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

Chapter: 7 Preparing and Supporting Teachers to Facilitate Investigation

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Suggested Citation:"7 Preparing and Supporting Teachers to Facilitate Investigation." 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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7

Preparing and Supporting Teachers to Facilitate Investigation

As student learning goals and the role of the teacher are changing (Chapters 4 and 5), so must professional learning for teachers. Teachers are one of the most important elements in the educational system for influencing student learning—more important than spending levels, class size, or student demographics (Center for Public Education, 2016; Darling-Hammond, 2000), and teachers need time and support to learn how to engage students in meaningful science investigation and engineering design. Likewise, other emerging bodies of research have linked teacher certification in school subjects, including science, to positively affecting student learning (National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, 2015; Neild, Farley-Ripple, and Byrnes, 2009). Therefore, a sustainable, highly qualified science and engineering teaching workforce is necessary.

The professional learning of teachers forms a continuum from preservice programs, including preservice clinical work (student teaching), to distinct summer and school-year professional development sessions, to formal and informal work between colleagues, to a teacher’s experience in his or her classroom. As pointed out in Science Teachers’ Learning, the value of what teachers learn in their classrooms on a daily basis has been underappreciated (Ball and Cohen, 1999; Ball and Forzani, 2011; Luft et al., 2015; National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, 2015). This professional learning continuum follows a trajectory in which educators move from seeing science with a student perspective to a teacher perspective to a leadership perspective, and it is essential for educators to improve their craft, deepen their knowledge, and become masterful teachers.

Suggested Citation:"7 Preparing and Supporting Teachers to Facilitate Investigation." 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 has been a change in the landscape of professional learning for science teachers since the 2006 publication of America’s Lab Report (National Research Council, 2006) and a new context for professional learning to prepare teachers for the specifics of centering classrooms around investigation and design. The first part of this chapter looks at what is happening now for preservice and in-service teachers, and the second part looks at modern ideas for professional learning to prepare teachers to engage students in investigation and design. Inclusive pedagogy is also addressed.

THE CURRENT STATE OF TEACHING AND TEACHER LEARNING

We begin with exploring what is currently happening in preservice learning and in-service teaching. We then turn to discuss the ways in which science education and professional learning have changed and what teachers need for the classroom.

Preservice Teacher Learning

In 2013, the most recent year for which data are available, approximately 192,500 students completed a teacher preparation program of some sort, whether a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, certification program (often a 1-year post-baccalaureate program), or an alternative pathway, such as Teach for America (National Research Council, 2010; U.S. Department of Education, 2013, 2016). A large majority—around 85 percent—completed “traditional” teacher preparation programs, primarily 4-year baccalaureate degree programs (U.S. Department of Education, 2013, 2016). Within traditional and alternative programs based at institutions of higher education, fewer than 5 percent of program completers studied to teach science. At the secondary level, 38 states plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, Marshall Islands, and Northern Mariana Islands set teacher standards in science. However, only six states refer to the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) standards and two to the National Science Education Standards (NSES) in developing their standards for teachers.

Teacher preparation programs vary significantly across the country, and requirements for teacher certification differ from state to state. Not all programs have content-specific or grade level-specific requirements for certification (National Research Council, 2010; U.S. Department of Education, 2013). The Department of Education reports that 20 states require a bachelor’s degree in a content area for an initial credential at the middle school level, and 28 require such a degree at the secondary level. The 2012 National Survey of Science and Mathematics Education reveals that 41 percent of practicing middle school science teachers and 82 percent of

Suggested Citation:"7 Preparing and Supporting Teachers to Facilitate Investigation." 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.
×

high school science teachers have a degree in science/engineering or science education (Banilower et al., 2013).

Preservice preparation for teachers typically includes coursework in science and education, preservice clinical work, and some opportunities to experience doing science and engineering through undergraduate research or internships. The committee questioned to what extent these programs start to move future teachers towards expertise as we defined it above. Recent research around practice-based teacher preparation is showing the impact that new methodologies can have on new teacher practice (Beyer and Davis, 2012; Forzani, 2014; Luft and Dubois, 2017).

Content Preparation of Science and Engineering Teachers

Introductory college STEM courses provide most middle and high school teachers with their primary instructional models and experiences for building pedagogical approaches to science and engineering investigations. The large majority of middle and high school science teachers have taken at least one class in life sciences, chemistry, physics, earth and space science, and science education, while slightly more than one-half have taken a course in environmental science (Banilower et al., 2013). Coursework in engineering is rare among science teachers: only 7 percent of middle school science teachers and 14 percent of high school science teachers report having taken a class in engineering. High school science teachers are about twice as likely as middle school teachers to have taken one or more courses beyond the introductory level in chemistry and physics and equally likely to have taken courses beyond the introductory level in earth and space science; in addition, a large majority of middle and high school teachers have taken courses beyond the introductory level in life sciences (Banilower et al., 2013). The question remains about what is known about the nature of this undergraduate coursework and how well it matches the vision for three-dimensional teaching and learning described in A Framework for K–12 Science Education (hereafter referred to as the Framework; National Research Council, 2012). Most college courses are not designed to align with K–12 standards. Below, we explore the literature to understand what practices are used in courses across the disciplines more broadly.

As states adopt Framework-based standards, many also are updating or revising their standards for teacher certification that influence the design of teacher preparation programs. For example, the Professional Educator Standards Board (PESB) in Washington State adopted competencies for endorsement in science content areas that match the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Teacher preparation programs impact how teachers view the goals of science education. Intentionally or not, courses and practica in these programs model science instruction teacher candidates

Suggested Citation:"7 Preparing and Supporting Teachers to Facilitate Investigation." 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.
×

will use in their own classrooms. Teacher preparation programs have a responsibility to be on the cutting edge of research-based instruction to produce candidates able to effectively engage students in three-dimensional science investigation and engineering design experiences—which can also mean working with colleagues in the science and engineering disciplines to modify instructional practice in disciplinary courses.

Special Science Courses for Teachers

Nearly 30 years ago, McDermott (1990) called for “special science courses for teachers” that should (1) emphasize the content that teachers are expected to teach, (2) emphasize the evidence and lines of reasoning that have allowed for the development of this knowledge, (3) cultivate quantitative and qualitative reasoning, (4) engage teachers in the scientific process, (5) develop teachers’ communication skills, particularly formulating and using operational definitions, (6) identify common conceptual difficulties, and (7) help teachers make sound choices about instructional practices, including choosing curricular materials and prioritizing learning objectives.

