A 20-year Journey in Elementary and Early Childhood Science and Engineering Education: A Cycle of Reflection, Refinement, and Redesign

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Sandifer, C., Lottero-Perdue, P., & Miranda, R.J. (2020). A 20-year journey in elementary and early childhood science and engineering education: A cycle of reflection, refinement, and redesign. Innovations in Science Teacher Education, 5(4). Retrieved from https://innovations.theaste.org/a-20-year-journey-in-elementary-and-early-childhood-science-and-engineering-education-a-cycle-of-reflection-refinement-and-redesign/

by Cody Sandifer, Towson University; Pamela S. Lottero-Perdue, Towson University; & Rommel J. Miranda, Towson University

Abstract

Over the past two decades, science and engineering education faculty at Towson University have implemented a number of course innovations in our elementary and early childhood education content, internship, and methods courses. The purposes of this paper are to: (1) describe these innovations so that faculty looking to make similar changes might discover activities or instructional approaches to adapt for use at their own institutions and (2) provide a comprehensive list of lessons learned so that others can share in our successes and avoid our mistakes. The innovations in our content courses can be categorized as changes to our inquiry approach, the addition of new out-of-class activities and projects, and the introduction of engineering design challenges. The innovations in our internship and methods courses consist of a broad array of improvements, including supporting consistency across course sections, having current interns generate advice documents for future interns, switching focus to the NGSS science and engineering practices (and modifying them, if necessary, for early childhood), and creating new field placement lessons.

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References

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Cunningham, C. M., & Kelly, G. J. (2017). Epistemic practices of engineering for education. Science Education, 101(3), 486-505. doi:10.1002/sce.21271

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Engineering is Elementary (EiE). (2019). The engineering design process: A five-step process Retrieved January 28, 2019 from https://eie.org/overview/engineering-design-process

Goldberg, F., Robinson, S., Price, E., Harlow, D., Andrew, J., & McKean, M. (2018).  Next Generation Physical Science and Everyday Thinking.  Greenwich, CT: Activate Learning

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Lottero-Perdue, P.S. (2017a). Engineering design into science classrooms. In Settlage, J., Southerland, S., Smetana, L., & Lottero-Perdue, P.S. Teaching Science to Every Child: Using Culture as a Starting Point. (Third Edition). (pp. 207-266). New York, NY: Routledge.

Lottero-Perdue, P.S. (2017b). Pre-service elementary teachers learning to teach science-integrated engineering design PBL. In Saye, J. & Brush, T. (Eds.), Developing and supporting PBL practice: Research in K-12 and teacher education settings. (pp. 105-131). West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press.

Lottero-Perdue, P.S., Bolotin, S., Benyameen, R., Brock, E., and Metzger, E. (September 2015). The EDP-5E: A rethinking of the 5E replaces exploration with engineering design. Science and Children 53(1), 60-66.

Lottero-Perdue, P.S., Bowditch, M. Kagan, M. Robinson-Cheek, L., Webb, T., Meller, M. & Nosek, T. (November, 2016) An engineering design process for early childhood: Trying (again) to engineer an egg package. Science and Children, 54(3), 70-76.

Lottero-Perdue P.S., Haines, S., Baranowski, A. & Kenny, P. (2020). Designing a model shoreline: Creating habitat for terrapins and reducing erosion into the bay. Science and Children, 57 (7), 40-45.

Lottero-Perdue, P.S. & Parry, E. (2019, March). Scaffolding for failure: Upper elementary students navigate engineering design failure. Science and Children, 56(7), 86-89.

Lottero-Perdue, P. & Sandifer, C. (in press). Using engineering to explore the Moon’s height in the sky with future teachers. Science & Children.

Lottero-Perdue, P.S., Sandifer, C. & Grabia, K. (2017, December) “Oh No! Henrietta got out! Kindergarteners investigate forces and use engineering to corral an unpredictable robot.” Science and Children, 55(4), 46-53.

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NGSS Lead States. (2013). Next generation science standards: For states, by states. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

Sandifer, C. (2010, January).  Interns helping interns: Advice documents as meaningful authentic assessments. Talk presented at the meeting of the Association for Science Teacher Education, Sacramento, CA.

Sandifer, C. (2018). Activities in physical science. Unpublished course text.

Sandifer, C., Hermann, R. S., Cimino, K., & Selway, J. (2015). Early teaching experiences at Towson University: Challenges, lessons, and innovations. In C. Sandifer & E. Brewe (Eds.), Recruiting and Educating Future Physics Teachers: Case Studies and Effective Practices (pp. 129-145). College Park, MD: American Physical Society.

Sandifer, C., Lising, L., & Renwick, E.  (2007). Towson’s PhysTEC course improvement project, Years 1 and 2: Results and lessons learned. 2007 Conference Proceedings of the Association for Science Teacher Education.

Sandifer, C., Lising, L., & Tirocchi, L.  (2006). Our PhysTEC project:  Collaborating with a classroom teacher to improve an elementary science practicum.  2006 Conference Proceedings of the Association for Science Teacher Education.

Sandifer, C., Lising, L., Tirocchi, L, & Renwick, E.  (2019, February 28). Towson University’s Elementary PhysTEC project: Final report. Retrieved from https://www.phystec.org/institutions/Institution.cfm?ID=1275

Sandifer, C., & Lottero-Perdue, P.  (2014, April). When practice doesn’t make perfect: Common misunderstandings of the NGSS scientific practices. Workshop presented at the meeting of the National Science Teachers Association, Boston, MA.

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A District-University Partnership to Support Teacher Development

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Wade-Jaimes, K., Counsell, S., Caldwell, L., & Askew, R. (2020). A district-university partnership to support teacher development. Innovations in Science Teacher Education, 5(4). Retrieved from https://innovations.theaste.org/a-district-university-partnership-to-support-teacher-development/

by Katherine Wade-Jaimes, University of Memphis; Shelly Counsell, University of Memphis; Logan Caldwell, University of Memphis; & Rachel Askew, Vanderbilt University

Abstract

With the shifts in science teaching and learning suggested by the Framework for K-12 Science Education, in-service science teachers are being asked to re-envision their classroom practices, often with little support. This paper describes a unique partnership between a school district and a university College of Education, This partnership began as an effort to support in-service science teachers of all levels in the adoption of new science standards and shifts towards 3-dimensional science teaching. Through this partnership, we have implemented regular "Share-A-Thons," or professional development workshops for in-service science teachers. We present here the Share-A-Thons as a model for science teacher professional development as a partnership between schools, teachers, and university faculty. We discuss the logistics of running the Share-A-Thons, including challenges and next steps, provide teacher feedback, and include suggestions for implementation.

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References

Counsell, S. (2011). GRADES K-6-Becoming Science” Experi-mentors”-Tenets of quality professional development and how they can reinvent early science learning experiences. Science and Children49(2), 52.

Ingersoll, R. E. (2004). Who controls teachers’ work? Power and accountability in America’s schools. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Kennedy, M. M. (1999). Form and Substance in Mathematics and Science Professional Development. NISE brief3(2), n2.

Luft, J. A., & Hewson, P. W. (2014). Research on teacher professional development programs in science. Handbook of research on science education2, 889-909.

National Research Council (2007). Taking science to school: Learning and teaching science in grades K-8. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

National Research Council. (2012). A framework for K-12 science education: Practices, crosscutting concepts, and core ideas. National Academies Press.

NGSS Lead States. 2013. Next Generation Science Standards: For States, By States. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

Opfer, V. D., & Pedder, D. (2011). Conceptualizing teacher professional learning. Review of educational research81, 376-407.

Palmer, D. (2004). Situational interest and the attitudes towards science of primary teacher education students. International Journal of Science Education26, 895-908.

Shapiro, B., & Last, S. (2002). Starting points for transformation resources to craft a philosophy to guide professional development in elementary science. Professional development of science teachers: Local insights with lessons for the global community, 1-20.

Supovitz, J. A., & Turner, H. M. (2000). The effects of professional development on science teaching practices and classroom culture. Journal of Research in Science Teaching: The Official Journal of the National Association for Research in Science Teaching37, 963-980.

Tennessee State Board of Education. (n.d.). Science. Retrieved from https://www.tn.gov/sbe/committees-and-initiatives/standards-review/science.html

Wilson, S. M., & Berne, J. (1999). Chapter 6: Teacher Learning and the Acquisition of Professional Knowledge: An Examination of Research on Contemporary Professlonal Development. Review of research in education24(1), 173-209

 

Facilitating Preservice Teachers’ Socioscientific Issues Curriculum Design in Teacher Education

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Foulk, J.A., Sadler, T.D., & Friedrichsen, P.M. (2020). Facilitating preservice teachers’ socioscientific issues curriculum design in teacher education. Innovations in Science Teacher Education, 5(3). Retrieved from https://innovations.theaste.org/facilitating-preservice-teachers-socioscientific-issues-curriculum-design-in-teacher-education/

by Jaimie A. Foulk, University of Missouri - Columbia; Troy D. Sadler, University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill; & Patricia M. Friedrichsen, University of Missouri - Columbia

Abstract

Socioscientific issues (SSI) are contentious and ill-structured societal issues with substantive connections to science, which require an understanding of science, but are unable to be solved by science alone. Consistent with current K-12 science education reforms, SSI based teaching uses SSI as a context for science learning and has been shown to offer numerous student benefits. While K-12 teachers have expressed positive perceptions of SSI for science learning, they cite uncertainty about how to teach with SSI and lack of access to SSI based curricular materials as reasons for not utilizing a SSI based teaching approach. In response to this need we developed and taught a multi-phase SSI Teaching Module during a Science Methods course for pre-service secondary teachers (PSTs), designed to 1) engage PSTs as learners in an authentic SSI science unit; 2) guide PSTs in making sense of an SSI approach to teaching and learning; and 3) support PSTs in designing SSI-based curricular units. To share our experience with the Teaching Module and encourage teacher educators to consider ways of adapting such an approach to their pre-service teacher education contexts, we present our design and resources from the SSI Teaching Module and describe some of the ways PSTs described their challenges, successes, and responses to the experience, as well as considerations for teacher educators interested in introducing PSTs to SSI.

Introduction

Socioscientific issues (SSI) based teaching is a pedagogical philosophy consistent with current reform movements in K-12 science education (Zeidler, 2014b). SSI are societal issue[s] with substantive connections to science ideas (Sadler, Foulk, & Friedrichsen, 2017, p. 75), which lack structure, are controversial in nature, and for which science understanding is necessary but insufficient to offer complete solutions (Borgerding & Dagistan, 2018; Kolstø, 2006; Owens, Sadler, & Friedrichsen, 2019; Simonneaux, 2007). Because they are values-influenced, lack clear solutions, and bear significant, and often conflicting, implications for society, SSI tend to be contentious (Zeidler, 2014a).

