, participate in discussions, create artifacts and models to show their reasoning, and continuously reflect and revise their thinking. Teachers guide, frame, and facilitate the learning environment to allow student engagement and learning.

In the classroom, student engagement in investigation and design is not separate from the main flow of the instruction, but instead pervades the entire teaching of science and engineering in middle and high schools. Engaging in the three-dimensional approach of the Framework requires shifts in what goes on in the classroom that alter the teaching and learning relationship between teacher and students. Teachers provide structure and skillful guidance to engage students while building on the assets the students bring to the classroom. Students do not receive knowledge; they build understanding through three-dimensional performances in which they examine phenomena, ask questions, collect and analyze data, and construct explanations to deepen their understanding of science and engineering. The teacher provides a structure for learning and builds on students’ current understanding of science and engineering through classroom discourse, investigation/design experiences, and in response to students’ thinking (reasoning). Teachers establish the criteria for learning and engage students in gathering the information and ideas needed to construct scientifically accurate explanation(s) or design solutions. During the classroom discussions, teachers support the use of accurate science language and ideas by building on the preliminary explanations of the students.

Suggested Citation:"10 Conclusions, Recommendations, and Research Questions." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Science and Engineering for Grades 6-12: Investigation and Design at the Center. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25216.
×

CONCLUSION 4: Inclusive pedagogies can support the learning of all students by situating differences as assets, building on students’ identities and life experiences, and leveraging local and dynamic views of cultural life for the study of science and engineering.

Inclusive pedagogies help contextualize science learning by integrating what students bring to the classroom into science investigation and engineering design. Repositioning students’ differences as assets instead of deficits allows new approaches to teaching and learning that are more receptive and respectful of students’ cultures, identities, languages, literacies, and communities. Inclusive pedagogies can work to intentionally remove barriers limiting full participation in investigation and design. This approach supports students’ meaningful and rigorous learning, helps sustains their interest in and positive perceptions of science and engineering, increases their sense of belonging, and impacts their self-perceptions as science and engineering learners. Changing pedagogical approaches to integrate science investigation and engineering design into instruction is a significant change but is especially important because today’s students are the most diverse student population ever educated in U.S. public schools.

CONCLUSION 5: Centering classes on science investigation and engineering design means that teachers provide multiple opportunities for students to demonstrate their reasoning and show understanding of scientific explanations about the natural world. Providing opportunities for teachers to observe student learning and embed assessment into the flow of learning experiences allows students as well as teachers to reflect on learning.

Teachers organize students’ experiences so that the students can construct explanations for the causes of phenomena and design solutions to human challenges as the focus of the class experience. In this type of learning instructionally embedded three-dimensional assessments look different than many traditional lab reports or tests because the new assessments mirror what happens during class. The embedded as well as the post-instructional assessments provide evidence of students’ ability to demonstrate three-dimensional learning, including rich evidence of what students can and cannot do, and areas where students have not yet achieved understanding. Such information can inform and support ongoing modifications to teaching and learning. Embedding assessment in instruction allows teachers to monitor progress toward learning goals while students are engaged in science investigation and engineering design. It also allows both the teacher and student to use assessment as a tool to reflect on and improve learning.

Suggested Citation:"10 Conclusions, Recommendations, and Research Questions." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Science and Engineering for Grades 6-12: Investigation and Design at the Center. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25216.
×

CONCLUSION 6: Instructional resources are key to facilitating the careful sequencing of phenomena and design challenges across units and grade levels in order to increase coherence as students become increasingly sophisticated science and engineering learners.

Instructional resources to support science investigation and engineering design that are based upon research-based principles of learning and engagement can be designed to promote learning for all students. The resources can include groups of carefully chosen phenomena and design problems that all relate to a science or engineering topic and that together will help students learn and gradually develop a deeper understanding of science and engineering. These phenomena can tie to topics of interest to students to increase motivation. Resources can provide ideas for tying investigation and design to students’ prior knowledge to build on it and provide structures for students to organize their learning, as well as opportunities for students to reflect upon and use what they have learned. In addition to providing materials to help students make sense of phenomena and the designed world around them, well-designed instructional resources can provide strategies to support educators in adapting them to fit the local culture and place. Instructional resources that support science investigation and engineering design can provide support for learning by presenting a coherent structure for the exploration of phenomena or design challenges in a way that facilitates sense-making by the students across lessons, units, grades, and disciplines, ideally as part of a well-designed curriculum. Furthermore, instructional resources to support science investigation and engineering design can bring coherence to system-level issues, connecting and organizing assessments, professional learning, and classroom instruction around key learning experiences for students and teachers.