Many universities that offer teacher preparation programs also offer specialized science courses for teachers. They are primarily designed for elementary education majors, however, and the research describing the effectiveness of these courses is largely limited to individual classes. In life sciences, these are described by Tessier (2010) and Weld and Funk (2005), both of whom showed gains in elementary education majors’ perceptions of their own abilities to teach science and use inquiry-based techniques. Sanger (2008) compared two groups of students’ views about teaching and learning science: a group of elementary education majors who had taken an inquiry-based chemistry course and a group of secondary science (chemistry) education majors who had taken only “regular” chemistry courses but were also taking a science methods course. Coded written reflections suggested that the inquiry-based courses had a profound effect on the elementary education majors and are likely to influence the way that they teach science, while the secondary science education majors described viewing the teacher and/or the textbook as the source of all knowledge in the classroom.

Despite the demonstrated effectiveness of these science courses for teachers at the elementary level, however, few changes have occurred in courses for middle and high school science teacher preparation. At some institutions, new approaches are being developed to examine how content-specific pedagogy courses for teachers might prepare science and engineering teacher candidates to facilitate science investigation and engineering design. For example, at the University of Colorado Boulder, teacher candidates in the CU Teach secondary science, engineering, and mathematics teacher preparation program are required to take two courses on teaching

Suggested Citation:"7 Preparing and Supporting Teachers to Facilitate Investigation." 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 learning in a discipline, such as Teaching and Learning Chemistry, Teaching and Learning Physics, or Teaching and Learning Earth Systems.

Undergraduate Science Courses

The life sciences dominate science teacher preparation. Ninety percent of elementary teachers, 96 percent of middle school science teachers, and 91 percent of high school science teachers have taken at least one college-level course in life sciences; 65 percent of middle and 79 percent of high school science teachers have taken one or more course beyond introductory life sciences (Banilower et al., 2013). A meta-analysis conducted by Beck et al. (2014) of 142 university-based studies published between 2005 and 2012 concluded that most laboratory activities that resemble the three-dimensional investigations described in the Framework occur in upper-level courses that preservice teachers may not take. Buck et al. (2008) analyzed laboratory manuals across multiple disciplines focusing on chemistry. Out of 386 experiments evaluated, only 26 (6%) were determined to be guided inquiry and only 5 experiments (1%) were open inquiry.

When future teachers enroll in geosciences courses, the material they learn does not correlate well with the type of earth and space sciences that they may be expected to teach in the future or with Framework-style teaching approaches. Budd et al. (2013) observed 26 faculty teaching 66 introductory physical geology classrooms at 11 different institutions of higher education that span the range of Carnegie institution types. They used the Reformed Teaching Observation Protocol (RTOP), which consists of 25 items grouped into five subscales that allow an observer to holistically assess the degree to which an instructor is using evidence-based practices during a particular class period. The total possible score is 100; typical scores fall in the range of 20 to 80. Lower scores indicate more teacher-centered instruction and higher scores indicate more learner-centered instruction. On the basis of RTOP scores, Budd et al. (2013) grouped instructors into teacher-centered (n = 8 [31%], RTOP ≤ 30), transitional (n = 9 [34.6%], 31 < RTOP < 49), and student-centered (n = 9 [34.6%], RTOP ≥ 49). More recently, Teasdale et al. (2017) expanded the use of the RTOP and found similar results; even in more student-centered classrooms, they found that the large majority of instructors spend less than one-half of class time on activities, questions, and discussion, and virtually all instructors use traditional lecture (to some extent) nearly every day in class. They also looked at student-student interactions in class—94 percent of teacher-centered classrooms and 42 percent of transitional classrooms had no student-student interaction at all. Egger et al. (2017) analyzed chapter titles in introductory geoscience textbooks and found little alignment between the content presented in traditional introductory geoscience courses and the disciplinary core ideas of the NGSS in earth

Suggested Citation:"7 Preparing and Supporting Teachers to Facilitate Investigation." 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 space science. In particular, the concept of sustainability, mentioned only in the earth and space science component of the Framework, is nearly absent from introductory textbooks.

Despite the fact that numerous undergraduate science teaching reform efforts and assessment instruments have emerged out of physics—including peer-led team learning (Zhang, Ding, and Mazur, 2017) and the Force Concept Inventory (Savinainen and Scott, 2002)—little discipline-wide research on what actually goes on in undergraduate physics courses exists. A study by Lund et al. (2015) combined the use of the RTOP and COPUS to measure the use of reformed instructional practices across all STEM disciplines at 28 research-intensive universities. Among the disciplines, engineering has the highest percentage of time spent in lecture during class periods (averaging 75% of time), followed by physics and chemistry (both around 65%). Neither physics nor engineering included any collaborative learning time. Stains et al. (2018) found that “didactic practices are prevalent throughout the STEM curriculum despite ample evidence for the limited impact of these practices . . .” (p. 1469). Although there are some undergraduate science classrooms that are attempting to model student-centered learning approaches (Herreid and Schiller, 2013), the collective findings of these reports indicate that university course work in science does not always provide prospective science teachers with models of the instructional strategies outlined in this report.

Undergraduate Research Experiences

Ideally, teacher candidates would have the opportunities to take science course work that is consistent with how they are expected to teach, serve as apprentices to gain authentic experiences both in the classroom as a teacher and as a scientist or engineer, and conduct research and engage in authentic science investigations and engineering challenges. Practicing scientists enter the laboratory or the field with a question—or many questions—to which they do not know the answer. Yet more than half of middle and high school science teachers agree or strongly agree with the statement that “hands-on/laboratory activities should be used primarily to reinforce a science idea that the students have already learned” (Banilower et al., 2013).

Undergraduate research has been described as a high-impact practice (Kuh, 2008). Current practice is described as “diverse and complex” in the 2017 National Academies report Undergraduate Research Experiences for STEM Students: Successes, Challenges, and Opportunities, which stated that more systematic study of the characteristics, impacts, and participants in undergraduate research experiences (UREs) is needed. What literature exists suggests that these experiences are a net benefit for students, and include Framework-aligned goals such as engaging students in arguing from

Suggested Citation:"7 Preparing and Supporting Teachers to Facilitate Investigation." 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.
×

evidence, a focus on significant and relevant problems, and an emphasis on collaboration and teamwork (National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, 2017).