Studies of SSI-focused learning contexts have identified many learner benefits. Students who participated in SSI-based learning experiences have demonstrated gains in understanding of science ideas (Dawson & Venville, 2010, 2013; Sadler, Klosterman, & Topcu, 2011; Sadler, Romine, & Topçu, 2016; Venville & Dawson, 2010), nature of science (Khishfe & Lederman, 2006; Lederman, Antink, & Bartos, 2014; Sadler, Chambers, & Zeidler, 2004); and scientific practices, such as modeling (Peel, Zangori, Friedrichsen, Hayes, & Sadler, 2019; Zangori, Peel, Kinslow, Friedrichsen, & Sadler, 2017) and argumentation (Venville & Dawson, 2010). Beyond these traditional learning outcomes, studies have also identified benefits such as improved reasoning skills (Kolstø et al., 2006; Sadler et al., 2004; Sadler & Zeidler, 2005; Zeidler, Applebaum, & Sadler, 2011); moral, ethical, and character development (Fowler, Zeidler, & Sadler, 2009; H. Lee, Abd‐El‐Khalick, & Choi, 2006); and increased enthusiasm and interest within science learning contexts (M. K. Lee & Erdogan, 2007; Saunders & Rennie, 2013).

The role of classroom teachers is of primary importance in facilitating reform-oriented learner experiences (Bybee, 1993) such as those based on SSI. Research has revealed that many classroom teachers hold favorable perceptions of SSI; however, despite some K-12 science teachers’ recognition of potential benefits to learners, and acknowledgements of the subsequent importance of incorporating SSI into science classroom contexts, research indicates that K-12 science teachers struggle to incorporate an SSI-focused pedagogy in their classrooms, and those who utilize SSI tend to do so infrequently and superficially (H. Lee et al., 2006; Lumpe, Haney, & Czerniak, 1998; Sadler, Amirshokoohi, Kazempour, & Allspaw, 2006; Saunders & Rennie, 2013). Three notable explanations for teachers’ omission of SSI-focused activities from their classrooms are: teachers’ unfamiliarity, lack of experience, and/or discomfort with an SSI-focused teaching approach (H. Lee et al., 2006; Sadler et al., 2006; Saunders & Rennie, 2013); teachers’ limited access to SSI-focused curricular resources (Sadler et al., 2006); and discrepancies between teachers’ perceptions of SSI and the philosophical basis of the pedagogy (Hansen & Olson, 1996; H. Lee et al., 2006; Sadler et al., 2006).

While a small number of prepared curricular resources for SSI have begun to be made available to teachers (cf. Kinslow & Sadler, 2018; Science Education Resource Center; The ReSTEM Institute; Zeidler & Kahn, 2014a), practical access to SSI curricula remains limited. Literature around SSI features an array of project-specific SSI-focused curricular resources on a variety of topics (Carson & Dawson, 2016; Christenson, Chang Rundgren, & Höglund, 2012; Dawson & Venville, 2010; Eilks, 2002; Eilks, Marks, & Feierabend, 2008; Friedrichsen, Sadler, Graham, & Brown, 2016; Kolstø, 2006; Lederman et al., 2014; H Lee et al., 2013; Peel et al., 2019; Sadler & Zeidler, 2005). However, only very few of the studies (Eilks, 2002; Friedrichsen et al., 2016; Zeidler et al., 2011) have focused on the process or products of SSI curricular design and the curricula from this research generally have not been distributed for classroom use. In addition, research has demonstrated the potentially transformative power to teachers of engaging in the design of reform-oriented, including SSI-focused, curricular resources (Coenders, Terlouw, Dijkstra, & Pieters, 2010; Eilks & Markic, 2011; Hancock, Friedrichsen, Kinslow, & Sadler, 2019; Zeidler et al., 2011).

In view of the demonstrated discrepancy between teachers’ perceptions and enactment of SSI; limited access to SSI curricular resources; the transformative value of engaging in reform-oriented curricular design; and the potential of SSI-based pedagogy to promote reform-oriented learning experiences; we view supporting teachers in the design of SSI-oriented curricula as a promising approach to educational reform. This project reflects that view. We sought to support pre-service science teachers (PSTs) in their uptake of SSI-based teaching in a Science Methods course through our design and teaching of an SSI Teaching Module intended to: 1) engage PSTs as learners in an authentic SSI science unit; 2) guide PSTs in making sense of an SSI approach to teaching and learning; and 3) support PSTs in designing SSI-based curricular units. The purpose of this paper is to describe our Teaching Module and share related resources with teacher educators, as well as to provide some examples of PSTs’ challenges, successes, and responses to the experience. It is our hope that the Teaching Module will serve as an inspiration for teacher educators interested in supporting future science teachers’ uptake of SSI.

SSI-TL – A Framework to Operationalize SSI-Based Pedagogy

Our group has developed the SSI Teaching and Learning (SSI-TL) Framework (Sadler et al., 2017) for the purpose of supporting teachers’ uptake of SSI-based teaching. Intended as a guide for classroom teachers, the SSI-TL framework highlights elements we consider to be essential to teaching science with SSI, while also remaining highly adaptable to various subdisciplines, courses, and classroom contexts in K-12 science education. SSI-TL is one instantiation of SSI-based teaching, developed from multiple projects that utilized research-based SSI frameworks featured in previous literature (Foulk, 2016; Friedrichsen et al., 2016; Klosterman & Sadler, 2010; Presley et al., 2013; Sadler, 2011; Sadler et al., 2015; Sadler et al., 2016). This project contributed to the development of SSI-TL, and we drew from an intermediate version of the framework throughout the project (See Figure 1).

Figure 1 (Click on image to enlarge)
SSI-TL Framework

SSI-TL specifies requisite components of SSI-based learning experiences, the sum total of which are necessary for a complete SSI-TL curricular unit. Such a unit consists of a cohesive, two- to three-week sequence of lessons designed around a particular SSI, to promote students’ achievement of a defined set of science learning objectives. Within any SSI-TL curricular unit, a focal SSI is foregrounded in the curricular sequence and revisited regularly throughout the unit, in order to serve as both motivation and context for learners’ engagement in authentic science practices and sensemaking about science ideas. A continuous focus on the selected SSI also guides students in exploration of societal dimensions of the issue; that is, the potential impacts of the issue on society, such as those of a social, political, or economic nature. Participation in an SSI-TL unit is intended to engage students in sensemaking about both the relevant science ideas and the societal dimensions of the issue. Student learning in SSI-based teaching is assessed with a culminating project in which learners synthesize their understanding of scientific and societal aspects relevant to the issue. In this project, our intermediate version of the SSI-TL framework served as both a representation of SSI-based teaching and a tool to support PSTs’ uptake of the approach.

The SSI Teaching Module in a Methods Course

Project Context, Goals, and Audience

The project described in this paper consisted of a six-week SSI Teaching Module that was implemented during a semester-long Science Methods course for secondary PSTs. The Science Methods course was the last in a sequence of three required methods courses in an undergraduate secondary science education program, and occurred immediately prior to the student teaching experience. The focus of the 16-week course was curricular planning and development, and the primary course goal was that PSTs would be able to design a coherent secondary science curricular unit, consisting of a two- to three-week sequence of related lessons organized around selected NGSS performance expectations. The purposes of the six-week SSI Teaching Module were to facilitate PSTs’ familiarity with SSI-based teaching; to explicate and challenge, as appropriate, PSTs’ perceptions about SSI; and to promote PSTs’ learning about SSI-based science teaching, as evidenced by their ability to develop cohesive science curricular units consistent with the SSI-TL framework.

A cohort of 13 PSTs in their final year of undergraduate coursework completed the SSI Teaching Module during Fall 2015. The first author developed and taught the SSI Teaching Module and the Science Methods course and conducted assessment of PSTs’ work in the course. The second author served in an advisory capacity during design, enactment, and assessment phases of the Teaching Module and Methods course. Both the second and third authors served as advisors during the writing stages of the project.

Project Design

The SSI Teaching Module consisted of three distinct phases, in which PSTs engaged with SSI-based science education from the perspectives of learner, teacher, and curriculum maker. (See SSI Teaching Module Schedule, below). In the first phase of the SSI Teaching Module, PSTs participated as learners of science in a sample secondary science unit designed using the SSI-TL framework, learning science content which was contextualized in an authentic SSI. (See SSI units for secondary science at our project website: http://ri2.missouri.edu/ri2modules.) In the second phase of the SSI Teaching Module, the PSTs spent time considering their SSI learning experience, this time from a teacher perspective, with explicit attention to the SSI-TL framework and key components of the sample SSI unit. Finally, in the third phase, the PSTs created SSI-based curricular units for use in their future secondary science classrooms. In all phases of the SSI Teaching Module, PSTs were asked to engage in personal reflection about their perceptions of SSI and its potential utility in their future teaching practice, with various writing prompts used during class, reflective writing assignments, and in-class discussion. More detailed description of each phase of the SSI Teaching Module follows (See Table 1).

Table 1 (Click on image to enlarge)
SSI Teaching Module Schedule

SSI Teaching Module – Phase 1: Learning Science with SSI

The first phase of the SSI Teaching Module focused on PSTs’ engagement with a sample SSI-TL unit. The sample unit was developed for an Advanced Exercise Science course at the secondary level, using NGSS standards relevant to the topic of energy systems, and presented through a nutritional science lens. The focal SSI for the nutrition unit was taxation of obesogenic foods. The SSI nutrition unit, as representation of the SSI-TL approach, engaged PSTs in several learning activities appropriate for incorporation into their own secondary-level SSI curricular unit designs. During this phase PSTs explored societal dimensions of the issue and engaged in sensemaking about the relevant science ideas, just as secondary students would do. Find the complete “Fat Tax” SSI-TL unit plan on our project website: http://ri2.missouri.edu/ri2modules/Fat Tax/intro.

The nutrition focus of the sample SSI unit was purposely selected for several reasons. First, this choice of topic leveraged the first author’s personal background and interest in nutritional sciences. Second, a pair of teaching partners in a local secondary school had approached the first author for help with preparing a unit for a new course they would be teaching. Finally, this topic offered opportunities for the methods students who had content backgrounds in different science disciplines to see the integration of diverse science ideas, and to build upon their own content knowledge. The SSI nutrition unit and the secondary course for which it was prepared represented authentic possibilities for PSTs’ future teaching assignments.

As specified in the SSI-TL framework, the SSI nutrition unit was introduced with a focal SSI. PSTs began by reading an article about a proposed “fat tax,” and were then asked to articulate and share ideas about the issue, providing reasoning to support their positions. Various positions were proposed, and a lively discussion followed. “Henry,” who had previously worked in a grocery store, shared initial support for the tax, justified by his personal observations of patterns in consumer buying habits. “Gregg” pushed back on what he considered to be stereotyping in Henry’s example, and argued that taxation of groups of food items toward controlling consumer choice was not within the purview of government agencies and could place an unnecessary burden on population subgroups such as college students and young families, who might depend on convenience foods during particular life phases. Various PSTs shared about personal and family experiences linking nutrition and health, which highlighted the challenge of defining “healthful” nutrition. The result of this introductory activity was PSTs’ recognition of their need to better understand both scientific and societal dimensions of the issue.

