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

Chapter: 5 How Teachers Support Investigation and Design

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Suggested Citation:"5 How Teachers Support Investigation and Design." 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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5

How Teachers Support Investigation and Design

The previous chapter focused on investigation and design from the student perspective. This chapter focuses on the teacher’s role in engaging students in investigation and design. As discussed in Guide to Implementing the NGSS (National Research Council, 2015), instruction is the experiences that teachers organize in their classroom in order for students to learn, not the information teachers deliver to students. “[D]ay-to-day instruction is carried out by teachers who are making continual decisions about what best meets their students’ needs along a learning path” (National Research Council, 2015, p. 24). This chapter discusses how teachers can guide students in each of the features of investigation and design covered in Chapter 4.1 It includes an expanded consideration of assessment and an illustrative example of the features coming together in a classroom as well as discussion of fostering an inclusive classroom, using inclusive pedagogy, and planning for coherence. Chapter 6 discusses how instructional resources can help by providing materials and guidance for carrying out the instruction.

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1 This chapter includes content drawn from five papers commissioned by the committee: Designing NGSS-Aligned Curriculum Materials by Brian Reiser and Bill Penuel; Data Use by Middle and Secondary Students in the Digital Age: A Status Report and Future Prospects by Victor Lee and Michelle Wilkerson; The Nature of the Teacher’s Role in Supporting Student Investigations in Middle and High School Science Classrooms: Creating and Participating in a Community of Practice by Matthew Kloser; Engineering Approaches to Problem Solving and Design in Secondary School Science: Teachers as Design Coaches by Senay Purzer; and A Summary of Inclusive Pedagogies for Science Education by Felicia Mensah and Kristen Larson. The commissioned papers are available at http://www.nas.edu/Science-Investigation-and-Design.

Suggested Citation:"5 How Teachers Support Investigation and Design." 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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Multiple groups of researchers have identified sets of core instructional practices for science teachers (Kloser, 2014; Windschitl et al., 2012). Windschitl et al. (2012) noted that “classrooms are now being viewed as working communities in which the teacher’s principal task is to mediate increasingly sophisticated forms of academic conversation and activity by the students, rather than have students memorize and reproduce textbook explanations or merely expose them to activities. . . . This mediation . . . promotes robust forms of reasoning about complex concepts . . . and engages learners in the characteristic practices of the discipline” (p. 886, emphasis ours). In addition to the teacher’s crucial role in the day-to-day structuring of instruction, another important role is to facilitate discourse in ways that draw on students’ ideas, attend to existing theories and evidence to shape those ideas, and equitably promote uptake of students’ ideas amongst each other (Kloser, 2014).

Table 5-1 shows the ideas first presented in Table 4-2, but now from the perspective of a teacher thinking about instruction rather than the students’ experiences with investigation and design. Many of the same ideas are important to the teacher, but the teacher has additional responsibilities. For example, the teacher selects and presents phenomena and engages the students in making sense of them via guided questions and observations. In making this selection, the teacher considers the students’ background knowledge and their perspectives, as well as the local context, and seeks phenomena or design challenges that are likely to match student interests. The guidelines presented in Chapter 3 offer reminders to consider (1) providing choice or autonomy in learning, (2) promoting personal relevance, (3) presenting appropriately challenging material, and (4) situating the investigations in socially and culturally appropriate contexts. The phenomenon or challenge needs to provide more than just a hook to interest students, it must spark many questions that can be used to drive learning via investigation and design. In addition, the teacher helps the students determine which information counts as evidence and how it can be used to construct explanations or design solutions and to advance three-dimensional understanding. A key role of the teacher is in assessing student learning. This does not mean just giving tests; it includes helping students to reflect on their learning and the learning process and to productively share their ideas with each other in various formats. The teacher plays a key role in the students making connections to their prior knowledge and to phenomena they will encounter in the future. With the help of instructional resources (see Chapter 6), the teacher is responsible for creating a coherent experience for students where they can see these connections and apply their learning.

Suggested Citation:"5 How Teachers Support Investigation and Design." 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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TABLE 5-1 Teacher Guidance during Investigation and Design

Examples of the Teacher’s Role in Supporting Student Learning (organized by features of science investigation and engineering design)
Make Sense of Phenomena and Design Challenge Gather and Analyze Data and Information Construct Explanations and Design Solutions Communicate Reasoning to Self and Others Connect Learning through Multiple Contexts
  • Select and present real and relevant phenomena or challenges
  • Guide observation and development of student questions
  • Facilitate students developing and using meaningful and relevant questions
  • Communicate clear expectations for use of information as evidence
  • Facilitate connections between relevant core ideas and crosscutting concepts related to the phenomena or challenge
  • Communicate clear expectations for students to develop evidence-based explanations and models
  • Set clear expectations for students to develop arguments for how their evidence supports explanations
  • Support design and testing of solutions to challenges, including redesign and retesting as students refine their approach
  • Provide opportunities for students to produce multiple models and other artifacts that communicate their reasoning
  • Establish a classroom culture of respect and guide productive and inclusive discourse
  • Reflect on student and teacher learning
  • Highlight connections to experiences and phenomena students have encountered in previous units, courses, or in earlier school grades
  • Plan coherent support for students to connect learning to phenomena beyond the classroom

MAKE SENSE OF PHENOMENA

Contextualized, real-world phenomena or human challenges are the heart of student engagement in science investigation and engineering design. When contextualized and situated, investigations can help students learn and use prior knowledge to explain or model novel phenomena. This way of focusing on investigation and design is a fundamental shift from the America’s Lab Report (National Research Council, 2006), in which integrated instructional units brought the laboratory experience into the flow of the class to highlight connections, but the investigation itself was not the center of the unit. Investigation and design make contextualized, real-world phenomena the overarching and unifying driving force for all of the students’ activity in the science classroom.

Suggested Citation:"5 How Teachers Support Investigation and Design." 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 are integrally involved in partnering with students to identify and use contextualized phenomena that promote questions among students and the opportunity to address these questions in various ways (Krajcik and Czerniak, 2014; Windschitl, Thompson, and Braaten, 2018). To establish relevance, there needs to be a connection to learners’ interests, such as their communities, cultures, places, and experiences, and to real-world issues (Miller and Krajcik, 2015). When teachers choose phenomena or design challenges that are relevant to the community, the resulting student questions will also be relevant. To promote learning, more than relevance and an initial interest is necessary; the phenomena and questions need to maintain student interest and learning over a sustained period of time. Relevant questions are critical for creating engaging learning environments for all students, including both boys and girls, as well as those from different cultures, races, and socioeconomic backgrounds (see Box 5-1). As discussed in Chapter 3, students need to be motivated to seek solutions to a question and persist at finding solutions or responses when work becomes challenging or they experience setback or failure.