It is difficult to assess the extent to which preservice teachers have the opportunity to engage in UREs, which may occur as part of their undergraduate major or as an optional summer experience. Seventy-eight percent of practicing high school science teachers have a degree in the natural sciences (Snyder, deBrey, and Dillow, 2016, Table 209.50). Russell et al. (2007) found that as many as half of all STEM majors engage in UREs, while only 1 in 15 is funded by programs through the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Institutes of Health, or others. These percentages may be lower for STEM majors who enter into the teaching profession, however, as many universities have different programs for students preparing to become teachers and students planning to pursue careers in science disciplines.

Some examples of programs that facilitate undergraduate research experiences for teachers are NSF’s Robert Noyce Scholarship program (Mervis, 2015) and the Science Teacher and Researcher (STAR), a partnership between universities, K–12 districts, and national laboratories (Baker and Keller, 2010). STAR1 recruits students who are enrolled in STEM teacher preparation and STEM programs and places them, for summer research experiences, primarily in national laboratories; they are also matched with a master teacher and a science education faculty mentor at the university.

In summary, there are several opportunities for preservice teachers to engage in authentic science investigations (and possibly authentic engineering design projects as well), but it is unclear what proportion of preservice teachers actually participate in these opportunities. Even more elusive is research that assesses the influence of these experiences on professional learning. As UREs become more widespread and integrated into the curriculum, teacher preparation programs may be able to capitalize on these efforts to support teacher development. Additional opportunities to help teachers embrace investigation and design concepts include nontraditional internships in which teachers work with scientists and engineers or they receive training through engineering and technical societies.

In-Service Teacher Learning

There are about 211,000 middle and high school science teachers in the United States (National Science Foundation, 2012, Appendix Table 1-10) although not all are qualified in the science subjects they teach (see Table 7-1; Gao et al., 2018). It is important to note that fully certified

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1 For more information, see http://star-web.cosam.calpoly.edu/about [October 2018].

Suggested Citation:"7 Preparing and Supporting Teachers to Facilitate Investigation." 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 7-1 Science Teachers and Their Certifications (percentage certified listed by grade band and discipline taught)

Grades 6–8 Grades 9–12
Any Science Certification 56.8–60.0 85.7–85.9
In Science Subject They Teach:
Science, general 42.7 38.5
Biology/life sciences 33.2–47.5 75.0–80.0
Chemistry 32.4 59.3–69.8
Physics 9.2 47.8–60.8
Physical sciences 16.2–21.2 36.8–67.4
Earth sciences 20.2–22.6 35.0–62.5

SOURCE: National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (2015, p. 75, Table 4-1).

math and science teachers were less prevalent in high-poverty schools and those with large numbers of students from groups underrepresented in science and engineering in comparison to low-poverty schools and those with low numbers of students from groups underrepresented in science and engineering (National Science Board, 2018). In light of research showing the effect of teacher certification on student achievement (Mo, Singh, and Chang, 2013), this disparate distribution of fully certified science teachers is a contributing source to inequitable science education. Of note is that one-quarter of school districts in California reported lacking sufficient numbers of credentialed teachers to teach to the new standards reflected in the Framework (Gao et al., 2018).

Because engineering is relatively uncommon in middle and high school and there is much variation in how engineering is addressed in the curriculum, it is difficult to find systematic information about the engineering teaching workforce. Engineering teachers make up a small fraction of the nation’s teaching force; estimates from the National Center for Education Statistics Schools and Staffing Survey place the number at 20,000 to 30,000—roughly an order of magnitude less than the number of science teachers (Aud et al., 2011). Most engineering courses and concepts are taught either by science teachers or technology education (also known as industrial arts) teachers. Yet, very few middle school science teachers (7%) or high school science teachers (14%) have taken at least one college course in engineering. Therefore, it is not surprising that fewer than 10 percent of middle and high school science teachers on a national survey report feeling “very well prepared” to teach engineering concepts (Banilower et al., 2013).

Suggested Citation:"7 Preparing and Supporting Teachers to Facilitate Investigation." 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.
×

High voluntary turnover has also created staffing problems within schools in hiring quality science educators (Ingersoll, Merrill, and Stuckey, 2014). A national longitudinal study revealed that more than 41 percent of beginning teachers leave teaching within the first 5 years, and already difficult-to-staff schools (i.e., high-poverty, those with large numbers of students from groups underrepresented in science and engineering, urban, and rural) have the highest rates of turnover (Ingersoll et al., 2014). Research suggests that teacher effectiveness, as measured by gains in student performance, significantly increases with additional experience over the first several years of teaching; thus, many teachers are exiting the profession prior to fully developing their skills, which has major implications for the quality of science instruction (Ingersoll et al., 2014).

Attracting new and highly qualified science teachers remains difficult, and this reality is even more pronounced in high-poverty, large numbers of students from groups underrepresented in science and engineering, and urban districts, where new hires are more likely to lack practical teaching experience and/or certification in the subjects that they teach (Center for Public Education, 2016; Metz and Socol, 2017; National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, 2015). Nearly 500,000 students attend schools where less than 60 percent of teachers are certified, and students from historically underrepresented groups are more likely than white students to attend schools where more than 20 percent of the teaching staff are either inexperienced or uncertified/unlicensed (U.S. Department of Education, 2014). While schools and districts make many of the decisions about recruiting, hiring, and assigning teachers, state education officials are the gatekeepers of the data systems containing this information, and thus share in the critical role of addressing disparities in teacher quality (Metz and Socol, 2017).

In 2014, the Excellent Educators for All Initiative was created by the U.S. Department of Education to provide equal access to effective teachers to all students, and particularly to students at Title I schools (Center for Public Education, 2016). As part of this initiative, states proposed strategies to address inequities in teacher quality. An analysis of the state equity plans revealed that most states outlined broad efforts to raise overall teaching quality, and a few state plans included examples that could inform the work of other states to ensure equitable distribution of quality teachers among middle and high schools in America (Metz and Socol, 2017; Williams et al., 2016). These examples discuss (1) increasing transparency about student assignments and how these assignments impact student learning, (2) targeting more resources to high-needs districts and schools, and (3) fostering district-wide coherence for collaborative problem solving among leaders (Metz and Socol, 2017; Williams et al., 2016). The Every Student Succeeds Act affords new opportunities for state leaders to take stronger,

Suggested Citation:"7 Preparing and Supporting Teachers to Facilitate Investigation." 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.
×

equity-focused action in human capital management, providing all student groups with access to the best teachers as they engage in science investigation and engineering design.

