High Quality Science Instruction:Findings from Research
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Consider the Lesson VignettesIndividually, read the two Sinking and Floating lesson vignettes and respond to the following questions on the reflection sheet:Which lesson is better? Why?Which lesson is more likely to lead to student learning? Why?
Consider the Lesson VignettesDiscuss the responses as a table group.
Which lesson is better? Why?Which lesson is more likely to lead to student learning? Why?
Effective Science Instruction: What does research tell us?There has been, and continues to be, much debate over what constitutes effective science instruction.
Reform Students working in small groupsHands-on activitiesFocusing on topics selected by the studentsTraditional Delivering information through lectures or readingStudents working on practice problems and worksheetsStudents doing confirmatory lab activities
Highly Rated Lessons by Use of Lecture/Discussion and Hands-on/Laboratory Activities
Effective InstructionCurrent learning theory focuses on students conceptual change, and does not imply that one pedagogy is necessarily better than another.
Effective InstructionThe following elements of effective instruction are derived largely from the learning theory described in the National Research Councils volumes How People Learn (2003) and How Students Learn: Science in the Classroom (2005).
MotivationHowever well-designed the instruction, students are unlikely to learn if they do not have a desire to do so.
Instruction needs to hook students by addressing something they have wondered about, or can be induced to wonder about, possibly, but not necessarily, in a real-world context.
Eliciting Students Prior KnowledgeResearch has shown convincingly that students do not come to school as empty vessels; rather, they come with ideas they have gleaned from books, TV, movies, and real-life experiences.
These ideas may either facilitate or impede their learning of important ideas in science.
There is considerable evidence that instruction is most effective when it elicits students initial ideas, provides them with opportunities to confront those ideas, helps them formulate new ideas based on the evidence, and encourages them to reflect upon how their ideas have evolved.
Intellectual EngagementResearch on learning suggests that the hallmark of effective lessons is that they include meaningful experiences that engage students intellectually with important science content.
Lessons need to engage students in doing the intellectual work, and make sure that the intellectual work is focused on the learning goal.
When observing classroom instruction, its helpful to ask yourself, If I were a student in this class, what would I be thinking about?
Use of Evidence to Make and Critique ClaimsBeing scientifically literate requires understanding both scientific ideas and the nature of the scientific enterprise. Students should be encouraged to view science as a process by which knowledge is constructed, not as a collection of facts.
An integral part of the scientific process is the collection and interpretation of data, which is then used to critique claims and see if they are supported by the evidence.
Students are less likely to revert to their prior incorrect ideas if they are familiar with the evidence that confronts those ideas and supports the scientific consensus.
Effective science instruction requires opportunities for students to make sense of the ideas with which they have been engaged:Making connections between what they did in a lesson and what they were intended to learn.Connecting the new ideas to knowledge that students already have, placing the lessons learning goals in a larger scientific framework and helping students organize their knowledge.
What Does Effective Instruction Look Like in the Classroom?There are multiple ways each critical element can be incorporated into instruction.
Not all five need to occur in every lesson, but rather they may play out over a series of lessons.
MotivationExtrinsic motivators deadlines for research projects, classroom competitions, and tests and quizzes affecting students grades
Intrinsic motivatorsusually stem from intellectual curiosity and a desire to learn.
Eliciting Students Prior KnowledgeKWL charts: What students know about a certain concept (K), what they want to know (W), and finally what they have learned (L) by the end of a lesson or unit
Demonstration of initial ideas using drawings, concept maps, or cartoons.
Encouraging students to raise questions of their own allows teachers to access their existing ideas
Intellectual EngagementStudents have opportunities to engage with appropriate phenomena while investigating meaningful questions.Can be through a hands-on experienceCan be through an interactive lecture (Socratic discussion)
Use of Evidence to Make and Critique ClaimsStudents should use evidence to support and critique conclusions (both their own and other peoples).
Evidence can come from a hands-on activity, examples from their own life, or data they are given and asked to analyze.
Use of Evidence to Make and Critique ClaimsDrawing appropriate conclusions from data also requires students to have confidence that the data are valid.
Consequently, discrepancies or conflicting data need to be resolved.
Use of Evidence to Make and Critique ClaimsIn some cases, teachers can explain an idea and describe how scientists came to that conclusion.
Sense-makingSense-making can occur in a number of ways, for example:Whole class discussion with appropriate teacher questioning;Written student reflection using well-designed, guiding prompts, e.g., considering how, and why, their thinking has changed; orApplication of ideas to other contexts.
Task: Considering the Elements of Effective Science Instruction
Please read each lesson vignette and consider how the lesson does/does not exhibit the elements of effective instruction. Document your thoughts on your individual reflection sheets.
After, discuss your thoughts with others at your table.
ReflectionLook at your initial responses to the first activity with the Sink and Float lesson vignettes:What changes, if any, would you make to your responses? Why?How would you improve any elements that you thought were unlikely to be effective?
What Have We Learned about the Elements of Effective Science Instruction?
MotivationEliciting students prior knowledgeIntellectual engagementUse of Evidence to Make and Critique ClaimsSense-making
ReferencesMoje, E. B., Collazo, T., Carrillo, R., & Marx, R. W. (2001). Maestro, what is quality?: Language, literacy, and discourse in project-based science. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 38, 469-498.
National Research Council. (2003). How people learn: Brain, mind, experience, and school. J. D. Bransford, A. L. Brown, & R. R. Cocking (Eds.). Washington, DC: National Academy Press.
National Research Council. (2005). How students learn: Science in the classroom. M. S. Donovan & J. D. Bransford, (Eds.) Washington, DC: National Academy Press.
ReferencesNuthall, G. (1999). The way students learn: Acquiring knowledge from an integrated science and social studies unit. The Elementary School Journal, 99(4), 303-341.
Nuthall, G. (2001). Understanding how classroom experience shapes students minds. Unterrichts Wissenschaft, 29(3), 224-267.
Weiss, I.R., Pasley, J. D., Smith, P. S., Banilower, E. R., & Heck, D. J. (2003). Looking inside the classroom: A study of K-12 mathematics and science education in the United States. Chapel Hill, NC: Horizon Research, Inc.
We recommend seating participants in rounds (or similar arrangement) and not auditorium style to facilitate discussion throughout the session. **Session Timing: Individuals read the Sinking and Floating vignettes #1 and #2 and respond to the questions on the reflection sheet (10 minutes)Table groups discuss the designated questions (10 minutes)Large group report out (10 minutes)
Session Notes:The design of this workshop is based on the learning theory the workshop describes. Opportunities to analyze classroom practicevignettes, and especially videosare intrinsically motivating to practitioners charged with improving science instruction. The purpose of this first activity is to elicit the participants prior ideas about effective science instruction (one of the elements described in learning theory). Participants should be given approximately 10 minutes to read the two vignettes and write bullets in response to the ques