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

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Trauth, A. E. & Mulvena, K. (2021). Supporting Inservice Teachers’ Skills for Implementing Phenomenon-Based Science Using Instructional Routines That Prioritize Student Sensemaking. Innovations in Science Teacher Education, 6(3). Retrieved from

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


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

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