CONCLUSION 7: Teachers’ ability to guide student learning can be improved by preservice education on strategies for investigation and design as well as opportunities for professional learning at many stages of their in-service teaching careers. Intentionally designed and sustained professional learning experiences that extend over months can help teachers prepare, implement, and refine approaches to investigation and design.

Teacher learning takes place along a continuum that begins with their own experiences as students, includes their undergraduate courses in science as well as education, and continues throughout their career in education. Existing professional development opportunities, as well as most current undergraduate science classes, do not generally provide teachers and future teachers with three-dimensional experiences as science learners of the type that is expected for their students. These opportunities also do

Suggested Citation:"10 Conclusions, Recommendations, and Research Questions." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Science and Engineering for Grades 6-12: Investigation and Design at the Center. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25216.
×

not often provide guidance on how to teach engineering. Multiple sustained professional learning opportunities in investigation and design can provide a learning experience for teachers that continues across a career trajectory from pre-service to experienced educator.

Teachers’ knowledge of pedagogy, how students learn, and ways to recognize and honor the needs of their diverse groups of students is as important as their knowledge of science and engineering concepts. High-quality professional learning opportunities are sustained experiences that engage teachers in coherent professional learning experiences that model teaching and learning through investigation and design. These experiences engage teachers in science in ways that are consistent with how students learn science, are culturally relevant for the local context, and allow teachers to engage in using the three dimensions to make sense of phenomena and reflect on their own learning. As a component of their professional learning, teachers accumulate a large “tool-box” of materials and resources they can apply in their own classrooms. It includes opportunities for teachers to examine student artifacts drawn from the context of science investigation and engineering design and examines how to draw from these artifacts to assess student learning and provide next-step suggestions for three-dimensional learning. Professional learning experiences allow teachers to work with each other to develop learning communities and they help teachers improve how they attend and respond to the nature and quality of student thinking. Teachers consider how they and their students can learn from and build upon evidence from assessment as they participate in three-dimensional science and engineering learning that includes a range of student work illustrating what progress and success look like.

As teachers learn and implement new instructional approaches, the classroom, school, and community expectations can change. Professional learning communities can provide support for teachers during this transition as they reflect on their own practice in the context of science investigation, engineering design, and issues of equity and inclusion. The National Research Council report Science Teachers’ Learning and the Science Professional Learning Standards prepared by the Council of State Science Supervisors both provide guidance for professional development providers and professional learners, as well as state and local leaders, on the attributes of effective science professional learning experiences to support teachers.

CONCLUSION 8: Engaging students in investigation and design requires attention to facilities, budgets, human resources, technology, equipment, and supplies. These resources can impact the quantity and quality of investigation and design experiences in the classroom and the students who have access to them.

Suggested Citation:"10 Conclusions, Recommendations, and Research Questions." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Science and Engineering for Grades 6-12: Investigation and Design at the Center. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25216.
×

If the space, technology, equipment, and supplies currently available are insufficient for the number of students who need to engage in science investigation and engineering design, then creative plans can be developed to achieve gradual incremental progress towards the goal. For example, improved access to appropriate space (such as studio classrooms and outdoor areas such as natural space and gardens); technology (such as computers and Internet); adequate equipment (such as computer-linked probes for measuring temperature, pressure, and speed); and supplies (such as chemicals and safety items) can be phased in over time if necessary so that all students can experience meaningful science investigation and engineering design throughout their school years. Flexible studio-style space provides a venue for student engagement in doing science and engineering that allows for group work, space to capture student discussion, easy access to a variety of material and technologies, and room for long-term projects. These resources can enrich student experiences with science investigation and engineering design.

CONCLUSION 9: Changes in the teaching and learning of science and engineering in middle and high schools are occurring within a complex set of systems. Classroom-level change is impacted in various and sometimes conflicting ways by issues related to funding and resources, local community priorities, state standards, graduation requirements, college admission requirements, and local, state, and national assessments. When incentives do not align, successful implementation of investigation and design is hindered.

