Identifying Science Teaching Strategies for Promoting Reasoned Discussions of Concepts and Simulations

This project supports teachers in improving classroom discourse and reasoning by identifying key teaching strategies for building scientific concepts in successful discussions. It links these strategies together with the use of visual displays in classroom instruction with a particular emphasis on simulations. The teacher video-based workbooks that result from this study provide such a resource that is open-source and available to a larger population of teachers than just those in the project.

Award Number: 
1222709
Funding Period: 
Saturday, September 15, 2012 to Sunday, August 31, 2014
Full Description: 

A key goal of the New Generation Science Standards is ensuring that students develop the capacity to not just participate in the discussions of science phenomenon, but also be able to reason cogently and deeply about those ideas in the disciplines. This project supports teachers in improving classroom discourse and reasoning by identifying key teaching strategies for building scientific concepts in successful discussions. It links these strategies together with the use of visual displays in classroom instruction with a particular emphasis on simulations. The focus of the classroom discourse strategy development is on teachers demonstrating learning of explanatory models of physical phenomena in three subject areas: high school electricity, high school mechanics, and middle school states of matter, with an emphasis on the use of visual displays. Based on previous research that showed preliminary promising evidence for the teachers orchestration of productive classroom discourse and using video data collected during the prior research settings, the project uses video case studies to characterize key elements of effective pedagogical processes and develop materials for use in pre- and in-service teacher training.

This study uses existing videos of exemplary physics teachers who are using the CASTLE curriculum to teach units on electricity and magnetism. Research questions address the identification of whole class strategies that are used with simulations to support the development of a visualizable particulate model across a number of time scales in the classroom. Another question addresses how teachers differ in their use of static as opposed to dynamic display models to identify the advantages and disadvantages of both types of displays. The researchers work within the socio-cognitive framework of the ways that students and teachers construct explanatory models and the socio-linguistic framework by which discussion strategies can encourage productive engagement in the development of disciplinary knowledge. The researchers have developed a framework that codifies the elements of the developing student to identify particularly productive segments of lessons that illustrate how such discourse can be scaffolded in the classroom. These segments will be organized into a video-based teaching manual disseminated through a project website and used in the pre-service teacher preparation at the university.

This project represents the ways in which research in science education on student and teacher reasoning around scientific phenomena can be translated from research into practice. The cognitive research that describes the nature and elements of students' conceptual models requires concrete resources to make them applicable within the typical classroom. The teacher video-based workbooks that result from this study provide such a resource that is open-source and available to a larger population of teachers than just those in the project. The connection of the videos to the CASTLE curricular materials provides additional research evidence to support the adoption of this curriculum that will be especially cogent as the New Generation Science Standards require deeper understanding of disciplinary content.