Because societal dimensions of SSI are a key focus of SSI-based teaching, and because research indicates that science teachers may struggle most with this component of SSI (Sadler et al., 2006), the relevant social aspects of the nutrition focal SSI were heavily featured in the SSI Teaching Module. An example of a nutrition lesson that emphasized societal dimensions of the focal SSI was one that incorporated an SSI Timeline activity (Foulk, Friedrichsen, & Sadler, 2020). In small groups, PSTs explored historically significant nutrition recommendations, summarizing their findings and posting them on a collaborative class timeline. Then the PSTs discussed their collective findings, comparing and contrasting nutrition recommendations through the years, and proposing significant historical events that may have impacted recommendations. Next, the small groups reconvened to research scientific, political, and economic events, which had been selected for their historical significance to nutritional health. PSTs summarized the impact of their assigned events, color coded according to the nature of impacts on historical nutritional recommendations. The result was a very engaged group of learner-participants, and a great deal of discussion about their new understandings of nutrition policy. Following the introduction of the issue and participation in this timeline activity, PSTs expressed an awareness that meaningful interpretation and assessment of commonly shared nutrition advice (e.g., “eat everything in moderation” or “avoid cholesterol and saturated fat”) depends on an understanding of scientific ideas about nutrition. Specifically, the PSTs recognized their need to be able to make sense of the structure and function of nutrition macromolecules and their significance in metabolic pathways. As learners, PSTs benefitted from this activity by identifying science concepts they needed to know in order to address the focal issue (See Figure 2 and Figure 3).

Figure 2 (Click on image to enlarge)
SSI Timeline Activity

Figure 3 (Click on image to enlarge)
SSI Timeline Categories of Societal Dimensions

SSI Teaching Module – Phase 2: Teaching Science with SSI

The second phase of the SSI Teaching Module allowed PSTs to reflect on their learner experiences with the SSI nutrition unit, from the perspective of teachers. After participating in selected portions of the SSI nutrition unit, the PSTs began the process of unpacking their experience and making sense of the teaching approach. They were first asked to inspect the SSI-TL framework, and then they received written copies of the SSI nutrition unit for comparison. In small groups PSTs discussed elements of the framework they were able to distinguish in the nutrition unit, as well as the purposes they saw for each activity they had identified. A whole class discussion of the unit resulted in a mapping of the unit to the SSI-TL framework (See Figure 4).

Figure 4 (Click on image to enlarge)
Unit Map

In another lesson during the second phase of the SSI Teaching Module, a whole class discussion of the philosophical assumptions of the SSI-TL framework helped PSTs to consider broader educational purposes of the approach (Zeidler, 2014a). The instructor again provided a copy of the framework and asked PSTs to consider ways it compared and contrasted to their experiences as learners of science, and their ideas about teaching science. During the discussion, “Travis” shared, “I would’ve eaten this up as a high school student, because I didn’t always like science classes. I think connecting science to real life is a great way to reach students who might not like science otherwise.” Conversely, “Dale” expressed his concerns about shaking up tried and true teaching methods in his subdiscipline, arguing that there are more beneficial ways to teach than forcing science learning into SSI: “Everything we teach at the high school level for physics was settled 200 years ago. Why should students spend time looking at news stories and history?” The group revisited these conversations about educational philosophy and socioscientific issues frequently.

Following a whole class discussion about the SSI-TL framework and nutrition unit as an exemplar, PSTs used the framework to collaboratively analyze examples of externally created SSI-focused curricula. Small groups identified components of SSI-based teaching such as the focal issue, opportunities to consider societal dimensions of the issue, and connections to relevant science ideas. (Friedrichsen et al., 2016; Schibuk, 2015; Zeidler & Kahn, 2014a, 2014b, 2014c). Finally, individual PSTs completed a structured analysis of these assigned SSI curricular units. This activity served to further help the PSTs in identifying key components of SSI-based science curricula, and to see varied ways that classroom activities, lessons, and units might be created to align with the approach. See the analysis rubric tool designed to support PSTs’ individual curricular analyses (See Figure 5).

Figure 5 (Click on image to enlarge)
Curriculum Analysis Rubric

SSI Teaching Module – Phase 3: Designing SSI Curricula

The third and final phase of the SSI Teaching Module focused on curricular design. Because curricular design was the primary goal of the Science Methods course, activities prior to the SSI Teaching Module had been designed to engage PSTs in utilizing NGSS and other educational standards, as well as in structuring and planning for meaningful learning activities in secondary science classrooms. This phase of the SSI Teaching Module was designed to build upon the PSTs’ prior experiences with elements of curriculum planning, and to integrate them with the activities of the previous phases of the module.

Over a series of lessons, in various formats, and with numerous feedback opportunities, the PSTs were supported in their development of a cohesive SSI-focused curricular unit designed around the SSI-TL framework, which served as the culminating course project. With regular instructor feedback, in both in-class collaborative settings and as out-of-class assignments, PSTs selected topics applicable to their science certification areas, brainstormed potential focal SSIs in which to contextualize their science units, and identified NGSS standards most relevant to their topics. In addition to feedback from both instructor comments and class discussions, PSTs used several resources intended as tools to guide their process, including the SSI-TL framework, written requirements for the SSI Curriculum Design task, access to the SSI nutrition unit from phase one of the SSI Teaching Module, and an electronic template in which to create their units (See Figure 6).

Figure 6 (Click on image to enlarge)
Curriculum Design Task Requirements

All activities in phase three of the SSI Teaching Module served to help PSTs draft detailed unit overviews consisting of a two- to three-week sequence of lessons with multiple detailed lesson plans, specifically focused on introducing the focal SSI, exploring societal dimensions of the issue, and activities for mastery of related science content ideas. Assessment of PSTs’ units was based upon a detailed scoring rubric collaboratively constructed with the PSTs during the third phase of the Teaching Module. Together the course instructor and PSTs used the Curriculum Design Task Requirements and the SSI-TL framework, as well as the Curriculum Analysis Rubric, to prioritize elements and characteristics of SSI units. Finished units were later assessed for alignment to the SSI-TL framework in terms of unit structure, principles of SSI, and general quality of activities and lessons. See the scoring rubric for the unit design task, below. Note also that NGSS-aligned lesson plan design was a requirement for the PSTs in a previous methods course and continued as an expectation throughout PSTs’ education program. Selected PSTs’ SSI unit design products are summarized (See Figure 7 and Table 2).

Figure 7 (Click on image to enlarge)
SSI Unit Design Task – Scoring Rubric

 

Table 2 (Click on image to enlarge)
Table of Selected PST Curricular Units

 

Discussion & Conclusion

In this project, we sought address the tension between K-12 science teachers’ favorable perceptions of SSI-based pedagogy and their simultaneous unlikelihood to utilize SSI in their science classrooms. Specifially, we designed and implemented an SSI Teaching Module intended to leverage the transformative potential of the curriculum design process, in an effort to address commonly cited barriers to SSI-based pedagogy enactment, including: unfamiliarity or discomfort with SSI-based teaching; lack of access to SSI curricular resources; and misalignment between teachers’ perceptions and the pedagogical philosophy of SSI. We observed several specific examples of favorable impacts for the PST participants in this experience.

First, PSTs expressed excitement about learning with SSI. In a whole class conversation following phase one of the teaching module, Adam described his positive experience as a learner of SSI. Referring specifically to the use of SSI and related societal dimensions in the learning experience, he commented, “I think as a [secondary] student I would’ve been, like, sucked in from the very first day of the nutrition unit.” Adam’s sentiment echoed the enthusiasm that Travis had clearly demonstrated during phase one of the SSI Teaching Module. Having previously spoken to the first author privately regarding his uncertainty about a career path in education, Travis exceeded task expectations during the learner phase of the project. In ways that were atypical for him, Travis assumed leadership responsibilities for his group, encouraging his peers to explore and make connections among science and societal dimensions of the issue they were studying. On one occasion, Travis stayed after class to make additional contributions to the collaborative activity from that day’s lesson, describing to the first author his own engagement during participation in the SSI nutrition unit in class. During a whole class discussion in phase two of the SSI Teaching Module, Travis spoke favorably of his firsthand experience with SSI and enthusiastically shared with his peers his perception of the potential for SSI to promote learner engagement, particularly for those students who, like himself, are likely to find traditional K-12 science coursework unenjoyable.

Second, PSTs expressed enthusiasm for teaching with SSI during phases two and three of the SSI Teaching Module. In class conversations about the SSI-TL framework as well as in written reflections about SSI unit design required with the Unit Design Task, multiple PSTs expressed enthusiasm for SSI and plans to use it, despite its challenges. For example, after designing his unit, “Cooper” wrote, “I found that creating this [SSI] unit about waves was challenging, but also sort of exciting, because it makes me think about how much I’m looking forward to being a teacher.” Similarly, during our whole class discussion about the philosophical underpinnings of SSI, Adam repeatedly expressed his perception of the value of teaching science with SSI. Adam’s SSI curricular unit design was exceptional for his thoughtful choice of issue and the complex connections he made among science ideas and societal dimensions related to the issue, and his comments throughout the learner experience indicated his consideration of the challenges and possible solutions to utilizing SSI in the classroom. During his third year of teaching, Adam reached out to the first author to describe his own use of SSI-based pedagogy and asked for help in supporting veteran teachers in his department to take up the approach. Adam expressed a highly favorable view of teaching with SSI, and the project seemed to prepare him to do so.

Finally, PSTs demonstrated success in designing coherent SSI-TL curricular resources. Consistent with our framework, we considered an SSI unit to be successfully designed if it met the criteria specified in the Curriculum Design Task and Scoring Rubric, by including essential elements and characteristics of SSI and by representing the intent of the approach. Regarding elements and characteristics of SSI and by representing the intent of the approach. Regarding elements and characteristics, a unit overview was required, with specific reference to the science topic and related standards from NGSS, a thorough explanation of pertinent science ideas, and the selected focal SSI in which the unit was contextualized. The overview would also include a brief timeline describing a coherent sequence of lessons related to the topic. In addition, units were to include detailed plans for three specific types of lesson: introduction of the focal issue, exploration of societal dimensions of the issue, and explicit sensemaking about science ideas. Finally, a successful unit would describe plans for assessment, including requirements for a culminating unit project in which learners would demonstrate understanding of science ideas and societal dimensions related to the issue. Throughout the unit design, the selected SSI would feature prominently, and activities would allow for students’ meaningful sensemaking about the science ideas and societal dimensions relevant to the issue.

With participation in the SSI Teaching Module, support from their instructor, and interactions with the learning community in their methods course, each of our participant PSTs satisfied the requirements of the unit design task and designed curricular units consistent with the SSI-TL framework. PSTs were able to identify learning standards relevant to their selected science topics, provide explanations of their topics, and contextualize science learning opportunities within authentic, real-world issues. In addition, PSTs were able to create broad, cohesive overviews of their units, as well as detailed plans for specific lessons. Most notable with regard to the emphasis on SSI, PSTs were able to select relevant, appropriate socioscientific issues for their topics, and to thoughtfully weave these issues into their unit designs. PSTs reflected about general struggles related to selecting focal issues or integrating science ideas and societal dimensions, and the experiences in the SSI Teaching module that they found especially helpful, such as small group discussions during the planning process, and peer feedback on the drafts of their units.