Teacher Learning in School

Comprehensive and sustained professional development can help prepare teachers for implementing investigation and design. One-quarter of middle school science teachers and one-third of high school science teachers reportedly participate in sustained professional development (35 hours or more) over the course of 3 years (Banilower et al., 2013, p. 34, Table 3.3). Fifty-three percent of middle and high school teachers reported they had received less than 6 hours of professional development in science in the previous 3 years (Banilower et al., 2013). A lower percentage of teachers in lower-achieving schools reported receiving professional development on student-centered teaching than teachers in schools with higher achieving students (Banilower et al., 2013). Typically, schools provide time for professional development in science in the form of professional days during the school year, and a slightly smaller amount provide time outside of the school year (Banilower et al., 2013, p. 47, Table 3.27).

Additionally, teachers look for time to devote to joint planning with colleagues who face similar challenges and have similar teaching assignments, as well as time for individual planning and evaluating student work. Sustained joint planning time for all science teachers within a department facilitates the professional learning that is needed to support coherence across courses. Common planning time for teachers offered by schools can support professional learning communities (PLCs) (discussed in more detail below), yet science PLC/teacher study groups, in particular, are offered in less than 50 percent of middle and high schools (Banilower et al., 2013, p. 44, Table 3.21). When asked about factors affecting instruction, the afforded time to plan individually and with colleagues was reported to be beneficial in 58 percent of classes, but was an inhibitor toward science instruction in 25 percent of classes (Banilower et al., 2013, p. 120, Table 7.18). Although each middle and high school science department will manage these needs somewhat differently, it is essential that time for managing the “components” for investigations and design is recognized as an important part of a successful science program.

It can be challenging to find time for professional learning for in-service teachers. An added complication is that science teachers, along with art or shop teachers, have an additional responsibility to manage, maintain, and move around equipment and materials so that what is needed is appropriately set up in the classroom for every class. The time demands of set-up and breakdown work, as well as planning and ordering supplies, and

Suggested Citation:"7 Preparing and Supporting Teachers to Facilitate Investigation." 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.
×

ensuring maintenance and refurbishment of equipment, are considerations for teachers’ schedules and do not always count as official work time. Some of these tasks, such as setting up carts with the equipment and materials for the next day’s classes, could be fulfilled by a paraprofessional science aide, thereby freeing valuable time for the teacher to interact with students or other teachers or to reflect upon the day to optimize their practice.

Research Experiences for Teachers

Another set of professional learning opportunities is offered outside the school and district by universities, laboratories, and other educational organizations. Research Experiences for Teachers (RETs), for example, embed practicing (in-service) teachers in college or university research labs during the summer months to expose them to cutting-edge research, some of which might be translated to the classroom curriculum (Enderle et al., 2014; Faber et al., 2014; Klein-Gardner, Johnston, and Benson, 2012; Reynolds et al., 2009). RETs provide opportunities for teachers to not only observe the various roles of scientists and their community of post-docs and graduate students, but also participate in the research lab’s interactions as a novice.

In a study of 14 high school teacher participants in a 6-week summer research program, Miranda and Damico (2013) reported significant changes in teacher beliefs after participating in a summer research experience. They noted in particular that all of the teacher participants recognized that their experiences of doing science were very different from the science learning in their classrooms, and several indicated that they planned to modify their activities to include more open and guided inquiry. The study stopped short, however, of assessing actual changes in practice.

The assumption that teachers’ research experiences can be easily applied to middle and high school classrooms is naïve. Teachers must be given explicit opportunities for reflection about how and why science is conducted and how to replicate the science community in their classrooms. Unfortunately, when the team leading the RET lacks expertise in education, teachers may not be supported in making explicit reflections about how to connect their experiences to their teaching practice. As Lakatos (1970) opined, “Most scientists tend to understand little more about science than fish about hydrodynamics” (p. 148). As scientists are deeply immersed in their practice, they may be unable to help teachers understand the most important elements of conducting high-quality investigations.

The results of this albeit limited work suggests that few future or current teachers have the opportunity to engage in authentic research, and, of those who do take part in these experiences, few are supported in explicit reflections about how to connect their experiences to their teaching practice.

Suggested Citation:"7 Preparing and Supporting Teachers to Facilitate Investigation." 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.
×

PREPARING TO TEACH INVESTIGATION AND DESIGN

As discussed throughout this report, the nature of the classroom experience and the role of the teacher are dramatically different in investigation and design, and teachers need multiple opportunities to experience it themselves, ideally from both a student perspective and from a teacher perspective. Providing educators with explicit strategies for adapting curriculum materials can help them to improve science teaching and learning (Penuel, Gallagher, and Moorthy, 2011).

Less-experienced educators may benefit most from intensive workshops, whereas educators with more implementation experience may learn more from opportunities to try new strategies in the classroom and discuss their efforts with colleagues (Frank et al., 2011). By preparing educators to productively adapt instructional strategies and materials rather than simply to implement them with fidelity, professional development can help educators feel ownership over reform and feel respected by professional development providers (DeBarger et al., 2013). During professional learning experiences, the teacher will be able to reflect and discuss with colleagues the process and the decision points and use their insights to continue to improve experiences for their students.

As discussed throughout this report (especially in Chapters 4, 5, and 6), many aspects of teaching investigation and design are relatively new for many teachers. These include the selection of a phenomenon or a design challenge, helping students develop models, and facilitating the communication of reasoning to themselves and others, which are addressed here. Data and technology in investigation and design are discussed below.

Choosing a phenomenon appropriate to the scientific topic under study and appropriate for the students is crucial to the learning experience. Often teachers less experienced with this approach will use instructional resources to help make an appropriate choice. As they gain experience, teachers will begin to notice patterns in what works well and to figure out how to appropriately select and problematize phenomena for use in the classroom. Professional development experiences that actively explore curriculum through investigation, problem solving, and discussion can help teachers to develop the skills needed to effectively evaluate and adapt materials for their own classroom needs (Banilower, Heck, and Weiss, 2007).

The extent to which teachers listen to and support student reasoning matters, and through this, they learn more about student thinking, about science, and, most importantly, how to support students’ meaningful science learning in the classroom (Russ, Sherin, and Sherin, 2016). Making this change requires professional learning approaches that model the science learning experiences expected in teachers’ classrooms and engages teachers in reflection on the mechanisms for positive changes they value and can

Suggested Citation:"7 Preparing and Supporting Teachers to Facilitate Investigation." 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.
×

enact. Research on professional learning has shown that helping educators develop content knowledge through recognizing patterns of student thinking can improve both teaching and learning outcomes (Heller et al., 2012) and that it can help prepare educators to give students greater agency, that is, choice and responsibility in planning investigations that address their questions (Morozov et al., 2014).