Changing classroom instruction at scale does not just happen at the classroom or school level. Instead, what happens in classrooms is influenced and affected by a variety of factors within and beyond a single school, district, or state. For instance, decisions about instructional time, resources, and course sequences are made at different levels of the system and have direct impact on and are impacted by the availability and types of instructional spaces and teacher expertise. School leaders’ and teachers’ expectations, priorities, and commitment to equity create an instructional climate that encourage or discourage particular pedagogical approaches. School leadership and a willingness to work iteratively to continue improvements over time are crucial.

CONCLUSION 10: There are notable inequities within and among schools today in terms of access to educational experiences that engage students in science investigation and engineering design. Many policies and structures tend to perpetuate these inequities, such as disparities in facilities and teacher expectations, experiences, and qualifications across schools and districts.

Suggested Citation:"10 Conclusions, Recommendations, and Research Questions." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Science and Engineering for Grades 6-12: Investigation and Design at the Center. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25216.
×

There are many under-resourced schools, and research shows disparities in low-wealth and high-wealth districts and schools serving students differing in race/ethnicity, language, culture, and socioeconomic status. On average schools serving primarily students of color (with the exception of some schools with large numbers of Asians) and students from low socioeconomic status (SES) backgrounds receive fewer resources and have less adequate facilities than the schools for their Asian and white, high-SES counterparts. A large, complex social-political system influences teaching of science and engineering in middle and high schools. Current inequities, inequalities, and exclusionary mechanisms in the teaching of science and engineering are rooted in the sociopolitical and historical origins of schools and schooling, in which the educational opportunities offered to any student were heavily dependent on the socioeconomic and racial groups from which that student came.

There are many schools, particularly in low SES areas, where teachers do not have the necessary certifications and experiences to support students in science investigation and engineering design. This is particularly true in areas of high school physics and chemistry. In all areas, teachers need depth of subject matter and research experiences to support students in scientific investigations. In school districts in which teachers lack appropriate qualifications, rigorous course-taking opportunities are either limited or unavailable. As a result, students do not have access to high-quality educational experiences that will engage them in science investigation and engineering design.

In addition to obstacles due to limited rigorous course-taking opportunities or a lack of teachers with the necessary certifications and experiences, students may also be excluded if they are not seen as the science type, because of implicit bias and assumptions about their abilities, or because the school has focused on their lack of mastery of preliminary skills. While attention to increasing opportunity for all students has increased, inequalities and inequities associated with traditionally underrepresented groups in science and engineering (e.g., females, English language learners, students with disabilities, traditionally underserved racial groups) have persisted over time and seem intractable. Therefore, particular attention and intentional efforts to make these science investigation and engineering design experiences available and accessible are warranted.

If participation in doing science investigation and engineering design is considered as an expectation for all students, then positive steps must be taken to support all students as they learn to engage with phenomena and solve problems using a three-dimensional approach to build increasingly more sophisticated understanding of science and engineering. School and district staff cannot ensure that these opportunities are available to all students unless they analyze enrollment and success in science and engineering

Suggested Citation:"10 Conclusions, Recommendations, and Research Questions." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Science and Engineering for Grades 6-12: Investigation and Design at the Center. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25216.
×

courses and work to improve the current inequities and inequalities in science and engineering education. Conscious alignment of goals and intentionality in addressing equality, equity, and inclusion by the various stakeholders (on the federal, state, district, and classroom levels) can facilitate improvements in curriculum, instruction, assessment, and professional development needed to support science investigation and engineering design for all students.

RECOMMENDATIONS

In light of the evidence discussed throughout the report and the conclusions above, the committee recommends the following actions to improve science and engineering education in middle and high schools. Short- and long-term changes by educators, administrative leaders, and policy makers will be needed to immerse students in three-dimensional science investigations and engineering design so that the students can make sense of phenomena in order to learn science. The first two recommendations discuss changes to the nature of the classroom experience and the later recommendations focus on how instructional resources, professional learning, preservice preparations, and policy decisions can support these changes.

RECOMMENDATION 1: Science investigation and engineering design should be the central approach for teaching and learning science and engineering.

  • Teachers should arrange their instruction around interesting phenomena or design projects and use their students’ curiosity to engage them in learning science and engineering.
  • Administrators should support teachers in implementation of science investigation and engineering design. This may include providing teachers with appropriate instructional resources, opportunities to engage in sustained professional learning experiences and work collaboratively to design learning sequences, choose phenomena with contexts relevant to their students, and time to engage in and learn about inclusive pedagogies to promote equitable participation in science investigation and engineering design.