Consistent with current calls for science education reform, we know SSI offer valuable opportunities for student learning, and we believe SSI curriculum design to be a beneficial way to support teachers’ uptake of SSI-based teaching. Furthermore, we view teacher education to be an appropriate context to support pre-service and early career teachers’ in making sense of and adopting the approach. We share the design of SSI Teaching Module to support other teacher educators in innovating pre-service methods courses toward promoting PSTs’ uptake of SSI.

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Food Pedagogy as an Instructional Resource in a Science Methods Course

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Medina-Jerez, W., & Dura, L. (2020). Food pedagogy as an instructional resource in a science methods course. Innovations in Science Teacher Education, 5(3). Retrieved from https://innovations.theaste.org/food-pedagogy-as-an-instructional-resource-in-a-science-methods-course/

by William Medina-Jerez, University of Texas at El Paso; & Lucia Dura, University of Texas at El Paso

Abstract

This article explores the integration of culturally relevant practices and student expertise into lesson planning in a university-level science methods course for preservice elementary teachers (PSETs). The project utilized a conceptual framework that combines food pedagogy and funds of knowledge, modeling an approach to lesson design that PSETs can use in their future classrooms to bring students’ worldviews to the forefront of science learning. The article gives an overview of the conceptual framework and the origins of the project. It describes the steps involved in the design, review, and delivery of lessons by PSETs and discusses implications for instructional practices in science teacher education and science learning in elementary schools. The article concludes with a discussion of major outcomes of the use of this framework, as evidenced by PSET pre- and post- project reflections: student-centered curriculum development, increased PSET self-confidence, integrated learning for both PSET and the students, and sustained levels of engagement.​

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A Framework for Science Exploration: Examining Successes and Challenges for Preservice Teachers

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Croce, K. (2020). A framework for science exploration: Examining successes and challenges for preservice teachers. Innovations in Science Teacher Education, 5(2). Retrieved from https://innovations.theaste.org/a-framework-for-science-exploration-examining-successes-and-challenges-for-preservice-teachers/

by Keri-Anne Croce, Towson University

Abstract

Undergraduate preservice teachers examined the Science Texts Analysis Model during a university course. The Science Texts Analysis Model is designed to support teachers as they help students prepare to engage with the arguments in science texts. The preservice teachers received instruction during class time on campus before employing the model when teaching science to elementary and middle school students in Baltimore city. This article describes how the preservice teachers applied their knowledge of the Science Texts Analysis Model within this real world context. Preservice teachers’ reactions to the methodology are examined in order to provide recommendations for future college courses.

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References

Arnold, N. (2013). Comment ca marche? Moteurs et voitures. Paris: Gallimard Jeunesse

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Enacting Wonder-infused Pedagogy in an Elementary Science Methods Course

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Gilbert, A., & Byers, C.C. (2020). Enacting wonder-infused pedagogy in an elementary science methods course. Innovations in Science Teacher Education, 5(1). Retrieved from https://innovations.theaste.org/enacting-wonder-infused-pedagogy-in-an-elementary-science-methods-course/

by Andrew Gilbert, George Mason University; & Christie C. Byers, George Mason University

Abstract

Future elementary teachers commonly experience a sense of disconnection and lack of confidence in teaching science, often related to their own negative experiences with school science. As a result, teacher educators are faced with the challenge of engaging future teachers in ways that build confidence and help them develop positive associations with science. In this article, we present wonder-infused pedagogy as a means to create positive pathways for future teachers to engage with both science content and teaching. We first articulate the theoretical foundations underpinning conceptions of wonder in relation to science education, and then move on to share specific practical activities designed to integrate elements of wonder into an elementary methods course. We envision wonder-infused pedagogy not as a disruptive force in standard science methods courses, but rather an effort to deepen inquiry and connect it to the emotive and imaginative selves of our students. The article closes with thorough descriptions of wonder related activities including wonder journaling and a wonder fair in order to illustrate the pedagogical possibilities of this approach. We provide student examples of these artifacts and exit tickets articulating student experiences within the course. We also consider possible challenges that teacher educators may encounter during this process and methods to address those possible hurdles. We found that the process involved in wonder-infused pedagogy provided possibilities for future teachers to reconnect and rekindle a joyful relationship with authentic science practice.

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References

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Piersol, (2014). Our hearts leap up: Awakening wonder within the classroom. In K. Egan, A. Cant, & G. Judson (Eds.). Wonder-Full education: The centrality of wonder in teaching, and learning across the curriculum (pp. 3-21). New York, NY: Routledge.

Schinkel, A. (2017). The educational importance of deep wonder. Journal of Philosophy of Education, 51(2), 538–553. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-9752.12233

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Introducing the NGSS in Preservice Teacher Education

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Hill, T., Davis, J., Presley, M., & Hanuscin, D. (2020). Introducing the NGSS in preservice teacher education. Innovations in Science Teacher Education, 5(1). Retrieved from https://innovations.theaste.org/introducing-the-ngss-in-preservice-teacher-education/

by Tiffany Hill, Emporia State University; Jeni Davis, Salisbury University; Morgan Presley, Ozarks Technical Community College; & Deborah Hanuscin, Western Washington University

Abstract

While research has offered recommendations for supporting inservice teachers in learning to implement the NGSS, the literature provides fewer insights into supporting preservice teachers in this endeavor. In this article, we address this gap by sharing our collective wisdom generated through designing and implementing learning experiences in our methods courses. Through personal vignettes and sharing of instructional plans with the science teacher education community, we hope to contribute to the professional knowledge base and better understand what is both critical and possible for preservice teachers to learn about the NGSS.

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References

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Piloting an Adaptive Learning Platform with Elementary/Middle Science Methods

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Vick M.E. (2019). Piloting an adaptive learning platform with elementary/middle science methods. Innovations in Science Teacher Education, 4(4). Retrieved from https://innovations.theaste.org/piloting-an-adaptive-learning-platform-with-elementary-middle-science-methods/

by Matthew E. Vick, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater

Abstract

Adaptive learning allows students to learn in customized, non-linear pathways. Students demonstrate prior knowledge and thus focus their learning on challenging content. They are continually assessed with low stakes questions allowing for identification of content mastery levels. A science methods course for preservice teachers piloted the use of adaptive learning. Design and implementation are described. Instructors need to realistically consider the time required to redesign a course in an adaptive learning system and to develop varied and numerous assessment questions. Overall, students had positive feelings toward the use of adaptive learning. Their mastery levels were not as high as anticipated by the instructor. The student outcomes on their summative assessment did not show high levels of transfer of the key content.

Keywords: Adaptive Learning, Science Methods, Pedagogy, Course Design

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References

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Science Units of Study with a Language Lens: Preparing Teachers for Diverse Classrooms

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Heineke, A.J., & McTighe, J. (2019). Science units of study with a language lens: Preparing teachers for diverse classrooms. Innovations in Science Teacher Education, 4(3). Retrieved from https://innovations.theaste.org/science-units-of-study-with-a-language-lens-preparing-teachers-for-diverse-classrooms/

by Amy J. Heineke, Loyola University Chicago; & Jay McTighe, McTighe & Associates Consulting

Abstract

Recent educational policy reforms have reinvigorated the conversation regarding the role of language in the science classroom. In schools, the Next Generation Science Standards have prompted pedagogical shifts yielding language-rich science and engineering practices. At universities, newly required performance-based assessments have led teacher educators to consider the role of academic language in subject-specific teaching and learning. Simultaneous to these policy changes, the population has continued to diversify, with schools welcoming students who speak hundreds of different languages and language varieties at home, despite English continuing as the primary medium of instruction in science classrooms. Responding to these policy and demographic shifts, we have designed an innovation to prepare teachers and teacher candidates to design instruction that promotes students’ disciplinary language development during rigorous and meaningful science instruction. We add a language lens to the widely used Understanding by Design® framework, emphasizing inclusion and integration with what teachers already do to design science curriculum and instruction, rather than an add-on initiative that silos language development apart from content learning. This language lens merges the principles of culturally and linguistically responsive practice with the three stages of backward instructional design to support educators in designing effective and engaging science instruction that promotes language development and is accessible to the growing number of students from linguistically diverse backgrounds.

Introduction

In science classrooms spanning urban, suburban, and rural regions, students enter with ever diversifying cultural and linguistic backgrounds (National Clearinghouse for English Language Acquisition, 2010). In the context of the United States, 20% of students speak a language other than English at home, with half of these students considered English learners (ELs) due to still-developing English proficiency as measured by standardized tests of listening, speaking, reading, and writing (Linquanti & Cook, 2013; National Center for Educational Statistics, 2015). Despite the benefits of linguistic diversity in schools, these demographic shifts provide unique challenges for science teachers, who typically mediate students’ scientific learning, understanding, and achievement using the English language (Lee, Quinn, & Valdés, 2013). To ensure that students have equitable access to science content, teachers must consider and account for language in their daily classroom instruction (Heineke & McTighe, 2018).

Concurrent to the diversification of schools, science education as a field has embraced a vision of students learning and doing science through language-rich scientific and engineering practices, as evidenced by the Framework for K-12 Science Education (National Research Council [NRC], 2013) and Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS; NGSS Lead States, 2013). Indeed, the shift to the NGSS has resulted in instructional foci on science and engineering practices that simultaneously involve both scientific sense-making and language use (e.g., asking questions, constructing explanations, communicating information; Quinn, Lee, & Valdés, 2010). The resulting practice-oriented classroom thus serves as a rich language-learning and science-learning setting where science teachers are not perceived as language teachers but rather “supporters of the language learning that occurs in a content-rich and discourse-rich classroom environment” (Quinn et al., 2010, p. 1). Since the shift to the NGSS, scholars have indicated that explicit emphasis on language development is indicative of high-quality science instruction that effectively supports all students’ learning, including ELs (e.g., Lee, Llosa, Jiang, Haas, O’Connor, & Van Boonem, 2016; Maerten, Rivera, Ahn, Lanier, Diaz, & Lee, 2016; Zwiep & Straits, 2013). But achieving this practice requires concomitant teacher education that prepares science teachers to integrate language in instructional design and implementation (e.g., Stoddart, Solís, Tolbert, & Bravo, 2010; Tolbert, Stoddart, Lyon, & Solís, 2014).

Seeking to respond to the diversifying student population and changing educational policy context of teaching content and language in disciplinary classrooms, we have added a language lens to Understanding by Design® framework that already supports the design of effective instruction in thousands of schools across the country and world. Understanding by Design (UbD) prompts educators to design rigorous and authentic instruction that deepens students’ learning and understanding by beginning with the end in mind (Wiggins & McTighe, 2005). Curriculum designers progress through stages of instructional design – defining learning goals in Stage 1, designing assessments in Stage 2, and planning instruction in Stage 3 – as a means to promote meaningful learning that transfers to contexts beyond the classroom. In this article, we introduce the UbD framework with a language lens in the context of science teacher education. We (a) sketch the components of UbD with a language lens, (b) detail the integration of this approach to prepare teachers, (c) introduce the learning and application of two science teachers, and (d) share recommendations for implementation in science teacher education.