Professional learning can provide educators with concrete strategies for building on students’ cultural and community funds of knowledge to guide science investigations (Tzou and Bell, 2010). Professional development can also promote equity when providers have high expectations for all students’ learning and prepare educators to engage students in all aspects of inquiry (Jeanpierre, Oberhauser, and Freeman, 2005). Promoting equity entails paying explicit attention to historical inequities, which can help students identify with the enterprise of science (Bang and Medin, 2010). Designs for professional development can also prepare educators to use discussion to develop student ideas elicited from tasks and educator questions (Doubler et al., 2011; Harris, Phillips, and Penuel, 2012; Minstrell and van Zee, 2003)

Gather and Analyze Data and Information

Working with data is a key component of investigation and design. There are some special preparations necessary for teachers, especially in the area of digital data and technological tools. Probeware is one of the more established sources of digital data in science education, and consequently also has the longest history of research and practice related to teacher professional learning. Teachers’ use of probeware as part of their preservice and in-service development appears favorable (Ensign, Rye, and Luna, 2017; Metcalf and Tinker, 2004). Teacher preparation programs and professional development experiences offering sustained involvement of teachers in using probeware through full cycles of inquiry rather than as brief, single-visit in-service demonstrations are likely to be more effective.

When teachers are working with data about and from students, they may find that they are in a position of restricted expertise. For instance, when students compare activity levels of groups of students during their lunch breaks, the students often have far more to say about what activities transpired at typical lunch times than the teachers do. This represents an important opportunity for teachers to let students lead and to ask questions of the students for greater precision about their claims and how their recollections of experience and numerical data align with one another. Teacher education activities with respect to these kinds of personal data have yet to be studied extensively, but one potential model is to have preservice

Suggested Citation:"7 Preparing and Supporting Teachers to Facilitate Investigation." 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.
×

teachers undergo their own inquiries with their own personal data collected through automated means and reflect upon what inferences and arguments they are inclined to make (Schneiter, Christensen, and Lee, 2018).

With networked sensing and potentially large data corpora, teachers may need to develop more familiarity with computational techniques for manipulating data. They also should be aware and help set expectations with students that much of the work with large data corpora includes “data cleaning” (i.e., practices that involve making sure data are structured appropriately and that some algorithmic errors are appropriately addressed). Teachers need ample experience working with computer-based simulations and learning about effective design and integration strategies and rationale for incorporating such simulations into larger classroom units (Lin and Fishman, 2004). It is also important for teachers to recognize that simulation environments may be effective for content knowledge learning but still require additional support for students to interpret and critique data that are produced within them. Also, to support students in constructing new forms of data-supported explanations and arguments from models that involve emergent processes or are highly probabilistic, teachers themselves could benefit from having models of what such explanations and arguments would look like and how they are constructed.

While teacher familiarity with simulations and algorithmically generated data represent important areas for future teacher learning, effective teaching practice with simulation data may involve the teacher being positioned as a member of the audience and a fellow learner rather than the expert on how a given simulation works (Grimm et al., 2005). Thus, making sense of what simulations can actually tell students is a matter of collaborative meaning-making among peers (Chandrasekharan and Nersessian, 2015) such as simulation models of complex systems and video games for scientific discovery (Foldit, EteRNA etc.. Teachers should foreground questions of what role simulations play as tools for experimentation and model-based reasoning alongside argumentation, observation, measurement, and so forth (Greca, Seoane, and Arriassecq, 2014).

Teachers should be aware of the appeal and high levels of engagement that accompany the use of video, images, and spatial data in middle and high school classrooms. This can lead to active and enthusiastic participation from students, but increased participation may not lead to learning targeted scientific practices. It becomes incumbent on the teacher to model for students how to examine and inspect such data and to utilize scaffolds, whether they are embedded in a tool, curriculum, or in teacher actions, to guide students. Professional development experiences that help teachers notice student thinking as it relates to the content and practices that are targeted may help teachers best support students’ use of such data in the classroom (Sherin and Van Es, 2009).

Suggested Citation:"7 Preparing and Supporting Teachers to Facilitate Investigation." 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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As with other emerging forms of data, we expect that one critical component of teacher learning related to public datasets and data visualizations lies in developing teachers’ experience and comfort with these artifacts. Preliminary work by Lee and Wilkerson (commissioned paper) with teachers found that providing case-study examples (through video or transcript) of students reasoning through complex datasets and visualizations can be inspiring and motivating for teachers. Drawing from known findings in more established areas such as probeware and simulations, we expect that providing teachers with opportunities to engage with data and visualizations as a part of their own inquiry, as well as helping them to “step back” and understand these resources as sources of information rather than as objective truth, can also be effective. Given the novelty of complex data and visualizations in the classroom, and their primarily supportive role as resources embedded within larger, goal-oriented inquiry or modeling activity, this is also an area that may benefit from educative curriculum materials (Davis, Palincsar, and Arias, 2014) that support teacher learning at the same time as they support instruction. This could take the form, for instance, of specialized annotations and images of classroom interactions around visualizations embedded in curriculum materials. Certainly, however, more research is needed in this area.

Technology

Many aspects of using technology for investigation and design were discussed above in the context of data use. Another aspect of technology is the potential to use it for professional learning itself. The capacity to use videoconferencing software is nearly ubiquitous with current computer cameras, and many online tools are available with high-definition resolution, quality audio, and supplementary tools. Video-conferencing programs allow teachers who cannot meet in person to share scanned images of student work, play videos, or review digital copies of lesson plans and student tasks. Although unique online group norms must be established, video conferencing provides a legitimate PLC experience for isolated science teachers.

Whether in person or through video conferencing, video-capture software and multimedia digital portfolios can provide the raw materials for analysis and reflection in PLCs. Video capture software allows teachers to film their classroom while introducing a phenomenon or eliciting questions for students that are worthy of exploration. Many video-capture systems also include annotation systems that allow the teacher, a coach, or the PLC to watch the video ahead of time and raise questions, suggest changes, or highlight effective moves. These tools can streamline PLC meetings so that time can be focused on growth and not on watching the video during the limited synchronous meeting time. Unlike video-conferencing tools,

Suggested Citation:"7 Preparing and Supporting Teachers to Facilitate Investigation." 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.
×

however, most current video-capture and annotation systems are currently more costly.