RECOMMENDATION 2: Instruction should provide multiple embedded opportunities for students to engage in three-dimensional science and engineering performances.

  • Teachers should monitor student learning through ongoing, embedded, and post-instruction assessment as students make sense of phenomena and design solutions to challenges.
Suggested Citation:"10 Conclusions, Recommendations, and Research Questions." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Science and Engineering for Grades 6-12: Investigation and Design at the Center. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25216.
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  • Teachers should use formative assessment tasks and discourse strategies to encourage students to share their ideas, and to develop and revise their ideas with other students.
  • Teachers should use evidence from formative assessment to guide instructional choices and guide students to reflect on their own learning.

RECOMMENDATION 3: Instructional resources to support science investgation and engineering design need to use approaches consistent with knowledge about how students learn and consistent with the Framework to provide a selection of options suitable for many local conditions.

  • Teachers and designers of instructional resources should work in teams to develop coherent sequences of lessons that include phenomena carefully chosen to engage students in the science or engineering to be learned. Instructional resources should include information on strategies and options teachers can use to craft and implement lessons relevant to their students’ backgrounds, cultures, and place.
  • Administrators should provide teachers with access to high-quality instructional resources, space, equipment, and supplies that support the use of Framework-aligned approaches to science investigation and engineering design.

RECOMMENDATION 4: High-quality, sustained, professional learning opportunities are needed to engage teachers as professionals with effective evidence-based instructional practices and models for instruction in science and engineering. Administrators should identify and encourage participation in sustained and meaningful professional learning opportunities for teachers to learn and develop successful approaches to effective science and engineering teaching and learning.

  • Professional development leaders should provide teachers with the opportunity to learn in the manner in which they are expected to teach, by using Framework-aligned methods during professional learning experiences. Teachers should receive feedback from peers and other experts while working throughout their careers to improve their skills, knowledge, and dispositions with these instructional approaches.
  • Professional development leaders should prepare and empower teachers to make informed and professional decisions about adapting lessons to their students and the local environment.
Suggested Citation:"10 Conclusions, Recommendations, and Research Questions." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Science and Engineering for Grades 6-12: Investigation and Design at the Center. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25216.
×
  • Administrators and education leaders should provide opportunities for teachers to implement and reflect on the use of Framework-aligned approaches to teaching and learning.

RECOMMENDATION 5: Undergraduate learning experiences need to serve as models for prospective teachers, in which they experience science investigation and engineering design as learners.

  • College and university faculty should design and teach science classes that model the use of evidence-based principles for learning and immerse students in Framework-aligned approaches to science and engineering learning.
  • Faculty should design and teach courses on pedagogy of science and engineering that use instructional strategies consistent with the Framework.
  • College and university administrators should support and incentivize design of new courses or redesign of existing courses that use evidence-based principles and align with the ideas of the Framework.

RECOMMENDATION 6: Administrators should take steps to address the deep history of inequities in which not all students have been offered a full and rigorous sequence of science and engineering learning opportunities, by implementing science investigation and engineering design approaches in all science courses for all students.

  • School and district staff should systematically review policies that impact the ability to offer science investigation and engineering design opportunities to all students. They should monitor and analyze differences in course offerings and content between schools, as well as patterns of enrollment and success in science and engineering courses at all schools. This effort should include particular attention to differential student outcomes, especially in areas in which inequality and inequity have been well documented (e.g., gender, socioeconomic status, race, and culture). Administrators should use this information to construct specific, concrete, and positive plans to address the disparities.
  • State and national legislatures and departments of education should provide additional resources to schools with significant populations of underserved students to broaden access/opportunity and allow all students to participate in science investigation and engineering design.
Suggested Citation:"10 Conclusions, Recommendations, and Research Questions." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Science and Engineering for Grades 6-12: Investigation and Design at the Center. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25216.
×

RECOMMENDATION 7: For all students to engage in meaningful science investigation and engineering design, the many components of the system must become better aligned. This will require changes to existing policies and procedures. As policies and procedures are revised, care must be taken not to exacerbate existing inequities.

  • State, regional, and district leaders should commission and use valid and reliable summative assessment tools that mirror how teachers measure three-dimensional learning.
  • States, regions, and districts should provide resources to support the implementation of investigation and engineering design-based approaches to science and engineering instruction across all grades and in all schools, and should track and manage progress towards full implementation. State, regional, and district leaders should ensure that the staff in their own offices who oversee science instruction or science educators have a deep knowledge of Framework-aligned approaches to teaching and learning.