Backward Design for Learning and Language Development

UbD with a language lens uses the existing design framework, but adds a language lens using principles of culturally and linguistically responsive practice to prioritize diverse students while planning instruction that mediates the disciplinary learning and language development of all students (Heineke & McTighe, 2018). In this way, we begin with students, embracing and responding to their unique backgrounds, abilities, strengths, and needs. Grounded in culturally responsive pedagogy (Gay, 2010) and linguistically responsive teaching (Lucas, Villegas, & Freedson-González, 2008), the pre-planning component centers on getting to know learners to prompt dynamic instructional design that taps into students’ background knowledge and experiences, including language backgrounds and proficiencies. Reflecting the foundational basis of responsive and rigorous science instruction, practitioners need to recognize the diversity of students, including students’ language backgrounds, cultural background knowledge, and previous science learning and experiences. In this way, pre-planning involves amassing and analyzing data on students, including formal data (e.g., cumulative files, standardized test scores) and anecdotal data (e.g., observations, conversations).

Following pre-planning, Stage 1 begins with the end in mind by prompting educators to identify the desired results of the unit, including goals for transfer, meaning, and acquisition. Based on established goals (i.e., NGSS), transfer goals prompt students to transfer and use scientific learning beyond focal units of study, meaning goals involve students grappling with essential questions to build deep understandings about scientific concepts, principles, and processes, and acquisition goals focus on related knowledge and skills, which serve as building blocks to achieve larger transfer and meaning goals.

When adding the language lens to Stage 1, we maintain the rigor of scientific learning goals, which promotes the high expectations for all students at the heart of this approach. But science prompts complex and nuanced uses of language, including discipline-specific words, phrases, sentence structures, and text features (see Table 1). In this way, while upholding the high expectations for all students’ disciplinary learning, we want to explicitly target the development of pertinent scientific language, which fosters students’ academic language development and ensures equitable access to content. To accomplish this in instructional design, we (a) analyze the complex and demanding language that students need to achieve the unit’s transfer and meaning goals and (b) target the development of that language by writing objectives focused on language functions (e.g., analyze, critique) and language features (e.g., vocabulary, sentence structures, text features), as well as involving multiple language domains (i.e., listening, speaking, reading, writing; see Heineke & McTighe, 2018 for more information).

Table 1 (Click on image to enlarge)
Examples of Language Designs in Science

Stage 2 of UbD centers on designing assessments for students to demonstrate progress toward the unit goals defined in Stage 1. The focal point of unit assessments, performance tasks prompt students to engage in authentic situations that require transfer of scientific learning to real-world problems and practices. As a part of these experiences, students take on particular roles (e.g., scientist, meteorologist, engineer) and use understandings of scientific concepts and processes in simulated situations aligned to the unit’s learning goals. In addition to performance tasks, supplementary evidence involves students demonstrating learning across units via various measures (e.g., tests, quizzes, academic prompts; Wiggins & McTighe, 2005).

When adding the language lens on Stage 2, the goal is to design and integrate assessments that (a) capture data on both scientific learning and language development, and (b) provide equitable access for all students to demonstrate understanding (Heineke & McTighe, 2018). In this way, units should include performance tasks that are language-rich, culturally responsive, and linguistically accessible. When designed for authenticity, scientific performance tasks are naturally language-rich, as students interact with peers to discuss and solve problems (i.e., listening, speaking), as well as research and share findings via presentations, proposals, dioramas, or other products (i.e., reading, writing). To ensure all students can actively participate, tasks should (b) be culturally relevant to engage learners and not require prerequisite background knowledge, and (b) have linguistic scaffolds to ensure all students can contribute and demonstrate progress regardless of language background or proficiency. In addition to performance tasks, supplementary assessments are integrated to holistically capture students’ abilities, strengths, and needs in both science and language learning.

Table 2 (Click on image to enlarge)
GRASPS Task Framework with Language Lens

In Stage 3 of UbD, teachers design learning plans that authentically facilitate student learning and understanding as aligned to Stage 1 goals and Stage 2 assessments. This includes the learning plan, which involves hands-on experiences with real-world application and differentiation based on students’ backgrounds, abilities, and needs, as well as formative assessment embedded in instruction to glean students’ learning across the unit of study. When adding the language lens to Stage 3, we strategically plan instruction to achieve unit goals, including those for disciplinary language development, while responding to the unique and diverse needs of students (Heineke & McTighe, 2018). When planning the learning trajectory of science units, the language lens prompts consideration and purposeful integration of (a) students’ cultural and linguistic background knowledge, (b) collaborative, cognitively demanding tasks that involve listening, speaking, reading, and writing in English and students’ home languages, (c) complex texts that are culturally relevant and linguistically accessible, and (d) differentiated scaffolds and supports based on students’ language backgrounds, proficiency levels, and learning preferences (Herrera, 2016; Walqui & vanLier, 2010).

Preparing Teachers for Backward Design with a Language Lens

In addition to serving as a template to design instruction for K-12 students, UbD with a language lens provides teacher educators with an approach to prepare teachers to support diverse students’ language development in science instruction. In this section, we share ways to tackle this work with teachers in training, including in-class activities and resources for building the language lens on instructional design (for more detailed information, see Heineke, Papola-Ellis, Davin, & Cohen, 2018a).

Introducing science teachers to UbD with a language lens begins with buy-in. Science teachers are typically prepared as content experts with the pedagogical content knowledge to mediate students’ scientific learning (Shulman, 1986). Because of the very nature of schools, where English as a Second Language (ESL) and English Language Arts teachers maintain the primary responsibility for teaching language, science teachers might need convincing of their role in supporting students’ language development. We have found the most poignant way to achieve buy-in is having teachers begin by exploring data related to students’ linguistic diversity. When looking at formal data like home language surveys and English proficiency scores (e.g., ACCESS), teachers recognize students’ diverse backgrounds and proficiency levels. We then have them probe the multi-faceted nature of individual learners by collecting formal and anecdotal data on students’ background knowledge, cognitive strategies, language preferences, and scientific knowledge and self-efficacy (Collier & Thomas, 2007; Herrera, 2016). Our goal is for teachers to recognize diversity, paired with the need to maintain high expectations for all.

In Stage 1, we center efforts on deconstructing teachers’ and candidates’ linguistic blind spots. Science teachers are experts within particular disciplines, such as physics, chemistry, or biology, and in the context of the United States, many are also native English speakers. Taken together, teachers may not recognize the demanding, discipline-specific language that students need to access and engage in learning and understanding. To develop teachers’ understandings through empathy, we begin by simulating what students might experience linguistically in the science classroom, asking teachers to read highly complex articles from peer-reviewed journals (e.g., Journal of Chemical & Engineering Data) and use them to engage in a particular task (e.g., making a scientific argument using text-based evidence). We then provide specific tools and examples of disciplinary language demands to help teachers uncover linguistic blind spots, such as WIDA’s framework (2012) for academic language at word, sentence, and discourse levels, WestEd’s detailed taxonomy of academic language functions (AACCW, 2010), and Understanding Language’s overview of NGSS language demands (Quinn et al., 2010). Finally, after building empathy and awareness for the language lens in science teaching and learning, we move into analyzing unit-specific language demands and selecting those that are important, aligned, prevalent, and versatile to scientific content to then draft language-focused objectives.

In Stage 2, we want to teachers to embrace the value of performance tasks in promoting and measuring learning, understanding, and language development (Heineke & McTighe, 2018; Wiggins & McTighe, 2005). This begins by getting teachers to critically evaluate the traditional testing tools that may dominate their current repertoires. We use actual assessments, such as a summative paper-and-pencil test for a unit provided in the science textbook, to analyze for cultural and linguistic biases based on pre-planning data. Once biases are determined, we discuss the need to assess students’ scientific knowledge and skills without requiring a set level of language proficiency or privileging any particular cultural background knowledge. This then springboards into the exploration of performance tasks as the preferred approach to unit assessment, specifically probing ideas within three language-rich categories (i.e., oral, written, displayed). We then use the GRASPS framework with a lens on language (Heineke & McTighe, 2018; Wiggins & McTighe, 2005) for teachers to design performance tasks that align with students’ cultural background knowledge and scaffold access based on learners’ language proficiency (see Table 2). We use WIDA tools to determine developmentally appropriate language functions (i.e., Can-do descriptors; WIDA, 2016) and integrate authentic scaffolds (i.e., graphic, sensory, interactive; WIDA, 2007) to provide students’ equitable access to participate in the performance task.

For Stage 3, we want to build from what educators already know, such as inquiry-based science activities or EL-specific instructional strategies. In our experience working with teachers and candidates, this facet may be familiar based on previous coursework or professional preparation. The key is emphasizing not using a strategy for strategy’s sake, but selecting, organizing, and aligning instructional events and materials based on pre-planning data, Stage 1 goals, and Stage 2 assessments. Flexible based on the professional expertise and experience of the participants, adding a language lens to this stage centers on educators exploring the above facets (e.g., background knowledge, collaborative tasks, complex and relevant texts, differentiated supports) with the primary aim to build awareness of available approaches and resources that can enhance their current pedagogy and practice as science teachers (e.g., bilingual resources, amplification of complex texts). In addition to providing the space to explore high-quality, language-rich approaches and resources for various scientific disciplines, we model how to apply and integrate tools that align to the learning goals of instructional units of study.

The Language Lens in Action: A Closer Look at Two Science Teachers

Let’s exemplify this approach by looking at the instructional design work of two focal science teachers, who participated in a grant-funded professional development series on UbD with a language lens (see Heineke et al., 2018a, 2018b). Using the activities and resources detailed above, these teachers collaborated with colleagues across grades and disciplines to learn about UbD with a language lens and apply learning to their science classrooms.

Bridget, Elementary Science Teacher

Bridget was a sixth-grade science teacher at Wiley Elementary School, a K-6 elementary school with 1200 students in the urban Midwest. With the support of her assistant principal, she secured data to understand the culturally and linguistically diverse student population, including home language surveys and language proficiency tests (i.e., ACCESS). By exploring these data, Bridget learned that the majority of Wiley students spoke another language and approximately 45% of students were formally labeled as ELs. She was not surprised to see that Spanish was the majority language spoken by families, followed by Arabic, but learned about the rich array of linguistic diversity in the community with languages including French, Urdu, Tagalog, Bosnian, Hindi, Bengali, Farsi, Yoruba, Serbian, Romanian, Malay, Gujarati, Korean, Mongolian, and Burmese. Bridget also discerned that 50 of her 54 sixth graders used another language at home, including 10 labeled as ELs with 5 dual-labeled as having special needs.

Bridget chose to work on the first science unit of the school year on space systems, which merged science, engineering, and mathematics principles with the goal for sixth graders to use data and models to understand systems and relationships in the natural world. Per the suggestion of the instructor, she brought a previous unit draft to apply her evolving understandings of UbD with a language lens. Having already deconstructed her expert blind spot to flesh out the conceptual understandings pertinent to science standards and transfer goals, she considered her linguistic blind spot with the support of the instructor and other science educators. Bridget found having examples of science language demands (see Table 1) to be helpful in this process, using the categories and types of word-, sentence-, and discourse-level demands to analyze the disciplinary language her students needed to reach Stage 1 goals, including vocabulary (e.g., gravitational pull), nominalization (e.g., illuminate/illumination), idioms (e.g., everything under the sun), sentence structures (e.g., compare/contrast), and informational text features (e.g., diagrams). After pinpointing these knowledge indicators, she used data on her students’ language proficiency to draft skill indicators with attention to particular language functions (e.g., explain, compare) and domains (e.g., reading, writing).

