Instructional Pathways to Considering Social Dimensions Within Socioscientific Issues

by Rebecca Rawson Lesnefsky, University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill; Troy Sadler, University of North Carolina; Li Ke, University of Nevada-Reno; & Pat Friedrichsen, University of Missouri

The Socioscientific Issues Teaching and Learning (SSI-TL) framework is a guide for developing an instructional approach to learning experiences focused on socioscientific issues (SSI). Despite the potential benefits of SSI learning, teachers often struggle to implement this approach in their classrooms (Sadler et al., 2006; Saunders & Rennie, 2013), and one of the most prominent reasons for this struggle is science teacher concerns and hesitation associated with incorporating social dimensions of the issues into their instruction (Friedrichsen et al., 2021). The purpose of this article is to provide science teacher educators with tools to help teachers better manage the integration of the social dimensions of SSI in issues-based teaching. In doing so, we suggest an expansion of the SSI-TL framework such that it more explicitly highlights pathways for focusing on the social dimensions of SSI within science learning environments. These pathways emerged as a result of a joint effort with nine high school science teachers as they developed a unit related to COVID-19; however, the pathways support science teachers as they implement science learning experiences that provide opportunities to negotiate social dimensions across most SSI. The pathways include systems mapping, connecting analysis to policy positions, media literacy, and social justice. We present how following each pathway integrates the social dimension of the focal issue, an example from the COVID-19 unit, evidence of success, and future considerations for science teacher educators as they help classroom teachers adopt an SSI approach.

Ditch the Debate: Preparing Preservice Teachers to Nurture Productive Discourse About Controversial Issues

by Eric A. Kirk, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; & Troy D. Sadler, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

This article showcases a lesson for preservice teachers designed to better prepare them in making instructional choices that support teaching and learning about complex socioscientific issues (SSI). Many of society’s most pressing social issues require the understanding and application of scientific knowledge. To do so, individuals must navigate not only the scientific dimensions of the issue, but also the moral considerations that arise from the application of scientific knowledge to these complex issues. We begin this article with a discussion of a framework for effective SSI-based teaching followed by a discussion of the unique challenges to teaching and learning that are posed by engaging students with complex, moral issues such as SSI. We then outline a lesson in which preservice teachers were exposed to two example SSI-based lessons. One lesson was designed to exacerbate challenges associated with engaging with morally fraught issues, whereas the other was designed to mitigate these challenges. Throughout this experience, students were encouraged to reflect on their experiences from their perspective as students and as developing teachers. This article concludes with recommendations for practitioners who may wish to implement this lesson, including suggestions for possible adaptations.

Research-Community Partnerships to Support Teacher Professional Learning

by Katherine Wade-Jaimes, University of Nevada Las Vegas; Rachel Askew, Freed-Hardeman University; Cullen Johnson, Memphis Teacher Residencey; & Chuck Butler, Memphis Teacher Residency

Providing ongoing support for inservice teachers is a challenge faced by school districts, educational organizations, and colleges of education everywhere. In this article, we describe a partnership between a community-based educational organization and educational researchers designed to provide professional development and support for science and math teachers while also supporting youth participating in a summer STEM program. Originating from an identified need of the community organization to better support youth STEM identity in their programming and rooted in a framework of STEM identity and equity in STEM, this partnership leveraged resources from different groups and was shown to be beneficial to the community organization, educational researchers, teachers, and youth. It this article, we discuss the logistics of this partnership and how it was implemented during a summer program, provide outcomes from youth and teachers, and include suggestions for the development of similar partnerships.

From Pandemic Pivot to Community Outreach: Homeschool Students as Participants for Course-Based Field Placements

by Ronald S. Hermann, Towson University; & Maureen G. Honeychuck, Towson University

The Covid-19 pandemic resulted in a pivot to online instruction for our university and the surrounding K–12 schools. The instructors of the Classroom Interactions course faced the challenge of developing an online version of a course we had never taught that included a class-based field experience. During the fall semester, we struggled to recruit secondary students to participate in preservice teacher (PST) lessons, so we invited homeschool students to participate in the spring semester. This article outlines our approach to inviting homeschool students to participate in online PST-developed lessons. We outline our approach to utilizing the 5 Practices for Orchestrating Task-Based Discussions in Science (Cartier et al., 2013) to develop lessons, and we share PST and parent feedback on the experience. Additionally, we share the lessons we learned from this experience and suggestions for other teacher educators who may be interested in inviting homeschool students to participate in PST-developed field experiences. PSTs were able to focus on their lesson objective, instruction, and discourse moves for leading productive discussions because the PSTs and students did not experience many of the typical classroom distractions or behavioral issues that can occur during in-person learning in a school setting. Teacher educators interested in having more autonomy and input into how course-based field placements are implemented are encouraged to explore options to include homeschool students in-person or virtually.

Implementing a Mentoring Program for Beginning Secondary STEM Teachers: Conceptualization and Lessons Learned

by Lara Smetana, Loyola University Chicago; Krishna Millsapp, Loyola University Chicago; Megan Leider, Loyola University Chicago; & Mark Johnson

The importance of attending to teachers’ transition from student to teacher (i.e., induction period) is increasingly recognized. This article describes efforts to develop, implement, and iteratively revise a mentoring program for beginning secondary science and mathematics teachers. We explain the conceptualization of the program in terms of four dimensions of teachers’ professional practice and varying mentoring approaches and formats. Examples of mentoring program components illustrate the program design. Lessons learned from the first 2 years are explored utilizing participant data as evidence. Plans for our program are discussed as well as implications for other teacher education programs.