RESEARCH QUESTIONS

While the work in this report draws on existing empirical research studies, this report also serves as a stage for the production of a range of research questions. The questions below are an invitation for continued dialogue and a guide for funders or researchers engaged in learning more about the role of science investigation and engineering design for advancing student understanding of three-dimensional science and engineering knowledge. Addressing these questions in classes, schools, districts, and states that are using Framework-based approaches provides an opportunity to track successes and failures and to refine the implementation efforts and address any observed weaknesses. Future research can help understand the ways that learning via science investigation and engineering design is most effective and provide more information on long-term effects and on causality. Research that examines the impact of Framework-based reform should address what is implemented, how it is implemented, under what conditions implementation occurs, why the implementation works or does not work, and for whom does it work.

The Classroom Experience with Science Investigation and Engineering Design

The selection of topics for science investigation and engineering design is key to engaging students and focusing their learning on science and engineering concepts that educators want them to learn. Choosing topics and

Suggested Citation:"10 Conclusions, Recommendations, and Research Questions." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Science and Engineering for Grades 6-12: Investigation and Design at the Center. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25216.
×

resources that allow students to see the relevance appears to be an approach that can motivate student learning. More information on these approaches and how instructional resources can facilitate the process are needed.

  1. How does the relevance, contextualization, and locality of a phenomenon or design challenge relate to what students learn as they engage in science investigation and engineering design? Which aspects of relevance and contextualization are most important, under what conditions do they operate, what are their impacts, and what is the duration of impact?
  2. What types of instructional resources best support teachers and students as students engage in science investigation and engineering design? How are these similar/different to resources used for prior ways of thinking about curriculum materials and laboratory reports?

Discourse

Students sharing ideas and understanding through productive discourse can allow students to build off each other’s ideas and for students and teachers to monitor and reflect upon their evolving understanding of science and engineering practices and concepts. Discourse is a more prominent tool for learning in Framework-aligned classrooms and especially for investigation and design, and more research is needed on how it can be best used.

  1. Under what conditions are classroom discourse most productive, and how is productive classroom discourse related to what students learn as they engage in science investigation and engineering design?
  2. What are the most effective instructional strategies for being inclusive in engaging students in classroom discussions?

Inclusive Pedagogies

As described previously in this report, a broad range of approaches can create more inclusive learning environments for the increasingly diverse population of students in the United States. Additional research on the design and engagement of these ideas and interventions has the potential to help the field better address many of the challenges in achieving equity and equality in science learning via science investigation and engineering design that this report describes.

Suggested Citation:"10 Conclusions, Recommendations, and Research Questions." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Science and Engineering for Grades 6-12: Investigation and Design at the Center. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25216.
×
  1. In what ways are students’ experiences, lived histories, and other assets most meaningfully engaged in support of their participation of science investigation and engineering design? How can teachers honor and connect these experiences during science investigation and engineering design?
  2. How can teachers and administrators best learn to enact inclusive pedagogies in science investigation and engineering design? How does their effectiveness compare to other pedagogical interventions? How can these approaches be infused as an essential component in professional learning experiences?
  3. In what ways does school design influence the use and effectiveness of inclusive pedagogies for science investigation and engineering design? What sorts of school design—and accompanying community engagement—have the greatest potential to both accelerate student learning in science and engineering and to close gaps among groups of students?

Technology

Recent years have seen dramatic shifts in the technology available in classrooms and in students’ daily lives. There are many new ideas on how to use these technologies in science and engineering classrooms and a need to evaluate the technologies and the ways they can be used in education to determine how they can best contribute to student learning.

  1. In what ways do particular technology-enhanced investigations help and hinder student engagement and learning in science investigation and engineering design? What are the appropriate roles within particular science investigation and engineering design environments for student use of technology to collect, analyze, interpret, and communicate data?
  2. In what ways are particular technologies utilized by professional scientists, such as small- or large-scale visualizations or modeled data simulations, useful as a component of investigation and design? What adaptations of professional data and technology-rich tools are needed for effective use in science investigation and engineering design?

Working with Data and Models

Working with data is at the heart of science investigation and engineering design. Research shows that students can respond differently to data they have gathered themselves versus data that comes from another source.

Suggested Citation:"10 Conclusions, Recommendations, and Research Questions." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Science and Engineering for Grades 6-12: Investigation and Design at the Center. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25216.
×

More information can help determine which approaches and experiences will best help students use data to make sense of the world around them.