After adding specific knowledge and skill indicators for language development in Stage 1, Bridget then shifted her attention to Stage 2 assessments. Following exploration of a multitude of language-rich performance task options, including those that prioritize oral, written, and displayed language (Heineke & McTighe, 2018), she decided to redesign her primary unit assessment using the GRASPS framework with a language lens (see Table 2). The resultant Mars Rover Team task (see supplemental unit) aimed to engage her sixth graders in authentic and collaborative practice with components strategically designed to promote disciplinary language use across domains (e.g., listening and speaking in teams, reading data tables, writing presentations) and scaffold for students’ language proficiency (e.g., drawings, technology, small groups). She planned to evaluate the resultant tasks for precise disciplinary language, including the vocabulary, nominalization, and other language features pinpointed in Stage 1 goals. In addition to the performance task, Bridget also added the collection of supplemental evidence to the unit of study, specifically aiming to collect and evaluate data on students’ scientific language development via journal prompts, personal glossaries, and resultant artifacts.

The final facet of the professional development focused on Stage 3, where Bridget revised the unit’s learning plan to target demanding disciplinary language, integrate students’ cultural backgrounds, and differentiate for multiple language proficiencies. Having embraced an inquiry-based approach to teaching science, she already had frequent opportunities for students to collaboratively engage in hands-on exploration and application of scientific concepts. By participating in language-focused professional development, she enriched students’ inquiry by adding opportunities for them to use their home languages as resources for learning, as well as tap into culturally specific background knowledge. For example, she modified her use of space mission notebooks to include personal glossaries for students to document pertinent scientific language, including translations into their home languages. Bridget also sought out and incorporated complex and culturally relevant texts, such as space-related myths, legends, and folktales from students’ countries of origin in Asia, Africa, and South America. Designed with her unique and diverse students in mind, the Stage 3 learning plan outlined her instructional trajectory for students to successfully achieve unit goals.

Jillian, Secondary Science Teacher

Jillian was a science teacher at Truman High School, a neighborhood public high school situated in a vibrantly diverse community in the urban Midwest. She began by exploring the rich diversity of her workplace, learning that 80% of the 1350 students use a language other than English home, representing 35 different languages. Spanish was the primary home language spoken, and 75% of the student body identified as Latina/o, but from countries spanning North, South, and Central America, as well as the Caribbean. Jillian also discovered that of that larger group of bilingual students, 25% are labeled as ELs, spanning a range of proficiency levels across language domains and including both newcomers to the United States and long-term ELs who had enrolled in neighborhood schools since the primary grades.

Jillian decided to focus on a weather and climate unit previously drafted for her earth and space science class. Working with other secondary teachers and using graphic organizers of academic language functions (AACCW, 2010) and features (WIDA, 2012), Jillian analyzed the unit’s transfer and meaning goals for language demands. She noted that her students would need to (a) interpret scientific evidence requiring diverse text features like maps, graphs, and charts, (b) describe weather using words that may be familiar from other contexts (e.g., humidity, temperature), (c) compare climates between local and global settings using distinct measurement systems (i.e., Fahrenheit, Celsius). From that analysis, she pinpointed the linguistic knowledge that her students would need to develop to access the larger learning goals, including weather-based text features and vocabulary terms and comparative sentence structures. She then refined skill indicators to target her students’ language development simultaneous to content, including analyzing weather-related data, interpreting weather patterns, and comparing climates. In this way, Jillian maintained the rigor of scientific learning while adding a lens on disciplinary language development to the Stage 1 goals.

Jillian wanted to design a performance task aligned to unit goals. After analyzing the paper-and-pencil test used by the previous earth science teacher, she realized the need to design an authentic, language-rich task that actively engaged her students in listening, speaking, reading, and writing focused on the disciplinary topics of weather and climate. Reflecting the instructor’s consistent messaging regarding responsive practice, she aimed to tap into her students’ rich sources of background knowledge, including their various global experiences and multilingual backgrounds. Using the GRASPS framework, she drafted a performance task where learners take on roles as potential weather reporters who use multiple sources of evidence to describe how weather affects human life around the globe. Students needed to use disciplinary language (in English and home languages) to compare and contrast how weather and climate influenced one facet of human life in various contexts. To ensure she had data to measure progress toward all Stage 1 goals, Jillian integrated opportunities to collect supplementary evidence throughout the unit.

After refining her goals and assessments with a language lens, Jillian wanted a learning plan that was rigorous, engaging, and interesting for her diverse students. Based on pre-planning data, she wove in students’ cultural and linguistic background knowledge. She began with a context-specific hook, prompting students to compare their city with other locations they had lived or traveled, and continued this strand by using global inquiry teams to analyze weather by continent and expert groups based on learners’ various countries of origin. Jillian then used approaches and resources explored during workshops to attend to disciplinary language, including consistent teacher modeling and student application with strategic scaffolds, such as sentence frames and graphic organizers. Having used the UbD template throughout the process of learning and applying the language lens, she completed a unit with a consistent and deliberate lens on scientific language. In this way, Jillian strategically designed experiences to support learners in reaching unit goals for learning and language development.

Conclusions & Recommendations

UbD with a language lens aims to provide all students with equitable access to rigorous learning and language development (Heineke & McTighe, 2018). By adding a language lens to the widely used UbD framework, educators learn to maintain the rigor of science teaching and learning while attending to disciplinary language demands (Heineke & McTighe, 2018; Lee et al., 2013). This timely innovation in science teacher education corresponds with current policy initiatives in K-12 schools and universities, including the NGSS that emphasize language-rich scientific and engineering practices (NGSS Lead States, 2013) and the Teacher Performance Assessment (edTPA) that prioritizes academic language embedded in content instruction (SCALE, 2018). In line with these broad policy shifts that bolster the role of language in science teaching and learning, this framework can be used with K-12 in-service and pre-service teachers, whether approached through professional development or university coursework.

Application in Practice

We originally designed and implemented this approach through a grant-funded, professional development project with in-service teachers working in 32 public schools in the urban Midwest, which included Bridget, Jillian, and other teachers spanning elementary, middle, and high schools in culturally and linguistically diverse communities (see Heineke et al., 2018a for more details on the project). Findings indicated that teachers, as well as participating school and district leaders, developed awareness and knowledge of discipline-specific language development, pedagogical skills to effectively integrate language in content instruction, and leadership abilities to shape implementation in their unique educational settings (Heineke et al., 2018b). By integrating the language lens into the existing UbD template, of which they were already familiar and comfortable in using, teachers embraced language development as a part of their regular teaching repertoires, rather than an add-on initiative.

We are currently integrating this approach into a university pre-service teacher education program, and our preliminary work indicates close alignment between the edTPA and UbD with a language lens. Of the many rubrics that are used to assess teacher candidates on the edTPA, over half directly relate to the components of the approach shared above, including planning for content understandings, knowledge of students, supporting academic language development, planning assessment, analyzing student learning, analyzing students’ academic language understanding and use, and use of assessment to inform instruction (SCALE, 2018). In addition to our previous research with in-service teachers, we plan to collect data on the implementation of UbD with a language lens with pre-service teachers, investigating how the approach and related professional learning experiences facilitate understandings, knowledge, skills, and dispositions for supporting language development in the science classroom.

Suggestions for Implementation

Based on our experiences in designing and implementing this approach, we have suggestions for science teacher educators who endeavor to prepare teachers and candidates for instructional design with a language lens. First, use the UbD template as a common tool to mediate both learning and application, adding the language lens to what educators already know and understand as sound instructional design (see Heineke & McTighe, 2018 as a potential resource to mediate teachers’ learning). Next, utilize the expertise of the educators themselves and build capacity more broadly across schools and programs, prompt collaborative learning and application in science-specific groups of teachers and candidates, as well as more diverse conglomerations of educators to promote co-planning and co-teaching with ESL, special education, or STEM teachers (see Heineke et al., 2018a). Finally, to avoid the conceptualization of language as an add-on initiative, integrate the language lens into science methods coursework and professional development for teacher candidates and teachers, respectively.

When approaching this professional learning in either coursework or professional development, we recommend expending ample efforts to initially build the needed buy-in that science teachers indeed play a role in supporting students’ language development. Since the educational institution has long maintained silos that separate language and content, those need to be broken down for educators to embrace learning and application to practice. Awareness of the role of the language in scientific learning can support these efforts, which can be effectively developed via simulations that build educators’ empathy for students’ interaction with discipline-specific language. When teachers are put in the position of students, such as needing to maneuver complex journal articles, they begin to recognize the need to attend to language in science teaching. Finally, emphasize the importance of students’ assets and teachers’ high expectations. The purpose of the language lens is not to reduce rigor in the science classroom, but rather to enhance instruction and provide equitable access for all learners.

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Learning About Science Practices: Concurrent Reflection on Classroom Investigations and Scientific Works

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Basir, M.A. (2019). Learning about science practices: Concurrent reflection on classroom investigations and scientific works. Innovations is Science Teacher Education, 4(2). Retrieved from https://innovations.theaste.org/learning-about-science-practices-concurrent-reflection-on-classroom-investigations-and-scientific-works/

by Mo A. Basir, University of Central Missouri

Abstract

The NRC (2012) emphasizes eight science practices as a constitutive part of science teaching and learning. Pre-service teachers should be able to perform those practices at least in an introductory-level science investigation. Additionally, they also need to be able to elicit and interpret those science practices in the work of students. Through the integration of doing science and reading about how scientists do science, this article provides a practical teaching approach encouraging critical thinking about science practices. The instructional approach emphasizes on performing science practices, explicitly thinking about how students and scientists do science, and reflecting on similarities and differences between how students and scientists perform science practices. The article provides examples and tools for the proposed instructional approach.

Introduction

What if science teachers had a scientist friend who invited them to go with her on a scientific expedition? Wouldn’t it be interesting and exciting? What would they learn during the trip? After returning from the scientific adventure, what could they tell their students about their firsthand experiences? Don’t you think that what they would learn during the field trip could help them make science exciting and accessible to students? Even though such a thrilling experience may not occur for every educator, books about the lives and activities of scientists can take science teachers on a similar trip. Texts about scientists and their research can describe how a scientist becomes engaged with a topic of her/his study, wonders about a set of complicated questions, and devotes her/his life to these issues. This article is intended to illustrate how we could integrate these kinds of texts into inquiry-oriented lessons and how they can increase the effectiveness of the science methods or introductory science courses.

Learning about real scientific and engineering projects can help students develop an understanding of what scientists do. In science textbooks, most of the time students encounter exciting and well-established scientific facts and concepts generated by the science community, but rarely read and learn about how scientists work or generate new knowledge in science (Driver, Leach, & Millar, 1996). Helping students learn scientific practices, science teachers/educators often utilizes inquiry-oriented lessons. The National Research Council (NRC) has defined K-12 science classrooms as places in which students perform science and engineering practices while utilizing crosscutting concepts and disciplinary core ideas (2012). One of the conventional approaches to meet such expectations is to develop a series of model lessons that involve and engage students in some science investigations.