Multimedia portfolio tools may provide a more cost-effective alternative. Electronic portfolios have been shown to aid teacher growth through the collection of artifacts that reflect teacher practice and student engagement (Stefani, Mason, and Pegler, 2007).2 More contemporary digital portfolios, created as tablet-based applications, expand on the types of artifacts collected from classrooms, including images of classroom space, short videos of student and teacher interactions, digital versions of lesson plans, and scanned images of student work and teacher feedback. In combination with PLCs, these digital tools may provide the structure and support necessary to change how investigations are facilitated in middle and high school classrooms.

CHANGES IN THE LANDSCAPE OF PROFESSIONAL LEARNING

Professional learning across all stages of the teacher development continuum can be guided by the same theories of learning that guide the conceptualization of what students should be able to do in classrooms, described in How People Learn (National Research Council, 1999) and A Framework for K–12 Education (National Research Council, 2012) and discussed in Chapter 3 of this report. Indeed, these foundational theories describe learning as a fundamental process of human development at all ages, not just for children (e.g., Wenger, 1998). Putnam and Borko (2000) encouraged the field to consider what these conceptualizations of learning implied for the ways to think about and design for learning. Like the way to think about learning in schools for children, our committee considers teachers as participants in a multifaceted system of activity that involves contexts, tools, multiple roles, and changes in practice over time. This assertion is consistent with the theoretical framing used previously in this report to describe what students know and are able to do. This experiential view of learning helps shift the focus of professional learning from teacher knowledge to enacting professional learning experiences that are centered on engaging educators in science investigation and engineering design to build the context for learning.

This way of thinking about professional learning is a shift from the approach taken by America’s Lab Report (National Research Council, 2006). The 2006 report defined four realms of knowledge for teachers—science content knowledge, pedagogical content knowledge (PCK), general

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2 For example, see https://activatelearning.com/engineering-the-future/videos or https://www.eie.org/engineering-elementary/engineering-education-videos [September 2018].

Suggested Citation:"7 Preparing and Supporting Teachers to Facilitate Investigation." 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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pedagogical knowledge, and knowledge of assessment. It described how these realms interact in a teacher’s daily work and the general lack of adequate preparation for most teachers in all four areas. America’s Lab Report focused on teacher knowledge and other factors that influence implementation of teaching reforms, such as teachers’ preparation, the grade-level and content areas they teach, and the contexts in which they work (e.g., Gess-Newsome et al., 2017; Jacob, Hill, and Corey, 2017).

Science Teachers’ Learning (National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, 2015) identified three important areas in which science teachers need to develop expertise: (1) the knowledge, capacity, and skill required to support a diverse range of students; (2) content knowledge, including understanding of disciplinary core ideas, crosscutting concepts, and scientific and engineering practices; and (3) pedagogical content knowledge for teaching science, including a repertoire of teaching practices that support students in rigorous and consequential science learning.

Therefore, in this update, we examine professional learning through a new lens and in the specific context of preparing teachers to engage students in investigation and design. Professional learning is key to implementation of investigation and design because teachers are not likely to have experienced this approach themselves in their K–12 or undergraduate education, and it is a dramatic change from current expectations. Preservice and in-service teachers need opportunities to experience investigation and design themselves and to understand why the approach is important. The dramatic change in the role of the teacher necessitates multiple opportunities to prepare by trying the approaches in a supportive environment where teachers can have multiple rounds of iteration and learn from their experiences which techniques are more likely to work for them in the classroom.

The Guide to Implementing the NGSS (National Research Council, 2015) recommends a gradual approach to change, advocating that three-dimensional teaching will require long-term, incremental, and curriculum-supported change that provides opportunities for science teachers to identify problems in their practice and take risks on the way to realizing new instructional practices. It is unreasonable to expect teachers to completely transform their instruction during the course of one academic year or to come into the profession with the same repertoire of practices possessed by experienced teachers. Changes require ongoing support as teachers share effective strategies and collaborate to develop and/or assemble new instructional units aligned to three-dimensional learning. Similarly, teacher preparation programs can make gradual changes to ensure that new teachers entering the workforce share the vision and goals of the Framework.

After the release of the Framework, the Council of State Science Supervisors (CSSS) developed the Science Professional Learning Standards

Suggested Citation:"7 Preparing and Supporting Teachers to Facilitate Investigation." 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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(SPLS)3 (Council of State Science Supervisors, 2015) specific to that new vision of K–12 science education. The SPLS address three aspects of professional learning experiences: (1) attributes of high-quality professional learning opportunities, (2) implementing and sustaining a professional development infrastructure, and (3) evaluating professional learning opportunities. CSSS provides expectations for both the professional development provider and the professional learner (the teacher), including ideas for engaging educators in professional development that is sustained, coherent, and models three-dimensional teaching and learning.

ENSURING TEACHERS HAVE OPPORTUNITIES FOR PROFESSIONAL LEARNING

Successful leadership for professional learning includes state, district, and school leaders who understand the role of continuous and sustained professional learning consistent with the goals of science education and honors educators as professionals; it also includes leaders of teacher preparation programs and professional development providers. A clear understanding of the underlying principles of effective professional learning will help leaders to make informed decisions. Effective professional learning is predicated on educators and administrators at various levels of the educational system taking responsibility for making and using opportunities for professional learning. An underlying belief that educators make a difference in students’ lives and learning and that this is “a cause beyond oneself” is the key to sustaining a commitment to continuous professional improvement (Bryk and Schneider, 2002; Lee and Smith, 1996).

In science education, professional learning requires that educators see and engage in models of instruction consistent with investigations and problem solving (Harris et al., 2012; McNeill and Knight 2013; Putnam and Borko, 2000). Administrators play a key role in the extent to which these opportunities are readily available to teachers and the extent to which the school culture welcomes change efforts. Administrators can arrange opportunities for teachers to work collaboratively to choose phenomena and contexts relevant to their students, and to engage in and learn about inclusive pedagogies to promote equitable participation in science investigation and engineering design. They are also crucial for ensuring that appropriate facilities, equipment, and supplies are available for teachers to engage their students in science investigation and engineering design. These issues are discussed further in Chapters 8 and 9.