Teachers play a key role in selecting phenomena for investigation and design that engage the students and at the same time lead to learning of important science and engineering ideas and concepts. While the focus of science and engineering in practice is on investigating phenomena in nature and the designed world, some phenomena may not be directly relevant to students’ daily lives because they are not observable or are so abstract or divorced from students’ experiences that they do not capture student interest (Windschitl et al., 2012). The phenomena or design problems introduced should be carefully chosen to provide a context to engage students in using science ideas and concepts to explain what is occurring and to improve student understanding of the chosen science or engineering topic. Phenomena and design challenges provide a context and purpose for students’ science learning. In order to prepare for these types of instructional experiences, teachers need to be able to collaborate with students, colleagues, and community members to identify contextualized phenomena to drive investigations. One example of a mechanism for community collaboration is provided by EPICS K–12,2 which provides sample service-learning modules that connect engineering and the community. More generally, Krajcik (2015) proposed several approaches, drawing ideas from the local environment and context (e.g., relationships in local habitats or ecosystems), tapping into students’ interests (e.g., sports or music), identifying current challenges that face the environment (e.g., global warming), or drawing on scientific issues. The focus on complex phenomena has equity implications. Relevant, contextualized experiences connect underrepresented populations

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2 For more information, see https://engineering.purdue.edu/EPICS/k12 [December 2018].

Suggested Citation:"5 How Teachers Support Investigation and Design." 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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in STEM and English learners to the science community (Tolbert et al., 2014). Another important instructional consideration is related to the progression of core ideas across the grade levels: that is, an explanation for a phenomenon can change as student learning becomes increasingly sophisticated across grade levels (see Box 5-2).

Problematizing everyday phenomena for students—that is, inducing in students “perplexity, confusion, or doubt” (Dewey, 1910, p. 12) in relationship to those phenomena—is one strategy for sparking and sustaining interest (Engle, 2012) and for pushing students to go deeper and develop

Suggested Citation:"5 How Teachers Support Investigation and Design." 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.
×
Suggested Citation:"5 How Teachers Support Investigation and Design." 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.
×

explanations for phenomena they may take for granted (Reiser, 2004; Reiser, Novak, and McGill, 2017b; Watkins et al., 2018). Students’ questions are at the center of curiosity and engagement in phenomena. Curiosity motivates students to persist in seeking the solutions to problems and the explanations for phenomena. Such projects would

  • create interest and student curiosity that lead to engagement in learning;
  • be relevant to students’ communities, culture, place, and experiences, and to real-world issues;
  • present challenges with a variety of possible solutions; and
  • involve criteria and constraints that are not only technical (associated with a disciplinary core idea), but also address economic, societal, or environmental aspects.

Core ideas and crosscutting concepts can be thought of as the intellectual resources students use to make sense of phenomena in their daily life beyond the classroom. Huff and Duschl (2018) suggest that before middle school teachers begin instruction, they should first contemplate how the instruction builds on students’ prior learning and how instruction will lead to coherence in learning and a more sophisticated understanding of core ideas and crosscutting concepts. For example, in a middle school classroom, students may learn about the solar system and how planets are held in orbit around the sun by its gravitational pull on them. They use models to learn about motions and tilt of the Earth and how these phenomena relate to the changing seasons.

Approaches aligned with A Framework for K–12 Science Education (hereafter referred to as the Framework; National Research Council, 2012) are often driven by students’ emergent questions and ideas, both at the beginning of units of instruction, as well as along the way as those instructional sequences unfold. In the past, a focus of traditional science instruction was to lecture to students and focus on “filling them up” with knowledge. Teachers often feel the need to “frontload” science instruction by telling students science facts; the evidence indicates that 40 percent of class time in middle schools and nearly one-half of class time in high schools is spent frontloading content (Banilower et al., 2013). Even when teachers open up space for students to share their background knowledge and ideas about the phenomenon under study, the questions asked often limit the ability of students to truly make their ideas known. As discussed in Chapter 4, investigation and design do not use the traditional I-R-E model in which teachers initiate (I) interaction by asking an individual student a question followed by the student’s response (R) and the teacher’s evaluation (E) of that response (see the discussion of Figure 4-1) (Cazden, 2001). This

Suggested Citation:"5 How Teachers Support Investigation and Design." 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.
×

questioning pattern often fails to address the needs of the entire learning community and does not engage students as participants in the disciplinary community (Michaels and O’Connor, 2017). The techniques of productive discourse discussed later in this chapter can provide alternate strategies for teachers to engage student questions.

Given the many challenges facing teachers in adapting instruction to ongoing changes in student thinking, researchers have explored new strategies and supports to better prepare teachers to notice student thinking in the moment (Johnson, Wendell, and Watkins, 2017; Richards and Robertson, 2016; Russ and Luna, 2013). Some have examined the ways in which learning progressions, as representations of student ideas, concepts, and practices, can support teachers in understanding the complex landscape of student learning and can support them as they navigate less-structured learning environments (Alonzo and Elby, 2014; Furtak, Morrison, and Kroog, 2014).

Teachers can work to partner with students in identifying the students’ questions by using culturally relevant (Ladson-Billings, 2006) and culturally responsive (Gay, 2010) pedagogies to help to inform the ways in which these questions and phenomena might be identified (as discussed later in this chapter). Teachers who are using culturally relevant pedagogies are first aware of their own power, positioning, and social context (Ladson-Billings, 2006), and they help to identify phenomena and problem scenarios that are relevant to students’ lived experience and build on those experiences. Taking this one step farther, culturally responsive pedagogies seek to critique or disrupt the status quo (Parsons and Wall, 2011). Teachers can promote inclusion by choosing phenomena that build deeply on the communities and knowledge students bring to the classroom.

GATHER AND ANALYZE DATA

As discussed in Chapter 4, what it means to work with data has changed significantly since the preparation and publication of America’s Lab Report (National Research Council, 2006) in ways that impact students, educators, and how science is taught. This change is expressing itself most obviously in the abundance of data that can be collected and accessed by students and teachers. There are also notable changes in the types of data (e.g., GPS, network, and qualitative/verbal data) that are now readily available and the purposes for which data are collected and analyzed. These shifts have both generated enthusiasm and raised a number of questions for K–12 science educators as new science standards are being adopted across the United States. Research continues to show that students benefit from working with data when such work is connected to meaningful inquiry, and when students have opportunities to participate in the construction, representation, analysis, and use of data as evidence in a coherent manner,

Suggested Citation:"5 How Teachers Support Investigation and Design." 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.
×

rather than as separated experiences. Over the past several decades, considerable research has explored learners’ general understandings about the nature and purpose of quantitative data. There are several key points for teachers to keep in mind about how students conceive of data during investigation and design:

  1. Leverage data in the context of meaningful scientific pursuits. Data competences examined outside of authentic contexts appear different from those that are situated in familiar and meaningful contexts. In the latter, students have more opportunities to demonstrate and develop sophistication, and to construct, use, and communicate data in ways that are meaningfully connected to other scientific practices.
  2. Consider datasets as aggregates rather than only collections of data points and use related statistical notions. Students are better equipped to interpret and communicate about data when they have developed ideas of distribution and variability, and when they richly understand how to use measures of center as one of many ways to describe a dataset.
  3. Representations are an important part of interpreting and communicating about data. Data representations can be frequently misunderstood, but those misunderstandings can be refined through reflection on how a given data representation works and corresponds to the situation being modeled. Interpretive work with data representations should emphasize distributions and variability in the dataset, and students may benefit from constructing and using data representations to support scientific explanation or argument.
  4. Data engagements in science can provide better connections to how topics of data and statistics are encountered in mathematics instruction. Some specific connections may be made by encouraging students to compare multiple datasets and use data representations when making and justifying claims (thus leveraging notions of center, spread, and representation from mathematics instruction as part of making inferences from data).