  1. What are good strategies for helping students work with and understand data, the strengths and limits of models, and the concept of uncertainty in the context of science investigation and engineering design?
  2. What are best practices for supporting students in complex practices such as modeling? How does modeling relate to and support other science investigation and engineering design practices?

Outcomes

Measuring student motivation and student learning tells the field about the success of new efforts to teach science and engineering. Traditional approaches to this measurement do not often get at the heart of student understanding of the practices and nature of science and engineering. New tools and techniques for monitoring learning can provide insight into the best ways to gather this type of information in ways that can help improve use of investigation and design to foster learning.

  1. What are best practices for three dimensional assessment design? What kinds and range of evidence do these three dimensional assessment tasks generate? How are three-dimensional assessment tasks best used for formative or summative purposes?
  2. What are the most effective strategies for helping students to use the results of formative assessment to support learning?
  3. How does participation in science investigation and engineering design affect student interest in science and engineering?
  4. What are the short- and long-term impacts of engagement in engineering for both students and teachers?
  5. Does increased science investigation and engineering design experience affect student outcomes such as GPA, graduation rates, enjoyment of learning, jobs, college entrance, or college success?

Professional Learning

Professional learning is the key to preparing teachers to use investigation and design to foster student understanding. Teachers need practice in how to structure, guide, and facilitate these new approaches. It is known that sustained professional learning experiences have the most impact, but more information is needed on the professional learning that will most improve teachers’ abilities to engage students in investigation and design.

Suggested Citation:"10 Conclusions, Recommendations, and Research Questions." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Science and Engineering for Grades 6-12: Investigation and Design at the Center. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25216.
×
  1. How does professional learning affect instructional practices in the classroom? How do resulting changes in teacher behavior impact student outcomes?
  2. How does engaging preservice and in-service teachers as learners in three-dimensional science and engineering learning influence the development of their own content knowledge, classroom practices, and beliefs about student learning?
  3. What tools, resources, and professional learning experiences help teachers develop the repertoire of practices necessary to facilitate productive classroom discourse?
  4. What kinds of preservice teacher preparation programs (as opposed to later during their teaching careers) do science and engineering teachers need in order to effectively engage their students in science investigation and engineering design?

The Education System

Factors outside the classroom can limit the impact of attempts to reform classroom instruction. The complex interactions that make up the system of K–12 education in the United States do not always work in concert to advance improvement. More information is needed on how to implement and sustain reform efforts that improve student learning.

  1. What practices and policies at the school, district, and/or state levels support or hinder widespread implementation of science investigation and engineering design projects for all students?
  2. Have efforts to make science education available to all decreased the impact of historical inequities?
  3. Does professional development for administrators influence school culture and the implementation or sustainability of investigation and design in the classroom?

FINAL REFLECTIONS

Science education provides students with a powerful set of tools to understand the world in which they live. Engaging students in science investigation and engineering design is the central strategy for helping students to connect learning to their own experiences and develop deep and sustained knowledge and abilities to use science as a way of knowing. Hence, science investigation and engineering design should be the central instructional approach for teaching and learning science to all students.

Suggested Citation:"10 Conclusions, Recommendations, and Research Questions." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Science and Engineering for Grades 6-12: Investigation and Design at the Center. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25216.
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All students deserve the opportunity to engage in relevant and interesting science investigation and engineering design. This requires educators to develop the skills and knowledge to make science engaging, relevant, and inclusive, which requires systemic changes by the education system. This includes changes to disposition about science education so that science education is seen as a pump and not a filter: that is, science education should lift up all students and not act as a barrier or hurdle to all but a few. Science education should be relevant, engaging, and fun in ways that empower all students to develop interest and identity with science.

New standards are an opportunity for the education system to change teaching to be consistent with how students learn, to make investigation and design central to science learning, and to make changes to the system to better embrace equity practices for all students. New standards provide an opportunity to change the structure of instruction and shift toward more student-centered teaching and learning. They are an opportunity to engage educators in professional learning that is focused on principled improvements to teaching and learning and is sustained, engaging, and relevant to the work of the classroom and student learning.