Some years ago, I started a methods course beginning with these ideas and collected data investigating any changes in classroom discourses (Basir, 2014). Results of that qualitative study revealed no significant change in classroom discourse regarding science and engineering practices. Analysis of the results revealed a list of common patterns and challenges about student learning in the courses. My students had vague ideas about what it means to develop and use a model, make a hypothesis, and construct a science argument. Analysis of their reflections also revealed that the keywords associated with the eight science practices (see Appendix I) were not traceable in their written discourses about their science investigations; they had difficulties recognizing those eight practices in their science inquiry. Trying to resolve these challenges was my motive to revise this methods course. In the following, I first describe how the wisdom of practice in science education helped me develop an idea to change the course and how that idea transformed into an instructional strategy. Then, I use examples to illustrate results of this instructional strategy. The presented instructional approach aids students using NGSS framework accurately when they reflect on their science practices and consequently learn science practices more effectively. Hopefully, this could have a positive effect on their science teaching.

Framework

The apprenticeship model (getting engaged in science inquiry while being coached by a master teacher) has been emphasized as a practical and useful approach for learning and teaching science since decades ago (e.g., NRC, 2000). NRC (2000) defined science inquiry by introducing a set of abilities for a process of science inquiry and NRC (2012) has placed more emphasis on those abilities and call them the eight science practices (see Appendix I for the comparison between the set of abilities and the eight science practices). The eight science practices as defined by NRC (2012) and those abilities for science inquiry as defined by NRC (2000) are very similar. However, as Osborne (2014) asked, in what sense the notion of inquiry as defined by NRC (2000) differs from the science practices defined by NRC (2012). One reason, among others, is about the call for more transparency on the articulation of what classroom science inquiry is or what students need to experience during an inquiry-oriented lesson (Osborne, 2014). Aiming to develop such transparency in methods courses for prospective teachers, we may need to consider some complementary instruction to the apprenticeship model. This means that while teachers and students follow the apprenticeship model of teaching and learning, they need to become more conscious about and cognizant of science practices. As a complement to the apprenticeship model of instruction, to some extent, many instructional methods can help students learn science investigations by learning about history and/or nature of science (Burgin & Sadler, 2016; Erduran & Dagher, 2014; McComas, Clough, & Almazroa, 2002; Schwartz, Lederman, & Crawford, 2004), refining their investigative skills (e.g., Hackling & Garnett, 1992; Foulds & Rowe, 1996), conducting context-based science investigation using local newspapers or local environmental issues (e.g., Barab & Luehmann, 2003; Kuhn & Müller, 2014 ), and becoming cognizant of what/how they do science (e.g., Smith & Scharmann,2008).

In the context of higher education, active learning as an instructional approach provides multiple opportunities for students to initially do activities during class and subsequently analyze, synthesize, evaluate, and reflect on what they did during those activities (Bonwell & Eison, 1991). This latter aspect of active learning, critical thinking, plays a significant role in the effectiveness of teaching (Cherney, 2008; Bleske-Rechek, 2002; Smith & Cardaciotto, 2011) and usually is a missing component in the mentioned context. Unlike the regular introductory university-level science courses, in the context of science teacher preparation, it is a common practice to ask students to write a reflection about what/how they do activities. What has been less emphasized in this context is to provide a framework and benchmark helping students to systematically reflect on their science investigation (Ellis, Carette, Anseel, & Lievens, 2014).

The stories or case studies about how actual scientists do science can function as a benchmark for students who do classroom science investigations. Comparing an authentic science study with a student-level science project can make students aware of possible deficiencies and missing components in their classroom inquiry. Presumably inspired by medical science, case study teaching approaches have been utilized for teaching science (Herried, 2015; Tichenor 2013) and showing promising effects on student learning (Bonney, 2015; Tichenor, 2013). Specifically, science educators have developed many case studies for how to teach science—many of these cases related to science methods are available at National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science (NCCSTS; http://sciencecases.lib.buffalo.edu/cs/).

In this paper, I describe how particular kinds of case studies, the stories of contemporary scientists and their projects, can be used as a complementary teaching component to inquiry-oriented instruction. The objective is to provide an environment in which students could see the “sameness and difference” (Marton, 2006) between what they do and what scientists do. They could use the stories about actual science investigations as a benchmark for reflecting on what they do in the science classroom.

Concurrent Reflections as an Instructional Strategy

Drawing on the reviewed literature, I developed a three-phase instructional approach (Figure 1). In each phase of the instruction, students are assigned with specific task and concurrently reflect on that task. In the first phase, students have multiple opportunities to do science investigations, compare and contrast how they did across the small groups, recognize and interpret the eight science practices in their work, and document their reflection about how they do science on the offered template (Figure 2). This activity helps students conceptualize the eight practices implicitly embedded in those inquiry-oriented lessons. In the second phase, students read and reflect on a case study (i.e., a book about a scientist and her/his project). By reading about scientists and scientific projects, students have the opportunities to discern first-hand instances of the eight science practices. In the third phase, students compare those first-hand investigations done by real scientists, as benchmarks, with what they do in inquiry-oriented lessons and accordingly critically reflect on how to improve their science practices.

Figure 1 (Click on image to enlarge). Illustrates the suggested learning cycle.

Figure 2 (Click on image to enlarge). Template for comparing instances of science practices (SP) in different contexts.

Discussing the Suggested Learning Strategy by an Example

In the following, a three-session lesson (about 4.5 hours) based on this instructional approach is presented. Currently, this lesson is included in one of my science courses (how to do straightforward scientific research). The course is a general education course open to all majors, and secondary and middle-level pre-service teachers are required to take the course. In my previous institution, a similar lesson was included in a science course required for prospective elementary teachers.

Phase One: Doing and Reflecting on Science Practices

In this phase of the learning cycle, students conduct a science investigation and are asked to match the eight science practices with different components of their science inquiry. Students are required to document their interpretations in the provided template (Figure 2). Students are given a worksheet for investigating electromagnet. The very first question in the worksheet is about drawing an electromagnet. This question aims to check how much they know about electromagnets. Figure 3 shows five student responses to the mentioned question. These are typical responses at the beginning of this investigation. Most students know little about electromagnets. After receiving these responses, I put students in small groups and made sure that each group had at least one student who drew a relatively correct preliminary model of an electromagnet. Due to space limitation, only four of the eight science practices have been discussed in the following.

Figure 3 (Click on image to enlarge). Illustrates how students drew the model of an electromagnet as their initial idea.

Asking Questions. Students, as a group of four, were given different size batteries, nails, wire, and paper clips. They were supposed to make an electromagnet and then they were given a focus question: how you can change the power of the electromagnet. Some groups had difficulty building and/or using their electromagnet due to issues such as a lousy battery, open circuit, not enough loop, trying to pick up a too heavy metal object by the electromagnet. With minor help from me, they were able to build the electromagnet. Some groups developed yes-no questions (i.e., does the number of loops affect the electromagnet?). I helped them revise their question by adding a “how” to the beginning of their question. Typical questions that students came up with which focused the small group investigations were: How does the voltage of the battery affect the power of the electromagnet? How does the amount of wire around the nail affect the strength of the electromagnet? How does the insulation of the wire affect the power of the electromagnet?

Developing and Using Models. Scientists utilize scientific models and discourses to explain the observed phenomena. However, students usually use vernacular discourses instead of using science/scientific models for explaining a phenomenon. Students needed to develop a hypothesis related to the questions they asked. Here are two typical hypotheses that student groups came up with: 1) making the loops tighter and the wire would have a stronger effect on the nail and in turn, the electromagnet would become more robust, or 2) a bigger battery would make the electromagnet stronger. When (at reflection time) students were asked to think and explicitly mention any models they used, they sometimes talked about the picture of the electromagnet that they drew as a model of the electromagnet (Figure 2). Nonetheless, they typically didn’t see the role of their mental model in the hypotheses they made. With explicit discussion, I helped them to rethink why they generated those hypotheses (i.e., bigger battery or more loops, more powerful magnet). I expected them to mention some of the simple electromagnetic rules learned in science courses; however, most of the hypotheses stem from their vernacular discourses rather than science/scientific discourses. Through discussion with small groups and the whole classroom, I invited them to think about the background knowledge they utilized for making those hypotheses. We discussed the possible relationship between their hypotheses and the vernacular discourses such as “bigger is more powerful,” “more is more powerful,” or “the closer the distance, the stronger interaction”—These vernacular discourses are like general statements that people regularly use to make sense of the world around them. If we use a bigger battery and more wire, then we will have a stronger magnet.” Later, as they collected data, they realized that the vernacular ideas did not always work, a 9-volt battery may not provide as much power as a 1.5-volt D battery.

Constructing Explanations. The relation between different variables and their effects on the strength of an electromagnet is a straightforward part of the investigation. However, most of the groups were not able to explain why the number of wire loops affects the power of the electromagnet, or why uninsulated wire does not work. One of the common misconceptions students hold is the thought that uninsulated wire lets electricity go inside the nail and makes the nail magnetic by touch. I did not tell them why that idea was not correct and then motivated them to explicitly write their thought in the template (Figure 4).

Engaging in Argument from Evidence. We had different kinds of batteries, so one of the groups focused on the relationship between voltage and the electromagnet power. Through investigation, they realized that a 9-volt battery did not necessarily increase the strength of the electromagnet in comparison with a D battery. Another group focused on the relation of the number of cells and the electromagnet power. I encouraged them to discuss and compare the results of their studies and find out the relation of batteries and the power of the electromagnet. However, neither group had students with enough science background on electromagnetism to develop better hypotheses.

Phase Two: Reading and Reflecting on How Scientists Perform Science Practices

As mentioned before, we can use many different kinds of texts about scientists and their projects for this instructional approach. Table 1 suggests some book series appropriate for the proposed strategy. For instance, “Sower series” can help students to learn about historical figures in science and their investigation or “scientist in the filed” is about contemporary scientists and their projects. Stronger than Steel (Heos & Comins, 2013) from the scientist in the field series is discussed to illustrate how we can use these books in the classroom in the following.

Table 1 (Click on image to enlarge)
Suggested Textbooks Describing Scientists’ Biography and Their Projects


The summary of the book. Stronger than Steel is about Randy Lewis, his team, and his long-term research project about spider silk. Randy’s early research questioned the structure of the spider silk: how spider silk could be so strong and at the same time so flexible. By applying the well-established models and methods for the analysis of the matter, Randy and his team were able to develop an explanation for why spider silk is both strong flexible at the same time. They found out that the particular spider silk they analyzed was made of two proteins; a combination of these two proteins is responsible for super flexibility and strength of the spider silk. Building on genetic theory, the research team examined spider DNA. It took them about three years to isolate two genes associated with the proteins responsible for the strength and flexibility of the spider silk. Familiar with the transgenic models, in the late 1990s, Randy’s team designed bacteria producing the main ingredient of the spider silk, the two proteins mentioned before. In the next step, they injected those specific spider genes into goat embryos and achieved incredible results. Some of the transgenic goats were able to produce the spider silk proteins, but of course not like Spiderman. The transgenic goats are very similar to regular goats, but their body produces extra spider silk proteins in their milk. Randy’s team milked the transgenic goats, processed the milk, separated the spider silk proteins, and finally spun the spider silk fibers from the mixture of those two proteins. Currently, they are working to find alternative organisms that could produce spider silk more efficiently than transgenic spider goats. They are working on two other organisms: silkworms, which are masters in making silk and alfalfa, which is a plant that produces much protein.