Teachers play a key role in helping students to use the tools and techniques needed to gather data, and they establish clear standards for what is used as evidence (see Box 5-3). They work to elicit evidence-based reasoning from students (also see the extended example about a tanker implosion later in this chapter for more on eliciting ideas). Teachers help students find and bring in the connections to their prior knowledge and how an investigation links to crosscutting concepts or disciplinary core ideas they have encountered in previous courses.

Suggested Citation:"5 How Teachers Support Investigation and Design." 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.
×

Early work in mathematics and science education has documented common difficulties students have with reading canonical representations that often show data (Leinhardt, Zaslavsky, and Stein, 1990). A well-known example is that Cartesian graphs of velocity of an object are often interpreted by students as indicating the trajectory of the object (Clement, 1989). Similarly, students may expect histograms with flatter distributions to indicate there is less variability in data or that the x-axis of histograms are meant to indicate time (Kaplan et al., 2014). They may also treat displays of data as simple illustrations, rather than as tools for reasoning about and describing data (Wild and Pfannkuch, 1999). This extends to non-graphical data representations, such as map-based data visualizations, which middle and secondary students may interpret as being an iconic picture rather than a product and source of data (Swenson and Kastens, 2011).

While some incorrect data interpretations are to be expected, there is growing consensus that these misinterpretations be viewed as non-normative products of still useful reasoning processes (Elby, 2000; Lee

Suggested Citation:"5 How Teachers Support Investigation and Design." 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.
×

and Sherin, 2006). For example, many errors documented in students’ understandings of representations are misapplications of otherwise useful conventions that can be remedied through reflection and comparison of the data to the context about which an investigation is being conducted, or they may arise from a case-versus-aggregate treatment of data (delMas, Garfield, and Ooms, 2005). With time and support, however, students may notice and begin to make mappings between important features within a representation and the situation being modeled, even treating the representation as a source of data that can be further manipulated in order to answer new questions (Laina and Wilkerson, 2016).

Data representations that are carefully selected and introduced can help scaffold students’ understandings of conventional representations, as well as of key features of data—including developing aggregate conceptions of datasets; attending to measures of center, spread, and distribution; and making inferences from the data (Konold, 2012). Dot and scatter plots that clearly indicate each observation in a dataset relative to others, for example,

Suggested Citation:"5 How Teachers Support Investigation and Design." 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.
×

have been found to be more accessible to students who are still developing graphical competencies, allowing users to visualize how data are concentrated in “modal clumps” (Konold et al., 2002) and build on intuitive ways of “seeing” data. Similarly, Kuhn, Ramseym, and Arvidsson (2015) found that although even adults exhibit difficulty engaging in multivariate reasoning, brief interventions in which middle school students collected, aggregated, and visualized data about topics that have complex causal factors (e.g., life expectancy, body mass index) using dot plots yielded promising findings.

CONSTRUCT EXPLANATIONS

At a national level, science instruction is re-orienting toward engaging students with science as epistemic practice. One consequence of this shift is that students are expected to construct understandings of content through engaging in a suite of scientific and engineering practices, including not only data analysis, but also developing models, asking questions, planning and carrying out investigations, constructing explanations and designing solutions, and developing arguments for how the evidence supports an explanation. It is fortunate that these practices are well-aligned with what the literature shows about how students’ reasoning with data can be further developed—collecting data in service of understanding real-world phenomena, using data as evidence, engaging in argument from evidence, and communicating the reasoning about the meaning of data as it relates to causal explanations.

One of the most obvious ways in which students can work with data in sophisticated and meaningful ways to advance their own scientific inquiries is through measurement and modeling. Lehrer and Romberg (1996) have promoted “data modeling” in which the emphasized practices involve iterative cycles of posing questions, generating and selecting attributes that can be measured, constructing measures, structuring and representing data, and making inferences from data. Such work involves an iterative testing and refinement of student models of the system connected with the measurements they undertake and the data representations they develop.

Another clear connection between investigation and design and data is the role evidence from data plays in scientific explanation and argumentation. Science educators have long sought to better support students in using data as scientific evidence. Epistemic scaffolds that explicitly privilege the use of evidence in explanation have proved useful in this regard (McNeil and Kraijcik, 2011; Sandoval and Reiser, 2004). Students may give quantitative data higher epistemic status than other forms of evidence (Sandoval and Çam, 2011); however, as described above, they may also treat data as an objective report rather than an uncertain construction whose validity can

Suggested Citation:"5 How Teachers Support Investigation and Design." 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.
×

be assessed and challenged. The ways in which students make use of data as evidence to support explanation and argument depends on the nature and complexity of the data. Using complex data to support explanations and argument can be a challenge to most students (Kerlin, McDonald, and Kelly, 2010).

A key role for teachers is to establish clear expectations for the construction of models and the development of arguments for how the evidence supports or refutes an explanation or claim. When students engage in engineering design challenges (see Box 5-4), the teacher serves an additional role as a design coach (Purzer, 2017).

COMMUNICATE REASONING TO SELF AND OTHERS

A key feature of instruction is the opportunity for students to reflect on their own reasoning and share it with fellow students and their teachers. This can be done via production of artifacts and representations and by engaging in productive discourse. The teacher plays an important role in providing multiple opportunities for students to demonstrate various types of reasoning, by eliciting ideas during discourse, and by setting an expectation for inclusion and respect. This communication also provides opportunities for assessment, as students reflect on their own work and teachers learn about the students’ understanding and progress.

Artifacts and Representations

As discussed in the previous chapter, artifacts are tangible representations of student understanding that serve as external, intellectual products and as genuine products of students’ exploration and knowledge-building activities (Blumenfeld et al., 1991; Lucas et al., 2005). Students’ explanations of phenomena and their design solutions for challenges serve as artifacts that help make the learners’ scientific thinking visible to themselves and others. Discussions in which teacher’s elicit student ideas and lead discussions to explore the ideas are central to learning via investigation and design. Student-generated artifacts help students organize and share their thinking. These representations not only reveal students’ initial ideas and experiences, but also track ongoing changes in their thinking (Windschitl et al., 2012). In this way, teachers not only facilitate learning experiences for students through classroom discourse, but also mediate this discourse by encouraging students to create artifacts that students generate as individuals, in small groups, and as a class. Artifacts are important, because a key aspect of making scientific practices central is that teachers and students hold each other accountable to being responsive to each other’s ideas, as well as to norms they have collectively established for what counts as quality practice

Suggested Citation:"5 How Teachers Support Investigation and Design." 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.
×
Suggested Citation:"5 How Teachers Support Investigation and Design." 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.
×
Suggested Citation:"5 How Teachers Support Investigation and Design." 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.
×

(Engle, 2012; Engle and Conant, 2002; Michaels, O’Connor, and Resnick, 2007) For example, students might draw a model illustrating their understanding of how energy is transferred and transformed by a wind turbine, share their models with each other, ask each other probing questions to better understand each other’s models, and provide feedback to each other on how those models might be improved (e.g., representing invisible processes, connecting micro- and macro-level phenomena, or using labels or legends to help others interpret what is being represented).