Supporting Inservice Teachers’ Skills for Implementing Phenomenon-Based Science Using Instructional Routines That Prioritize Student Sense-making

by Amy E. Trauth, University of Delaware; & Kimberly Mulvena, Colonial School District

Widespread implementation of phenomenon-based science instruction aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) remains low. One reason for the disparity between teachers’ instructional practice and NGSS adoption is the lack of comprehensive, high-quality curriculum materials that are educative for teachers. To counter this, we configured a set of instructional routines that prioritize student sensemaking and then modeled these routines with grades 6–12 inservice science teachers during a 3-hour professional learning workshop that included reflection and planning time for teachers. These instructional routines included: (1) engaging students in asking questions and making observations of a phenomenon, (2) using a driving question board to document students’ questions and key concepts learned from the lesson, (3) prompting students to develop initial models of the phenomenon to elicit their background knowledge, (4) coherent sequencing of student-led investigations related to the phenomenon, (5) using a summary table as a tool for students to track their learning over time, and (6) constructing a class consensus model and scientific explanation of the phenomenon. This workshop was part of a larger professional learning partnership aimed at improving secondary science teachers’ knowledge and skills for planning and implementing phenomenon-based science. We found that sequencing these instructional routines as a scalable model of instruction was helpful for teachers because it could be replicated by any secondary science teacher during lesson planning. Teachers were able to work collaboratively with their grade- or course-level colleagues to develop lessons that incorporated these instructional routines and made phenomenon-based science learning more central in classrooms.

Eliciting and Refining Conceptions of STEM Education: A Series of Activities for Professional Development

by Emily A. Dare, Florida International University; & Elizabeth A. Ring-Whalen, St. Catherine University

Integrated STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education is becoming increasingly common in K–12 classrooms. However, various definitions of STEM education exist that make it challenging for teachers to know what to implement and how to do so in their classrooms. In this article, we describe a series of activities used in a week-long professional development workshop designed to elicit K–12 teachers’ conceptions of STEM and the roles that science, technology, engineering, and mathematics play in STEM education. These activities not only engage teachers in conversations with peers and colleagues in a professional development setting but also enable teachers to reflect on their learning related to STEM education in the context of creating lesson plans and considering future teaching. In addition to describing these activities, we share suggestions related to how these activities may be used in venues outside of professional development.

From Theory to Practice: Funds of Knowledge as a Framework for Science Teaching and Learning

by Tyler St. Clair, Longwood University; & Kaitlin McNulty, Norwood-Norfork Central School

The phrase "funds of knowledge" refers to a contemporary science education research framework that provides a unique way of understanding and leveraging student diversity. Students’ funds of knowledge can be understood as the social relationships through which they have access to significant knowledge and expertise (e.g., family practices, peer activities, issues faced in neighborhoods and communities). This distributed knowledge is a valuable resource that might enhance science teaching and learning in schools when used properly. This article aims to assist science methods instructors and secondary classroom teachers to better understand funds of knowledge theory and to provide numerous examples and resources for what this theory might look like in practice.

Supporting Middle and Secondary Science Teachers to Implement Sustainability-Themed Instruction

by Sheron L. Mark, PhD, University of Louisville, College of Education and Human Development, 1905 S 1st Street, Louisville, KY 40292

In today’s society, we face many complex environmental, social, and economic challenges that can be addressed through a lens of sustainability. Furthermore, our efforts in addressing these challenges must be collective. Science education is foundational to preparing students with the knowledge, skills, and dispositions to engage in this work in professional and everyday capacities. This article describes a teacher education project aimed at preparing middle and secondary preservice and alternatively certified science teachers to teach through a lens of sustainability. The project was embedded within a middle and secondary science teaching methods course. Work produced by the teacher candidates, including case-study research presentations and week-long instructional plans, is described.

Using Critical Case Studies to Cultivate Inservice Teachers’ Critical Science Consciousness

by Lenora M. Crabtree, University of North Carolina Charlotte; & Michelle Stephan, University of North Carolina Charlotte

Culturally relevant and responsive science instruction includes support of students’ socio-political, or critical, consciousness. A lack of experience with marginalization, and limited attention to critical perspectives in science content and methods courses, however, may leave educators ill-equipped to address intersections of diversity, equity, and science instruction. Curriculum is needed that supports critical consciousness development among science teachers and their students. We describe an innovation, a critical inquiry case study, designed to address this essential facet of culturally relevant pedagogy. Design research methodology guided our development of an interrupted, historical case study employed as part of a four-day professional development workshop for secondary science teachers. In addition to provoking critical awareness and agency, the case study was designed to highlight ways that science itself may create or perpetuate inequities, or serve as a tool for liberation, a content-specific construct we call critical science consciousness. Implementation of the critical case study and participating teachers’ interactions with case materials are described. In addition, we highlight learning goals developed to support critical science consciousness and provide insights into ways teachers exhibited growth in each area. Teachers report heightened understanding of the role science plays in perpetuating inequities, transformations in ways they think about systemic inequities that impact students and families, and growing awareness of the possibilities inherent in teaching science for liberation.