Cultivating a Higher Level of Student Agency in Collective Discussion: Teacher Strategies to Navigate Student Scientific Uncertainty to Develop a Trajectory of Sensemaking

In a traditional lecturing environment, students possess limited agency in accepting or rejecting information provided by teachers. A higher level of student agency involves opportunities and actively identifying uncertainties and collaborating with peers to deepen understanding within the classroom community. Teachers play a crucial role in guiding students through sensemaking by addressing uncertainties and assisting in solution development. Student uncertainty is recognized as a pedagogical resource, engaging them in sensemaking and enhancing agency levels. This study analyzed 28 whole-class discussions led by seven science teachers, identifying three phases: problematization, coherence negotiation, and new understanding enactment. The teachers employed eight strategies leveraging student scientific uncertainty as pedagogical resources within three sequential methods: eliciting awareness of uncertainty (e.g., creating hybrid, ambiguous, and problem-solving spaces), seeking a coherent understanding (e.g., connecting students' lived experiences to empirical data for coherence, juxtaposing different interpretations to build consensus, and weaving together student ideas for coherence), and demonstrating new understanding (e.g., transference, translation). By embracing uncertainty, students become agents of sensemaking, contributing to a collaborative learning environment.

Chen, Y. C. (2024). Cultivating a higher level of student agency in collective discussion: teacher strategies to navigate student scientific uncertainty to develop a trajectory of sensemaking. International Journal of Science Education, 1–34.