Suggested Citation:"10 Conclusions, Recommendations, and Research Questions." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Science and Engineering for Grades 6-12: Investigation and Design at the Center. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25216.
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Suggested Citation:"10 Conclusions, Recommendations, and Research Questions." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Science and Engineering for Grades 6-12: Investigation and Design at the Center. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25216.
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Suggested Citation:"10 Conclusions, Recommendations, and Research Questions." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Science and Engineering for Grades 6-12: Investigation and Design at the Center. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25216.
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Suggested Citation:"10 Conclusions, Recommendations, and Research Questions." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Science and Engineering for Grades 6-12: Investigation and Design at the Center. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25216.
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Suggested Citation:"10 Conclusions, Recommendations, and Research Questions." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Science and Engineering for Grades 6-12: Investigation and Design at the Center. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25216.
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Suggested Citation:"10 Conclusions, Recommendations, and Research Questions." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Science and Engineering for Grades 6-12: Investigation and Design at the Center. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25216.
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Suggested Citation:"10 Conclusions, Recommendations, and Research Questions." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Science and Engineering for Grades 6-12: Investigation and Design at the Center. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25216.
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Suggested Citation:"10 Conclusions, Recommendations, and Research Questions." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Science and Engineering for Grades 6-12: Investigation and Design at the Center. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25216.
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Suggested Citation:"10 Conclusions, Recommendations, and Research Questions." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Science and Engineering for Grades 6-12: Investigation and Design at the Center. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25216.
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Suggested Citation:"10 Conclusions, Recommendations, and Research Questions." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Science and Engineering for Grades 6-12: Investigation and Design at the Center. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25216.
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Suggested Citation:"10 Conclusions, Recommendations, and Research Questions." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Science and Engineering for Grades 6-12: Investigation and Design at the Center. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25216.
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Suggested Citation:"10 Conclusions, Recommendations, and Research Questions." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Science and Engineering for Grades 6-12: Investigation and Design at the Center. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25216.
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Suggested Citation:"10 Conclusions, Recommendations, and Research Questions." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Science and Engineering for Grades 6-12: Investigation and Design at the Center. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25216.
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Suggested Citation:"10 Conclusions, Recommendations, and Research Questions." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Science and Engineering for Grades 6-12: Investigation and Design at the Center. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25216.
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Suggested Citation:"10 Conclusions, Recommendations, and Research Questions." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Science and Engineering for Grades 6-12: Investigation and Design at the Center. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25216.
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Suggested Citation:"10 Conclusions, Recommendations, and Research Questions." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Science and Engineering for Grades 6-12: Investigation and Design at the Center. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25216.
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Suggested Citation:"10 Conclusions, Recommendations, and Research Questions." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Science and Engineering for Grades 6-12: Investigation and Design at the Center. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25216.
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Suggested Citation:"10 Conclusions, Recommendations, and Research Questions." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Science and Engineering for Grades 6-12: Investigation and Design at the Center. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25216.
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Next: Appendix A: The Role of Assessment in Supporting Science Investigation and Engineering Design »
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It is essential for today’s students to learn about science and engineering in order to make sense of the world around them and participate as informed members of a democratic society. The skills and ways of thinking that are developed and honed through engaging in scientific and engineering endeavors can be used to engage with evidence in making personal decisions, to participate responsibly in civic life, and to improve and maintain the health of the environment, as well as to prepare for careers that use science and technology.

The majority of Americans learn most of what they know about science and engineering as middle and high school students. During these years of rapid change for students’ knowledge, attitudes, and interests, they can be engaged in learning science and engineering through schoolwork that piques their curiosity about the phenomena around them in ways that are relevant to their local surroundings and to their culture. Many decades of education research provide strong evidence for effective practices in teaching and learning of science and engineering. One of the effective practices that helps students learn is to engage in science investigation and engineering design. Broad implementation of science investigation and engineering design and other evidence-based practices in middle and high schools can help address present-day and future national challenges, including broadening access to science and engineering for communities who have traditionally been underrepresented and improving students’ educational and life experiences.

Science and Engineering for Grades 6-12: Investigation and Design at the Center revisits America’s Lab Report: Investigations in High School Science in order to consider its discussion of laboratory experiences and teacher and school readiness in an updated context. It considers how to engage today’s middle and high school students in doing science and engineering through an analysis of evidence and examples. This report provides guidance for teachers, administrators, creators of instructional resources, and leaders in teacher professional learning on how to support students as they make sense of phenomena, gather and analyze data/information, construct explanations and design solutions, and communicate reasoning to self and others during science investigation and engineering design. It also provides guidance to help educators get started with designing, implementing, and assessing investigation and design.

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