As can be seen in this summary, the book has many examples of eight science practices from the first-hand science projects (i.e., the research questions about making spider silk, the theory-driven hypothesis explaining the possibility of using transgenic methods and making silk from goats). We can use different reading strategies in this phase of the instruction. I often have students submit answers to a set of guided questions as they read the books. The objective here is to motivate students to match and interpret the eight science practices in the work of the scientists as described in the case study. Table 2 illustrates some of the reflections that students submitted on the reflection template (Figure 2) after reading the book.

Table 2 (Click on image to enlarge)
Instances of Science Practices as Interpreted by Students

Phase Three: Comparing and Reflecting on How Scientists and Students Perform Science Practices

In this phase of the learning cycle, students had small-group activity comparing the instances of the science practices in the case study with the instances of science practices in their electromagnet investigation. We also had a whole-classroom discussion coordinated by me.

Asking questions. Randy utilized transgenic and genetic models to do the investigation. Students were asked to think about the research questions that led Randy’s work. Here are the typical responses students came up with: Why is spider silk is so strong and flexible at the same time? What spiders’ genes are related to spiders’ ability to produce silk? Can other organisms produce spider silk? How can other creatures produce spider silk? We discussed how the questions in Randy’s project are model-based and theory-laden. Then students examined their electromagnet questions and tried to transform them into model-based and theory-laden questions.

Figure 4 depicts how student questions changed and improved after the mentioned discussion. We discussed that if we used the magnetic field model to describe what was happening around a magnet, then we could have asked how to increase the magnetic field at the tip of the nail. By discussing the formula related to the magnetic field and the amount of electric current, students were able to ask a question about the relation of electric current and power of electromagnet instead the relation of voltage of batteries and the power of electromagnet.

Figure 4 (Click on image to enlarge). Illustrates the changes in student groups, A and B, before and after of the case study.

Developing and Using Models. Based on the transgenic model, Randy’s team hypothesized that if they put those two genes in a goat embryo the goat body is going to produce those two proteins and possibly the goat milk is going to contain those two proteins. I led the whole classroom discussion focusing on how students’ hypotheses, similar to the transgenic goat project, should be based on science/scientific knowledge. I emphasized that they need to replace their vernacular discourses, described above, with simple electromagnetic models. In this phase, students were either asked to do some library research to review electromagnetic laws and formulas, or given a handout including rules and formulas related to electromagnets (the version of the worksheet designed for the elementary pre-service teachers is less demanding). Students had an opportunity to revise their vernacular ideas about electromagnets. For instance, they discussed the formula (B=μ0I/2πr) that illustrates factors affecting the magnetic field around a straight wire with electric current. They saw that the magnetic field around the wire is inversely related to the distance from the wire. We discussed how this formula is connected to the vernacular idea that the less distance from the electromagnet, the more powerful electromagnet. They also examined the formula related to the magnetic field in the center of a loop (B=μ0I/2R), which shows that the power of an electromagnet increases when the electric current increases in a circuit. With this formula, they can better explain why doubling the number of batteries increases the strength of the electromagnet or develop a hypothesis as to why D-batteries make a more powerful electromagnet than 9-volt batteries. For instance, one of the small groups initially claimed, “If we use a bigger battery and more wire, then we will have a stronger magnet.” After going through the complete lesson, they revised their claim, “If there is a stronger current, then the magnet force will increase.”

Constructing Explanations. As a part of the structured reflection on the case study, students were supposed to recognize scientific explanations that Randy’s team developed. Here are some of the scientific explanations we discussed in our class: Randy’s team used the biomaterial models to understand the structure of spider silk. They figured out why spider silk is so strong and at the same time so flexible. They described how two essential proteins make the spider silk, one makes the silk stronger than steel, and another make it as elastic as rubber. Using the genetic models, they had the understanding that specific genes carry the information for the production of particular proteins. So, after a two-year examination of the spider genes, eventually, they pinpointed the two specific genes and developed an explanation of how/why those two genes are responsible for making those proteins. These discussed scientific explanations provided a rich context and a benchmark for students to improve their explanations about electromagnet. The model-based explanations in Randy’s project encouraged students to use simple electric and magnetic laws and tools for developing explanations about the electromagnet investigation. For instance, looking at the hypothesis that group A and B made (Figure 4), we could see that both initial hypotheses look like a claim with no explanation (i.e., the more wire on the nail, the more powerful the electromagnet). However, after the discussion about Randy’s project, both groups added some model-based explanations to their claims. In the revised version of their work, by measuring the electric current, group A figured out that why a 6-volt battery created a stronger magnetic field than a 9-volt battery. Group B used the formula for electric resistance to explain why electric current would increase in the coil. They also used a multimeter and Tesla meter for measuring electric current and magnetic field for collecting supporting data.

As part of their homework, students were asked to reflect on how their explanation was changed during this lesson. Some of them emphasized the role of scientific background knowledge and the tools they used in the second round of the investigation. One of them said:

In the second explanation, we had more background knowledge about the subject, so we were better able to develop a hypothesis that was backed by a scientific theory. This led to more accurate results. We also used tools that measured the exact amount of electric current and the exact magnetic strength in the second experiment.

It is important to mention that student-teacher discussion essentially facilitated the use of background knowledge in the second round of the investigation. One of the students mentioned:

One of the explanations comes from the knowledge that we brought (which is none, or little knowledge of magnetism). The other explanation utilizes the outside knowledge that Dr. Mo presented us with. The equation that explained what makes a magnet stronger. We were then able to adjust the explanation to be more accurate.

Engaging in Argument from Evidence. Some of the discussed points from the case study that are related to engaging in argument from evidence are typically either mentioned in student reflection or suggested by me. Randy’s team used the genetic theory arguing for the relation between alfalfa, silkworms, and goats. Then they collected empirical data and developed evidence for that argument. Randy’s team developed a strong argument from evidence to convince the funding agencies for exploring the alternative methods for production of spider silk. Randy is also engaged in the debate from evidence to support the claim that transgenic research is beneficial to our society. He argues that although this kind of investigation could be misused (i.e., designer babies or spread of transgenic animals in natural environments), the beneficial aspects of transgenic research are immense.

In comparison with Randy’s work, we discussed how science goes beyond the walls of the science labs and how science, society, and technology are mutually related—one of the eight aspects of NOS based on NGSS is “science is a human endeavor.” Regarding this relationship in the context of the electromagnet investigation, through whole-class discussion, we came up with some library research questions: how a Maglev works or how electromagnetic field/wave possibly could have some possible sides effects on the human brain.

Furthermore, Randy’s work provided an environment for us to have a discussion related to the coordination of theory and evidence, which is another aspect of NOS based on NGSS: “science models, laws, mechanisms, and theories explain natural phenomena.” In return, the discussion helped students use scientific knowledge and tools for developing hypotheses. In the first round of investigation, students asked questions and developed explanations with little attention to scientific knowledge, a required component for asking scientific question and explanation. In the second round, they used scientific laws, units, and sensors to develop their hypotheses (compare before- and after-condition of the hypotheses in figure 3). The discussion about Randy’s work helped them to be conscious about the coordination of scientific background knowledge and making hypothesis and explanation. As shown in Table 3, in response to a question on the group assignment, group A mentioned:

When we read about Randy’s investigation, we understood that sometimes it is necessary to draw from the knowledge that already exists on the topic. For example, Randy knew that bacteria could be used to produce penicillin. In our electromagnet investigation, once Dr. … showed us the slides, we knew that electrical current influenced the strength of the magnet. With this knowledge, we created a better hypothesis of what was happening.

Table 3 (Click on image to enlarge)
Instances of Student Response to a Reflective Group Assignment at the End of the Lesson

Discussion and Conclusion

This article seeks ways to improve pre-service teacher learning about NGSS’ eight science practices. This learning objective can be accomplished in the suggested learning cycle (Figure 1). As discussed, in the first phase, when students work on their science investigation, what naturally comes out of students’ work are vernacular discourses, based on their mental models used in their daily life practices, rather than science models and discourses. As Windschitl, Thompson, and Braaten (2008) put it, one of the fundamental problems with student science investigation is the modeless inquiry (i.e., students conduct investigations without utilizing scientific models). Here students managed to investigate variables that affect the power of an electromagnet such as the kind of battery, number of loops, size of the nail, and diameter of the loops. At this stage, however, they were not able to utilize science models to explain “why” those variables affect the strength of the electromagnet.

In the second phase, due to the authenticity of the scientific project described in the case study, it was easy for students to recognize instances of the eight science practices in that project. Through reflection, students realized that the scientific investigation in the case study was vastly built on scientific models and theories.

In the third phase, through the negotiation process between the students and teacher and by comparing their work with Randy’s work, a majority of the students became cognizant of the fact that the electromagnetic models were almost absent in their initial electromagnet investigation. Randy’s project functioned as a benchmark assisting pre-service teachers to compare their work with the benchmark and revise their science practices. Additionally, the comparison between classroom science and actual scientists’ work provided an environment for discussion about some aspects of NOS such as the relation of science-society-technology, and the coordination of theory-evidence. In return, those discussions helped students improve their electromagnet investigation.

As a limitation of the presented strategy, it can be asked, what would happen if the case study was eliminated? Students would go through the electromagnet investigation, then I would give students the background knowledge about electromagnet, and then students would do the investigation for the second time. Probably, due to doing a similar investigation two times, we should expect some improvement in the quality of their investigation. However, the case study functioned as a benchmark and guidance. During the discussion about Randy’s work, students became cognizant of the critical role of background knowledge, modeling, and scientific lab technology for doing science. Importantly, they realized that for making hypotheses, observation and collecting data is not enough; they need to bring scientific knowledge to the table to develop a hypothesis. Accordingly, it seems that the case study provided a productive environment for students to do science investigation and learn about the eight science practices.

As Hmelo-Silver (2006) stated, scaffolding improves student learning when it comes to how and why to do the tasks. The discussed structured reflection can help students learn how and why they conduct science investigations and encourage them to critically think and talk about science practices (nature of science practices). Going through multiple inquiry-oriented lessons provides an environment for students to do the NGSS eight science practices described. To develop a thorough understanding of those practices, however, students need to repeatedly think critically to discern instances of science practices from what they do, compare them with a benchmark, and find out a way to improve their science practices. By going through the concurrent reflection embedded in all three phases of the suggested instructional strategy, prospective teachers experienced the fact that classroom science investigations should go beyond a “fun activity” (Jimenez-Aleixandre, Rodriguez, & Duschl, 2000) and the vernacular discourses that they know, and must be based on scientific knowledge, models, and technology, and explicitly relate to society.

Acknowledgment

I would like to show my gratitude to James Cipielewski and Linda Pavonetti for sharing their wisdom with me during the initial phase of this project.

Supplemental Files

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