Eliciting and facilitating student talk occurs synchronously and iteratively with capturing and representing student ideas publicly. Student ideas are made visible in initial and revised models (Windschitl, Thompson, and Braaten, 2018). Claim-Evidence-Reasoning prompts (e.g., McNeill and Pimintel, 2010; McNeill et al., 2006) and other task scaffolds can make student thinking explicit (Kang, Thompson, and Windschitl, 2014) as a foundation for conversations about student ideas (Kang et al., 2016). The creation and development of artifacts are tasks that push student learning.

The audiences for artifacts students construct begin with the classroom and extend outward. Students are first accountable to making sense of data, ideas, and design solutions for themselves, publicly and to make those ideas available for others to work on and with (Engle, 2012). The classroom learning community itself is a key audience for products, that is, an audience of peers in a community that adheres to norms for how to hold one another accountable for supporting ideas with evidence, for listening to others and building ideas together, and for critiquing and asking questions about one’s own and others’ ideas (Berland and Reiser, 2011; Berland et al., 2016). For design challenges, the audience may be the wider community, especially when those challenges connect students to ongoing endeavors in the community that are applying science and engineering practices to solving problems (Birmingham et al., 2017; Calabrese Barton and Tan, 2010; Penuel, 2016).

Discourse

Studies of discourse-rich classrooms have indicated that engaging students in productive conversation promotes development of conceptual understanding of science content (e.g., Rosebery, Warren, and Conant, 1992), as well as their motivation to learn (e.g., Kiemer et al., 2015). In these discourse-rich classrooms, teachers can use open-ended questions to elevate students’ private ideas into the public space and to develop the substance of student ideas (Engle and Conant, 2002). When public, student ideas can be deliberated and held accountable to the discipline and to classroom norms (Michaels, O’Connor, and Resnick, 2007). Ideally, making students’ ideas public would allow the teacher to shape classroom instruction in ways that

Suggested Citation:"5 How Teachers Support Investigation and Design." 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.
×

would result in students engaging in three-dimensional performances with investigation that lead to greater student learning.

Teachers guiding science investigation and engineering design facilitate classroom discourse in which students authentically participate in sharing, building on, and responding to each other’s ideas. Teachers do this by presenting authentic phenomena and engaging student with questions that are genuine requests to understand the nature of student thinking (Cazden, 2001; Coffey et al., 2011) and which provide opportunities for the teacher and students to make sense of the student’s reasoning (Windschitl et al., 2012). Furthermore, discourse serves a key function from the perspective of formative assessment: namely, that it provides ongoing, informal spaces in which the teacher may listen and attend to the nature and status of student ideas as they develop (Bennett, 2011; Ruiz-Primo and Furtak, 2006, 2007), providing key opportunities not available in students’ written work (Furtak and Ruiz-Primo, 2008) to understand the substance of what students are saying (Coffey et al., 2011). The nature of the types of talk moves teachers use to orchestrate classroom discussions (Cartier et al., 2013) are essential to helping students share their ideas with each other (Michaels and O’Connor, 2017), as seen in Table 5-2. Often referred to as talk moves (O’Connor and Michaels, 1993, 1996; Van Zee and Minstrell, 1997), these types of questions are all focused on helping students make their ideas explicit to their peers (Engle and Conant, 2002), to expand student thinking (Van Zee and Minstrell, 1997), and to press students for deeper reasoning and for evidence-based explanations (Windschitl et al., 2012).

These talk moves indicate to the community that all members want to understand each other’s thinking (Michaels and O’Connor, 2017). The role of the teacher is to support uptake and further discussion, providing students enough time to think, and avoiding evaluative responses by using productive phrases such as, “Interesting idea, who else would like to talk about that idea?” (Michaels and O’Connor, 2017). Importantly, when facilitating this type of discussion, teachers should also use talk moves that help students to continue to expand on their ideas, such as by saying “say more” (Michaels and O’Connor, 2017), rather than giving evaluative responses, which have the effect of shutting down student thinking and reasoning.

These kinds of discussions are wide-ranging and center on students’ lived experiences. They involve teachers listening to student ideas, repeating what students have said, and encouraging students to make sense of scientific ideas. Even when investigating a contextualized phenomenon that is the anchor of a larger storyline for a three-dimensional learning experience, these discussions may focus in the moment on working out specific ideas or understandings relevant to the development of the ongoing scientific storyline. Later in this chapter, emergent conversation of this sort is illustrated

Suggested Citation:"5 How Teachers Support Investigation and Design." 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.
×

TABLE 5-2 Talk Moves

Talk Move Purpose Example
Marking: “That’s an important point.” Pointing out to students what a student has said that is important given the teacher’s current academic purposes “Did everyone hear what Marisol just said? She made a comparison between this phenomenon and something she experienced with her family last summer. That’s important because it shows that we’re connecting what we’re doing in school to what’s happening in our everyday lives.”
Challenging Students: “What do YOU think?” Promoting academically rigorous conversation by challenging students and turning the responsibility for reasoning back to students “That’s a great question, Kwame. What does everyone else think?”
“That’s an interesting idea, is there a way we could possibly test it to see if it’s true?”
“Can you give an example?”
“Does your explanation fit with other science ideas, like [state science concept]?”
Linking Contributions: “Who wants to add on . . . ?” Helping students link their contributions to the ongoing conversation “Who disagrees with Arjun?”
“Who else wants to add on to what she just said?”
Building on Prior Knowledge: “How does this connect?” Reminding students of knowledge they have access to, or connections to other elements of ongoing storylines “Thinking back to what we have been working on for the past few weeks, what connections can you make?”
“How does what we have been discussing today connect with other ideas from your everyday experiences?”
Verifying and Clarifying “So, you are saying . . .” Repeating or “revoicing” what the student said and offering the student a chance to agree or disagree with the teacher’s version of what the student has said “So what I heard you say is that the oil tanker collapsed because . . .”
“Aha, so Abdul thinks that a car overtaking another car in the left lane of the highway does not have the same velocity as the car it is passing.”
Suggested Citation:"5 How Teachers Support Investigation and Design." 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.
×
Talk Move Purpose Example
Pressing for Evidence-Based Reasoning: “Where can we find that?” Holding students accountable for providing evidence and reasoning for the claims they are making “Why do you think that is the case?
“What evidence do we have that that is true?
Expanding Reasoning: “Say more” Using wait time and explicitly asking students to say more to support their initial contributions “That is an interesting idea, Min. Can you say more about that so we can really understand your thinking?”

NOTE: A figure describing a taxonomy of talk moves can also be found in Windschitl, Thompson, and Braaten (2018) at http://ambitiousscienceteaching.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/DiscoursePrimer.pdf [December 2018].

SOURCES: Adapted from van Zee and Minstrell (1997), Windschitl et al. (2012), and Michaels and O’Connor (2017).

when a teacher picks up on her students’ ideas and uses them as a basis for an extended discussion about the phenomena of a tanker implosion.