Ongoing professional learning (in-service professional development) is a common part of most teachers’ lives. More than 80 percent of both

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3 See http://cosss.org/Professional-Learning [December 2018].

Suggested Citation:"7 Preparing and Supporting Teachers to Facilitate Investigation." 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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middle and high school science teachers participated in professional development in the 3 years prior to a 2012 survey, although high school science teachers generally spent more time on professional development than middle school teachers (Banilower et al., 2013). Research provides a clear picture that effective professional learning experiences must be sustained, coherent, and connected to the classroom work of the teachers; much of this research is discussed in the recent Science Teachers’ Learning report (National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, 2015). Professional learning opportunities can provide teachers with information about the research on student learning and what it means for instruction, including how to best engage students in learning to make sense of phenomena and engineering challenges. Teachers can have experiences aligned with standards, based upon pedagogical theory, and gain experience meeting diverse learning styles. Whether teachers participate in building or district-sponsored development or seek development programs through their professional associations, they need to have support to effectively implement innovations. Teacher capacity is nurtured in school environments where professional collegiality and a shared vision exist. The vision for science education may not be accomplished without sufficient professional development and meaningful opportunities for educators to interact with a community of practice (Kloser, 2017).

Professional learning is one of the key elements for a successful transformation of a school system. As Moon, Michaels, and Reiser (2012) said in a commentary piece in Education Week, effective professional development programs build “on deep subject-matter knowledge, knowledge of students’ progressive conceptual development, and the use of evidence to inform instructional judgments. . . . Indeed, we know that one-shot, topic-oriented, technique-driven, one-size-fits-all professional ‘training’ is not effective.” The vision of instruction centered around phenomena that requires students to engage in the use of science and engineering practices, core disciplinary ideas, and crosscutting concepts to develop scientific sound understanding of science will require rethinking the way that most professional development is constructed. Teachers will need new tools and strategies to weave the three dimensions into a seamless instructional experience for the students. Darling-Hammond and colleagues (2017) defined effective professional development as “structured professional learning that results in changes in teacher practices and improvements in student learning outcomes” (p. v). Moon and colleagues (2012) identified five research-based principles to consider in developing professional development models (see Box 7-1).

In summary, the Professional Development model described here is content focused, uses effective practices, incorporates active learning, offers feedback and reflection, supports collaboration, provides coaching

Suggested Citation:"7 Preparing and Supporting Teachers to Facilitate Investigation." 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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and expert support, and is of sustained duration. These principles align well with the characteristics of effective professional development identified by Darling-Hammond and colleagues (2017) in their review of 35 studies, which demonstrated a positive link between teacher professional development, teaching practices, and student outcomes. There are multiple approaches to engaging teachers in professional learning: educative instructional resources; summer or special workshops with appropriate follow-up; extended professional learning across a school year, especially when done

Suggested Citation:"7 Preparing and Supporting Teachers to Facilitate Investigation." 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 partnership with communities of colleagues; and teacher participation in research practice partnerships.

Some supports for teacher learning are integrated into resources themselves; they support teacher learning of new practices, content, and/or resources. Instructional resources, as concrete reflections of the way instructional shifts can play out in teacher moves and in student work, are a key component of helping teachers shift their practice (Ball and Cohen, 1996; Remillard and Heck, 2014). As noted in Chapter 6, instructional resources that incorporate resources to support teacher learning are called educative curriculum materials (Davis and Krajcik, 2005). Their purpose is to help guide teachers in making instructional decisions—such as how to respond to different student ideas—when using the resources. They may be targeted toward developing teachers’ subject matter knowledge; their pedagogical content knowledge with respect to particular core ideas, practices, or crosscutting concepts; and their knowledge of typical student patterns of student thinking and problem solving. The use of highly specified (designed by using research-based principles that promote learning) and developed (fully articulated and clear to follow) educative resources can be beneficial and cost-effective (see the work of Ball and Cohen).

When the resources also are educative for teachers, they can be highly beneficial to all learners and, in many respects, support more equitable instruction. Professional development to support teachers in learning about students’ cultural practices at home and making adaptations to instructional resources that strengthen connections between scientific and engineering practices and those practices may be one strategy for supporting the process (Tzou and Bell, 2009). Learning about the cultural practices of students can be facilitated by professional development experiences that involve the students’ communities. Such efforts alter teachers’ beliefs and practices about their ability to teach science to diverse populations and result in gains in science learning for students (Grimberg and Gummer, 2013).

Another opportunity for professional learning is through targeted summer professional development that allows teachers to work on complex parts of instructional practice in a low-stakes, easily manipulated setting with students, such as a summer camp (see Box 7-2). Lotter et al. (2018) researched a program in which teachers engaged in ongoing cycles of practice-teaching and reflection. Surveys and observations at multiple points throughout the year indicated increased self-efficacy in using inquiry teaching methods and changes to instructional practice that reflected inquiry-based teaching methods. The authors cited the importance of the practice component as central to this change.

A critical component of teachers’ professional learning and instructional practices is the support of the communities in which teachers work. As described in Science Teachers’ Learning (National Academies of Sciences,

Suggested Citation:"7 Preparing and Supporting Teachers to Facilitate Investigation." 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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Engineering, and Medicine, 2015), “Teacher quality is dependent not only on individual teachers but also on their communities” (p. 94). Cultivating opportunities for teachers to participate in professional learning communities focused on productive instructional practices also supports change. Together, the results of this research point in the direction of building preservice programs and professional development programs with the primary outcome of improving the quality of teachers’ classroom practice in addition to developing teacher knowledge.

Teachers need time with colleagues to create and implement science curriculum materials that allow them to expand content meaning and implement inclusive pedagogies. An example of inclusive pedagogies (see Box 7-3) for teacher professional development that has shown both positive teacher and student gains was teaching that took into account the culture of science, the culture of science education, and the culture of the American Indian Tribe of the students, referred to as the cultural points of intersection of the three cultures (Grimberg and Gummer, 2013). Teacher practice and the quality of student science investigation and engineering design are improved when teachers are willing to make their practice public in a professional culture of learning (Gibbons, 1993; Darling-Hammond et al.,

Suggested Citation:"7 Preparing and Supporting Teachers to Facilitate Investigation." 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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2009; Lewis and Tsuchida, 1998; Ma, 1999).4 Safe professional cultures provide educators with a nurturing place to experiment with their professional practice.