Research under the umbrella of “responsive teaching” (Robertson, Scherr, and Hammer, 2016) prioritizes teachers listening to and designing subsequent learning experiences around student ideas. This teaching practice is central to scientific investigations in the Framework vision as it is less about teachers eliciting student ideas for the purpose of determining their accuracy, and more about teachers trying to understand students’ understanding and to make connections between students’ ideas and scientific processes and practices (Coffey et al., 2011). Honoring the nature of student thinking allows teachers to follow the thread of students’ learning, rather than forcing or pushing particular sequences that may not align or resonate with series of students’ own questions. Questions such as these are essential tools for teachers to draw out and support students in expanding upon and making their ideas clear throughout science investigation and engineering design.

Embedded Assessment

The term embedded assessment refers to formative assessment for learning and processes that have been thoughtfully integrated into an instructional sequence (Penuel and Shepard, 2016). Embedding assessments in investigation and design allows them to be content-rich and to build on or be a part of the classwork. Instead of written tests, assessments can build on the collaborative nature of investigation and design with more interactive forms of assessment. The discussion and student writing that help make thinking visible are more powerful when within the context of

Suggested Citation:"5 How Teachers Support Investigation and Design." 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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an investigation or design. They can follow the “contours of practices” and reflect how scientists and engineers assess and evaluate one another’s questions, investigations, models, explanations, and arguments (Ford, 2008; Ford and Forman, 2006). For example, they might be planned to take place at a particular “joint” (Shavelson et al., 2008) or “bend” (Penuel et al., 2018) in a three-dimensional performance sequence, when the teacher determines an appropriate place to check student progress toward a performance expectation/learning goal. To build deep, usable knowledge, students should engage in making sense of multiple similar phenomena using the same core ideas with variety of practices and crosscutting concepts within and across curriculum units.

Formative assessment tasks also need to integrate specific types of scaffolds to draw out student thinking so that students have support on how to share their thinking beyond a blank outcome space. Songer and Gotwals (2012) examined how integrating different types of scaffolds can help support the explanation construction of middle school students. These scaffolds can be faded over time to support students’ development of scientific practices (McNeill et al., 2006). In addition to using contextualized phenomena, these scaffolds could include providing students with checklists that consist of characteristics relevant to a given scientific practice (e.g., a modeling checklist that asks students to include both visible and invisible aspects of a system; an explanation checklist that asks students to include claims and evidence to support those claims), vocabulary checklists, rubrics, sentence frames, and explanatory models in combination with written explanations (Kang, Thompson, and Windschitl, 2014). Other approaches have explored the ways in which helping teachers develop their own assessment tasks might similarly create space for students to express their thinking, whether questions on the assessment are open- or closed-ended, and the extent to which the information students provide on the assessment can be easily interpreted (e.g., Furtak and Ruiz-Primo, 2008).

This type of formative assessment becomes seamless with everyday instruction; instead of setting formative assessment apart from daily classroom activity, it embeds it in the course of every interaction the teacher has with students. While formative assessment is perhaps most commonly thought of as consisting of formal, written tasks embedded into instructional units, it encompasses the informal activities in which teachers attend on an ongoing, daily basis to the nature and quality of student ideas during the course of daily instruction. Embedded assessment can also be conceived as an ongoing, informal process of teachers taking opportunities to create space for students to share their thinking with each other and with their teacher so that they may better support and develop their ideas as learning unfolds (Pellegrino, 2014; Ruiz-Primo and Furtak, 2006, 2007). This involves teachers asking authentic questions when drawing out student

Suggested Citation:"5 How Teachers Support Investigation and Design." 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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thinking as a starting point for working with their ideas (Cazden, 2001), making inferences about what students know (Bennett, 2011), attending closely to the nature and substance of student thinking (Coffey et al., 2011), and supporting students in expanding on their ideas (Richards and Robertson, 2016). It also consists of teachers and students (and students with other students) pushing each other in their thinking (Windschtil et al., 2012).

Once teachers have given students an embedded formative assessment task, they need to interpret the student work, evaluate what students know based upon their responses to the task (Bennett, 2011; National Research Council, 2001), and think about next instructional steps to move students ahead in their learning (e.g., Heritage et al., 2009; Wiliam, 2007). For tasks embedded in instructional materials, this might involve going through student work and making judgments about the extent to which students have learned what they need to know in order to move on, or harvesting students’ language and models to inform where an instructional sequence might go next. When teachers circulate and monitor student work during an investigation, they need to be prepared with questions to extend student thinking. These questions are closely aligned with the materials themselves, focus on the core ideas and crosscutting concepts, and are intended to expose specific student reasoning about their thinking. Establishing time and space for students to share their ideas and respond to others can function as immediate feedback happening during the course of regular instruction (Michaels, O’Connor, and Resnick, 2007). This can help students and teachers see the thinking process the student is using to make sense of the phenomenon and reflect on how the student is using evidence.

Establish and Maintain an Inclusive Learning Environment

A key dimension of engaging all students in investigation and design is creating equitable classrooms in which the class culture welcomes and expects participation from all students. Teachers need to be able to support students “as they explicate their ideas, make their thinking public and accessible to the group, use evidence, coordinate claims and evidence, and build on and critique one another’s ideas” (Michaels and O’Connor, 2012, p. 7). Group norms of participation, respect for others, a willingness to revise one’s ideas, and equity are all critical, and the norms of the classroom need to align with those of the best forms of collaborative scientific practice (Berland and Reiser, 2011; Bricker and Bell, 2008; Calabrese Barton and Tan, 2009; Duschl and Osborne, 2002; Osborne, Erduran, and Simon, 2004; Radinsky, Oliva, and Alamar, 2010).

Teachers can also facilitate classroom discussions with students to encourage and support them in critically reflecting on their own roles in

Suggested Citation:"5 How Teachers Support Investigation and Design." 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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science (Johnson, 2011). Facilitating productive talk can move forward not only disciplinary goals, but also equity goals, if teachers take active steps to include all students including those from traditionally underrepresented communities. Establishing an environment in which all students’ voices are respected and in which students are encouraged and taught how to respectfully engage each other’s ideas can shift the power dynamic in traditional classrooms from the teacher as the source of knowledge to the students bringing knowledge from their own backgrounds (Moll et al., 1992) and from material activity to conceptual models. However, merely helping students recognize the primary features of scientific discourse patterns may not help students from “nondominant” populations fully participate if their native discourse patterns are totally neglected or if they cannot use scientific language in meaningful contexts (Michaels and O’Connor, 2017).

Students’ own language resources as well as scientific discourses can be drawn upon to help students construct explanations or models about scientific phenomena (Brown and Kloser, 2009). McNeill and Pimentel (2010) compared three case studies in urban environments in which discussion and argumentation were infused. They highlighted the differences observed in the teachers’ roles across the classrooms, only one of which included student-to-student interactions. The teacher who fostered student-to-student interactions used more open-ended questions and allowed students to use both scientific and everyday language. By recognizing students’ ideas and their language resources, this teacher encouraged the community to consider new ideas and reflect on thinking from their classmates. In another case study investigating how a high school science teacher engaged 54 students in science argumentation, almost one-half of whom were English language learners (ELLs), three instructional strategies were observed that supported students’ engagement in the community of practice. First, the teacher validated the use of the students’ primary language to ensure they could conceptually understand the core science ideas. Many students would speak in Spanish during pair and small group work before translating the ideas to English. Second, the teacher provided deliberate scaffolds such as expectations that each claim should be supported by two pieces of evidence. Finally, the teacher used small group work prior to whole-class discussion in order to provide ELLs the opportunity to share their ideas in low-pressure situations.

This work is difficult and unnatural for many teachers. In a case study in which a project-based investigative approach was used among a classroom community, 97 percent of whom were African American students, teachers were prepared to lead productive and equitable discussions. In practice, they reverted to traditional I-R-E-type patterns two-thirds of the time (Alozie, Moje, and Krajcik, 2010). The authors suggested that several structures could better help teachers realize their role in leading classroom

Suggested Citation:"5 How Teachers Support Investigation and Design." 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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discussions. These structures centered on curriculum guides that could provide more rationale for planned discussions, a set of open-ended questions that teachers could use, strategies for training young people to engage in discussion, and strategies for facilitating and not dominating discussions, especially for students unaccustomed to this type of discourse. More information on inclusive pedagogies can be found later in this chapter in the discussion about connecting learning in multiple contexts and providing coherence.

FEATURES COME TOGETHER FOR INVESTIGATION AND DESIGN3

The sections above discuss features of investigation and design separately, but they all interact in multiple ways in the classroom. Here we present an example that shows many of the features described and gives a sense of the nature of a classroom with investigation and design at the center. It centers on Bethany, a high school chemistry teacher, who introduces a new and puzzling phenomenon to engage her students in exploring how molecules move and how that movement relates to the pressure of gasses. Throughout the unit, students create and revise models that represent ongoing changes in their thinking as they proceed through a series of investigations that help them to understand the relationships between variables involved in the phenomenon, and to relate their developing understandings to initial, anchoring phenomenon. On the first day of the unit, Bethany showed students a slide of an oil tanker train car and read the scenario from the slide:

The purpose is to investigate how gasses behave and what affects their behavior, and we’re going to look at a scenario of this tank car. You have this tank train, and the interior of the tank was washed out and cleaned with steam. Then all the outlet valves were shut and the tank car was sealed. All of the workers went home for the evening and when they returned, this was what they found.

Bethany asked the students to predict what they found, and one student suggested it may have exploded, another thought maybe it might have compressed, and a third thought maybe there was some steam coming off of it. She then flipped to the next slide, and students exclaimed with surprise and shock as they saw the huge, steel oil tanker car completely crushed in on itself. “Whoa!” “Holy smokes!” “Why’d that happen?” “That’s cool!”

___________________

3 Adapted from Windschitl, Thompson, and Braaten (2018) and Ambitious Science Teaching at https://ambitiousscienceteaching.org/ [October 2018].

Suggested Citation:"5 How Teachers Support Investigation and Design." 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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Bethany responded, “That’s a good question, that’s what we’re trying to figure out.” She then showed a video of the tanker crushing and, unprompted, the students spontaneously started sharing suggestions for why the tanker might have collapsed. “Is it because there’s nothing inside of it?” “How’d that happen?” For more of the student questions, see Box 5-5 on eliciting student ideas via discourse.

Bethany asked the students to complete an individual brainstorm, writing down in their journals what was happening inside the tanker or outside the tanker that made it crush, why the tanker crushed, and how the tanker crushed. She encouraged students to think about what happened before, during, and after, and to draw diagrams representing their thinking (individual models). A similar type of prompt for students to make initial models of this phenomenon is shown in Figure 5-1 below.

With this “leaving question” about what causes the tanker to shrink (see Box 5-5; Windschitl, Thompson, and Braaten, 2018), Bethany encouraged the group to continue their conversation after she left. Throughout the exchange with this small group, Bethany used the students’ model as a medium to ask questions about students’ ideas, and challenged the ideas the students shared. For example, the students often returned to the idea that steam or air had escaped when the tanker had crushed in, but Bethany

Image
FIGURE 5-1 Initial template for student work on tanker explosion.
SOURCE: Windschitl, Thompson, and Braaten (2018, p. 123).
Suggested Citation:"5 How Teachers Support Investigation and Design." 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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reminded them that the tanker had been sealed, setting the condition of a closed system. She helped them to identify and refine ideas about air temperature and pressure, and identify ideas about differences between the inside and outside of the tanker at different times. She similarly spoke to all of the groups in the class, encouraging them to refine their ideas and to represent those ideas on the three different times represented on their models.

The next day, Bethany guided the students as they built an initial consensus model as a whole class that combined elements of individual group models that they had presented at the end of the previous class period. As a warm-up activity, Bethany encouraged the students to think about three things the other groups had presented that they had not thought of, and then she used two guiding questions to help the students construct a whole-group model: first, to make a list of what is causing the tanker to crush; and second, to see if anything seemed to be linked together.

After assembling the whole-group consensus model, the students performed experiments in which they filled pop cans with water, heated the cans until the water was boiling, and then placed the hot cans into containers filled with ice water following a set of instructions that Bethany provided. They then used the empirical results they gathered to update the models they had already made. The results of these experiments helped the students to link a new observable phenomenon with phase changes and the speed of gas molecules. They then performed additional experiments that helped them to reason with the difference between pressure inside and outside a system and also performed readings. They used this information to better make sense of the anchoring phenomenon of the tanker implosion as they continued with their discourse on the next day of class.

In the conversation about crushing (see Box 5-6), Bethany explicitly helped students weave their findings from the can-crushing experiment to the oil tanker crushing, she drew out student ideas about multiple possible variables that might be involved, including temperature, size, air pressure, and whether the system was opened or closed. Then, Bethany encouraged students to connect these different variables that they would then directly test in an investigation to be conducted in class over the next days.

In the second activity with the pop can, students identified five discrete experiments to conduct based upon the possible relationships they identified:

  • Experiment #1: Amount of water in the can
  • Experiment #2: Temperature of the water bath
  • Experiment #3: Amount of time on the hot plate
  • Experiment #4: Volume of the can
  • Experiment #5: Amount of seal
Suggested Citation:"5 How Teachers Support Investigation and Design." 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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After completing these experiments, Bethany guided students to begin creating a causal story, developing a rule that helped them to identify the ways that, as they manipulated one variable, it affected the amount the can crushed. Next, she supported students in reporting out and connecting their experimental findings, ultimately connecting their evolving ideas back to their initial models. Over the course of the unit, the students constructed a thorough explanation for the reason that the oil tanker had collapsed, and also extended this explanation to other, related phenomena. Bethany also helped the students to extend their ideas to less similar phenomena from

Suggested Citation:"5 How Teachers Support Investigation and Design." 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.
×

the students’ lived experiences, including modifications to tires or engines on race cars.

This example helps to illustrate not only the way that talk moves can help teachers to draw out and refine student ideas, but also the ways in which students’ written models can serve as artifacts for making student ideas explicit and which can support conversations about student ideas. Throughout these 2 days of instruction, Bethany asked students to first write down their ideas in journals, then to share their ideas with each other and then draw those ideas into models. As she circulated around the room,

Suggested Citation:"5 How Teachers Support Investigation and Design." 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.
×

she interacted with students around the models, encouraging students to make micro-level processes more explicit, and to connect those processes back to the phenomenon at hand. She used talk moves to pick up on particular student ideas, revoicing student comments to be sure she understood what had been said (and, in some cases, students corrected her to be sure she had correctly understood them). The next day, she used similar talk

Suggested Citation:"5 How Teachers Support Investigation and Design." 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.
×

moves in a whole-class format to highlight similarities across group models and to help the students assemble a whole-class model that they later refined after performing investigations in which they interacted with the same variables at play in the crushing of the oil tanker.