In recent years, PLCs have emerged as one structure for supporting the kinds of long-term changes in practice necessary to realize the Framework vision in science classrooms. Approximately three-quarters of practicing middle and high school science teachers report that they have participated in a PLC as part of their professional development (Banilower et al., 2013). In PLCs, small groups of teachers work in subject-specific groups (see McLaughlin and Talbert, 2001, 2006) and create space for teachers to critically examine their classroom practices and improve student outcomes (Seashore, Anderson, and Riedel, 2003). Effective PLCs vary in structure,

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4 See Making Practice Public: Teacher Learning in the 21st Century by Lieberman and Mace at http://www.ccte.org/wp-content/pdfs-conferences/ccte-conf-2013-spring-Final-version-JTE.pdf [October 2018].

Suggested Citation:"7 Preparing and Supporting Teachers to Facilitate Investigation." 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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but all include shared goals and norms, collaborative opportunities for making public one’s instructional practices, and dedicated time for reflective dialogue (Turner et al., 2017).

Facilitation of PLCs requires significant teaching experiences and facilitation expertise. The literature on PLCs has shown that improvement in practice can result from facilitation within or from an outside expert, but in cases where the target practice is lacking expertise within the community, then expert facilitation is required (Horn and Kane, 2015). In the case of improving classroom investigations, many science teachers will need an expert to provide evidence of high-quality practice that can be used as a goal for others in the community to reach. Lacking such expertise and a clear focus, PLC meetings can devolve into “talking shop” about happenings within the school without focusing on practice (Turner et al., 2017). Expert-facilitated PLCs that are carefully structured to address the classroom work of the teachers provide opportunities for a community of teachers to see representations of high-quality practice, analyze their own practice, and focus the change to incrementally focus on learnable aspects of teaching and learning over time.

For instance, a PLC might focus an entire semester on analyzing artifacts and videos of classroom interactions that help teachers establish community norms for collaborative work and collective understanding. Another PLC might implement a yearlong, highly effective curriculum that presents relevant phenomena to students, allowing teachers to focus on the facilitation of productive, sense-making talk related to that curriculum. PLC participants can focus on both the teacher’s role and the resulting interactions with students by analyzing classroom videos of discussions and student work samples (National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, 2015). Existing frameworks might also be adopted by PLCs, such as the TAGS framework developed by Tekkumru-Kisa and colleagues (2015). The TAGS framework is composed of two dimensions: (1) the cognitive demand of the science learning task and (2) the level of integration of science content and practices. As a Framework-influenced vision of investigations includes both high cognitive demand and an integration of the three dimensions, PLCs could benefit from analyzing tasks associated with investigations before, during, and after they are presented to students.

Teachers interested in improving investigations within their science classrooms cannot merely collaborate with other teachers. They must collaborate with teachers open to change and committed to a long-term investment of time and effort (Turner et al., 2017). For teachers in rural school settings with fewer teachers or in contexts with little commitment to growth, finding this community can be difficult. Contemporary technologies may play a significant role in providing access for all teachers to necessary professional development (National Academies of Sciences,

Suggested Citation:"7 Preparing and Supporting Teachers to Facilitate Investigation." 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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Engineering, and Medicine, 2015). Digital tools such as video conferencing, shared online documents for collaboration during lesson development, video capture and annotation software, and multimedia digital portfolios may be useful.

EQUITY AND INCLUSION

As noted in Science Teachers’ Learning and suggested throughout this report, teachers need the knowledge, capacity, and skill to support diverse learners—all of which should be embedded in teacher preparation programs and improved during in-service teaching. They need support to learn strategies for cultural sensitivity and valuing the contributions of all their students. Chapter 5 described some ways of thinking about inclusive pedagogies as methods of teaching that incorporate diverse and dynamic instructional practices to address the needs of all learners. Multicultural content and multiple strategies for assessing learning can help with the goal of success in learning science in a culturally relevant and socially consistent setting. Professional learning can give teachers experience implementing these approaches, and science investigation and engineering design provide unique opportunities for their use to bring a broader spectrum of students into relevant and motivating learning environments. Professional learning can assist teachers with how to focus attention on equity, equality, and cultural relevance to support the inclusion of diverse perspectives and kinds of knowledge. This has the potential to positively affect both student interest in and identity with science and engineering. Box 7-4 describes an effort to support preservice teacher professional learning about inclusive pedagogy.

Inclusive pedagogies can be used to make science education and engineering design more culturally and socially relevant. As discussed earlier, 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. 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).

SUMMARY

The shifts necessary to realize three-dimensional science investigation and engineering design in middle and high school classrooms that are equally and equitably accessible, as well as culturally inclusive and responsive, require changes in both preservice teacher education and in ongoing in-service professional learning. This includes not only helping students

Suggested Citation:"7 Preparing and Supporting Teachers to Facilitate Investigation." 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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choose and reason through a particular phenomenon, but also concrete strategies for building on students’ cultural and community funds of knowledge to guide science investigations. Teachers need not just science content knowledge, but also personal experience with the process of investigation and design and time to reflect upon their improvement efforts with colleagues. Professional learning communities may play an important role in supporting teachers as they work towards providing high-quality instructional practices critical to science investigation and engineering design. These opportunities would provide a space for teachers to see representations of high-quality practice and the use of technology, analyze their own practice, and focus the incremental change to learnable aspects of teaching and learning over time.

In addition, social and cultural knowledge is needed so that teachers can better understand and address the inequities in and exclusion from science education that persists today. Professional development with a focus

Suggested Citation:"7 Preparing and Supporting Teachers to Facilitate Investigation." 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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on equity ensures that teachers have high expectations for all students’ learning and prepares them to engage students in all aspects of inquiry. Sustained, coherent, and focused professional development opportunities are essential for practicing teachers to make these meaningful instructional changes. Administrators play a key role in the extent to which these opportunities are available to teachers as well as whether the school culture would welcome such changes. Professional development should inspire, as well as inform, educators to make positive instructional changes. Understanding the role of science investigation and engineering design in science and science education is paramount to educators developing the value for making changes in their instructional practice.

Beginning with the types of courses and experiences future teachers have as undergraduates and continuing through the professional development experiences new and senior teachers have during their teaching tenure, it is important to consider the full trajectory of teacher learning. As shifts occur in these learning opportunities, being conscious of this learning continuum would begin to answer questions such as: (1) what courses/experiences are crucial for preservice teachers? (2) what are good “starting points” for in-service teachers? and (3) what can novice teachers learn once they are in the classroom?

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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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