This example illustrating many features of investigation and design highlights the actions of the students as they conduct experiments, ask

Suggested Citation:"5 How Teachers Support Investigation and Design." 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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questions, make observations and engage discourse and produce artifacts. Boxes 5-5 and 5-6 show the prominent role of student discourse in learning. Discourse can leverage students’ everyday vernacular and language as a part of science learning (Brown and Ryoo, 2008).

CONNECT LEARNING THROUGH MULTIPLE CONTEXTS

Teachers can consider thinking about core ideas and crosscutting concepts as the intellectual resources students use to make sense of phenomena in their daily life beyond the classroom. Moulding and Bybee (2018) suggested teachers use questions during classroom discourse that emphasize crosscutting concepts to help organize and focus students’ thinking to make sense of the causes of phenomena. This approach can lead to students using the same types of questions when they encounter a novel phenomenon at a later time.

As discussed in Chapter 3, the transfer of knowledge to make sense of new phenomena is an important part of science learning. This transfer of knowledge serves to present insights into student understanding of underlying principles of science and to apply these ideas and concepts beyond the learning of specific facts and skills. Application of knowledge and skill across new situations requires students to generalize the knowledge (Bransford and Schwartz, 1999). Applying three-dimensional learning to new phenomena provides a way for students to internalize, conceptualize, and generalize the knowledge so that it becomes part of how they see the natural and engineered world. Teachers play a key role in helping students to make these connections between different course and different contexts.

For example, if a student is investigating a phenomenon in school such as how an ice cube on a countertop melts faster than an ice cube on a towel on the countertop, they can use core ideas (e.g., properties of insulators and conductors, thermal heat transfer) and crosscutting concepts (e.g., systems, change, energy) to construct explanations for the difference in the rate that ice melts. Most of these same ideas are needed to make sense of why it feels colder to sleep on the ground than on a blanket on the ground or why the cloth on a table feels warmer than the metal leg of a table, even though they are both at room temperature. The application of knowledge to make sense of novel phenomena helps student to conceptualize the learning so it becomes part of their daily way of viewing the world (National Research Council, 2012). As discussed in Chapter 4, during investigation and design, students develop not only the component skills and knowledge necessary to perform complex tasks, but also they practice combining and integrating them to develop greater fluency and automaticity. It is important for educators to develop conscious awareness of these elements of mastery so as to help students learn when and how to apply the skills and knowledge they have learned (Russ, Sherin, and Sherin, 2016). This can help provide

Suggested Citation:"5 How Teachers Support Investigation and Design." 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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coherence to the students’ educational experiences. Inclusive pedagogies also provide mechanisms for connecting educational experiences to students’ lived experiences (Calabrese Barton and Tan, 2009; Brown, 2017; Gay, 2010; Moll et al., 1992).

Inclusive Pedagogy

Inclusive pedagogies can be used to make science education more culturally and socially relevant. Science and engineering can be taught within broader sociocultural, sociohistorical, and sociopolitical contexts that invite multiple perspectives, knowledges, and understandings into the science classroom. Research on the broader field of inclusive education offers potential insights into approaches that involve students from a wide range of diverse backgrounds and abilities learning with their peers in school settings that have adapted and changed the way they work to meet the needs of all students (Loreman, 1999). These ways of teaching require support for teachers and schools to be able to learn, consider, and implement inclusive approaches. The notion of empowering policies (Mensah, 2010, p. 982) starts at the local level where success in working with schools and teachers to implement change and reform might occur, and then moves to higher levels, such as district, state, and nation-wide policies that support science education through inclusive pedagogies. There are challenges to these approaches (Young, 2010), but science and engineering education are uniquely situated to work toward inclusive practices that involve local and national efforts aimed at educational equity for all. There are many efforts to broaden the populations who have access to science investigation and engineering design, such as the work on culturally relevant engineering design curriculum for the Navajo Nation (Jordan et al., 2017). Efforts are also underway to increase universal design for instruction (Burgstahler, 2012a) and make science labs more accessible to students with disabilities (Burgstahler, 2012b). One issue is whether the teacher operates in a supportive environment that encourages adapting instructional strategies in favor of the strength of the students, as this can be of equal importance to making accommodations for students (Burgstahler, 2012a).

Broad topics and concepts traditionally taught in school science from elementary to high school, such as plants, water, pollution, and electricity, can be taught with inclusive pedagogies in mind. For example, if the idea of plants or water were taught in school science, how might these topics be addressed for cultural relevancy: where are plants grown, who has access to organic foods, where are “food deserts” within communities, is there harm from genetically modified foods? A question of “who has access to clean water” can be taught by studying recent cases from Flint, Michigan, or Newark, New Jersey, and extended to study global water

Suggested Citation:"5 How Teachers Support Investigation and Design." 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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crises with droughts in Somalia, water rationing in Rome, or flooding in Jakarta. Science can be studied to address issues such as, “Where do you find the majority of pollution producers? How does rising costs of healthcare effect low-income families? What are alternative energy sources for my community?”

Science investigation and engineering design provide unique opportunities to use inclusive pedagogies to bring a broader spectrum of students into relevant and motivating learning environments with the potential to positively affect both student interest in and identity with science and engineering. There are various ways of thinking about inclusive pedagogies, and descriptions of several inclusive pedagogical approaches are described in Box 5-7. Though the pedagogies are distinctive, they share a similar framing in their potential to make science teaching and learning more inclusive to all students, and especially for students who have been traditionally

Suggested Citation:"5 How Teachers Support Investigation and Design." 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.
×

marginalized in science education. The inclusive pedagogies described can be used to make the Framework-aligned instruction during investigation and design more culturally and socially relevant. These inclusive pedagogies recognize culture, identity, language, literacy, and community as valuable assets in the science classroom.

The potential benefits for inclusive pedagogies rest on how teachers implement them. Standard approaches are often missing attention to equity and diversity. Professional learning can assist teachers in how to focus on culturally relevant questions to support the inclusion of diverse perspectives and kinds of knowledge. In order to teach in these ways, preservice teachers and in-service teachers, with assistance and support from committed stakeholders, will need time and resources to work in collaborative partnerships to address equity, diversity, and social justice in science teaching. Professional learning about inclusive pedagogies is addressed further in

Suggested Citation:"5 How Teachers Support Investigation and Design." 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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Chapter 7. In addition, inclusive pedagogies for science education require both policy and administrative decision making to set structures that will allow these inclusive pedagogies to serve the best interests of all students (see the discussion of Systems in Chapter 9).

Coherence

In units that are designed to be coherent from the student point of view, students build new ideas that start from their own questions and initial ideas about phenomena (Reiser et al., 2016, 2017b; Severance et al., 2016). The flow of lessons is intended to help students build new ideas systematically and incrementally through their investigations of their questions. As discussed in Chapter 4, the choices of phenomena and the sequencing of investigation and design are important in providing students with opportunities to develop deeper understanding of increasingly complex ideas. Overall, the lessons build toward disciplinary understandings but the order of lessons reflects students’ evolving sense in which these ideas emerged as their questions led to partial explanations, and then to new questions, rather than the order that a disciplinary expert might impose. If the order of lessons were to be organized around the logic of the discipline, engaging in practices to figure out key ideas may not make sense to students, this is sometimes referred to as an “expert blind spot.” Thus, in a unit that is coherent from the student point of view, students are engaged in science and engineering practices because of a felt need to make progress in addressing questions or challenges they have identified.

To see the contrast between coherence from the disciplinary and student perspectives, consider the following example. Cell membranes are key to the structure and function of organisms, and biologists study how they serve as selective barriers to the movement of molecules. The study of cell membranes would fall under core idea LS1 of the Framework (National Research Council, 2012). Yet from a student’s perspective, until the class has established that cells need to take in food and get rid of waste, and that these molecules need to cross the cell membrane to do that, there is no motivation to figure out how materials enter and exit cells. Establishing that cells need to obtain energy then raises the question about what could get into or out of a cell and motivates investigating what can get through a membrane. From an engineering design perspective, examples and challenges from bioengineering can be used as motivators. If an exoskeleton for a police bomb-sniffing dog that lost a limb must be designed, the question might be what would need to be done to ensure the cells that connect to the cybernetics will function properly and not die. Learners would need to track and regulate feeding and waste removal. Such bioengineering design challenges could be motivating for learners.

Suggested Citation:"5 How Teachers Support Investigation and Design." 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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It is important to point out that attention to coherence from the students’ perspective does not imply that teachers should follow students wherever their questions, prior conceptions, and interests take them (Krajcik et al., 2008; Reiser et al., 2017a,b). The goal is to help students develop useable knowledge, so turning over complete control to students could take the investigations too far afield. Moreover, it can leave gaps in understanding that prevent students from developing reasonable explanations of phenomena. Instead of providing questions to the students, the teacher guides and negotiates with students to co-develop questions about the phenomenon, so that students are partners in figuring out what to work on and how to proceed (Manz and Renga, 2017; Novak and Krajcik, 2018; Reiser, Novak, and McGill, 2017b). Thus, students see how engaging in the science and engineering practices will help them make progress on phenomena they are trying to explain or engineering challenges they are trying to address, even when developing the questions and planning the investigation includes important contributions from the teacher and other resources.

Taking coherence from the student point of view seriously demands careful consideration of inter-unit coherence as well. The Framework emphasizes the need to organize learning of core ideas, practices, and crosscutting concepts around developmental progressions that students explore across multiple years, beginning with the elementary grades. It is not possible to support such learning through disconnected units; instructional resources developers must integrate coordinated supports among units to build student understanding over time (Fortus and Krajcik, 2012). Fortus and colleagues (2015) explored whether middle school students built on understandings of the concept of energy developed in early units in subsequent units. Using a set of curriculum-aligned tests, researchers examined student responses to multiple-choice questions related to energy (the items were not three-dimensional). The students had been participants in a field test of the resources. The analysis showed a strong predictive relationship between performance on earlier energy items and subsequent items associated with later units, providing supportive evidence of the value of inter-unit coherence. More specifically, the scores on energy unit test predicted 68 percent (r = 0.82) of the variance on the 7th-grade earth science test scores that occurred after the energy unit and 60 percent (r = 0.78) of the variance on the 8th-grade chemistry unit test that occurred the following year (Fortus et al., 2015).

Learning progressions are critical tools for building inter-unit coherence. Learning progressions are testable, empirically supported hypotheses about how student understanding develops toward specific disciplinary goals for learning (Corcoran, Mosher, and Rogat, 2009; National Research Council, 2007). They provide guides for possible routes for organizing student learning opportunities across different units. Inter-unit coherence

Suggested Citation:"5 How Teachers Support Investigation and Design." 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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does not entail covering the same territory over and over, however. Across units, students encounter different application of a core idea within different science and engineering practices, and they encounter crosscutting concepts across investigations of different core ideas. Over time, moreover, students’ understanding of core ideas, science and engineering practices, and crosscutting concepts develops so that students can use this understanding to make sense of increasingly complex phenomena and design challenges, and their increasing grasp of practice supports their ability to engage with these phenomena and challenges. Importantly, in this endeavor the primary orientation is to focus on using students’ ideas as resources and “stepping-stones” (Wiser et al., 2012) for developing more sophisticated understandings, rather than as misconceptions to be debugged (Campbell, Schwarz, and Windschitl, 2016; Smith, diSessa, and Roschelle, 1993/1994).

Crosscutting concepts when used consistently and accurately become common and familiar touchstones across the disciplines and grade levels, especially when introduced beginning in the elementary grades. As noted in the Framework, “explicit reference to the concepts, as well as their emergence in multiple disciplinary contexts, can help students develop a cumulative, coherent, and usable understanding of science and engineering” (National Research Council, 2012, p. 83). Across all of the disciplines, students’ use of concepts of systems and system models provides coherence in how matter and energy flow into, out of, and within systems to cause changes. Whether students are investigating the flow of matter in ecosystems or the transfer and transformation of energy in a handheld generator they engineered, the use of crosscutting concepts to prompt student performances provides coherence to students’ understanding of natural phenomena or design challenges. Instructional resources that prompt student performances using crosscutting concepts contribute to the coherence of learning science.

SUMMARY

Teachers provide guidance in many ways as student learn via science investigation and engineering design. They select and present interesting phenomena and challenges; facilitate connections between relevant core ideas and crosscutting concepts; communicate clear expectations for student use of data and evidence; provide opportunities for students to communicate their reasoning and learn from formative assessment; set the tone for respectful, welcoming, and inclusive classrooms; and provide coherence and linkages between topics, units, and courses. Engaging students in science investigation and engineering design is a strategy that can link student interest to academic learning, and this interest can increase motivation. New standards alone do very little to improve student learning, but they offer

Suggested Citation:"5 How Teachers Support Investigation and Design." 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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an opportunity to make significant and lasting changes to the structure and goals of instruction. Improving student science learning requires shifting instruction to focus on students reasoning about the causes of phenomena and using evidence to support their reasoning. Investigation and design can drive this shift. The shift comes in five parts: (1) engaging students in science performances and engineering design challenges during which they use each of the three dimensions to make sense of phenomena; (2) teachers valuing and cultivating students’ curiosity about science phenomena and interest in addressing unmet needs; (3) developing student-centered culturally relevant learning environments; (4) students valuing and using science as a process of obtaining knowledge supported by empirical evidence; and (5) students valuing and using engineering as a process of using empirical evidence to create designs that address societal and environmental needs. The Framework-inspired standards are consistent with each of these shifts for science teaching and learning (NGSS Lead States, 2013).

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Suggested Citation:"5 How Teachers Support Investigation and Design." 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:"5 How Teachers Support Investigation and Design." 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:"5 How Teachers Support Investigation and Design." 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:"5 How Teachers Support Investigation and Design." 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:"5 How Teachers Support Investigation and Design." 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:"5 How Teachers Support Investigation and Design." 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:"5 How Teachers Support Investigation and Design." 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:"5 How Teachers Support Investigation and Design." 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:"5 How Teachers Support Investigation and Design." 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: 6 Instructional Resources for Supporting Investigation and 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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