Ambitious Teaching—An overview
In this video we illustrate what Ambitious Teaching looks like in classrooms ranging from high school to kindergarten. The practices were developed through collaborations between teachers and researchers, and they are continually evolving as we learn more about how they work with young learners. There are several themes that you’ll see in all examples, such as a focus on puzzling and complex phenomena, opportunities to make sense through talk, making thinking visible, attending to who is participating, using various forms of scaffolding and tools, and much more. See Pathways page for exploring our resources.
Planning for engagement with important science ideas
Here we show the first of our core sets of practices. These are planning practices for designing a unit of instruction. Important ideas in science are about the relationships between a natural phenomenon and a causal explanation that helps us understand why something in the world unfolds the way it does (phenomena are events or processes— things that happen). Studying events or process rather than “things” or abstract ideas intrigues students. This video shows how teachers sort through their curriculum as well as the standards, in order to select which ideas to focus on during a unit. They then select a phenomenon to anchor their units of instruction and develop a rich causal explanation for that event or process. Finally, they use this explanation to sequence a set of learning experiences for students. See our Pathways page for exploring more resources on this set of practices.
Eliciting students’ ideas
If our main objective as a science teacher is to change students’ thinking over time, then we need to know what our students understand about the target science ideas in the first place. This set of practices—eliciting students’ ideas—is used at the beginning of a unit of instruction. This practice is designed to 1) reveal the range of resources that students use to reason about a set of science ideas (working theories, everyday experiences, language), 2) activate their prior knowledge about the topic, and 3) help you to adapt upcoming instruction, based on how students reason about the anchoring event. See Pathways page for exploring our resources.
Supporting on-going changes in student thinking
Throughout any unit of instruction, students are frequently engaged in different types of activity. For example, students might do hands-on work with materials, use computer simulations, conduct observations of phenomena, design experiments, or collect and analyze different types of data. Research on learning shows that it is the types of sense making talk, orchestrated by the teacher, that prompts productive puzzlement, reasoning, and learning by students.The purpose of this set of practices is to help students develop new ideas to use in revising explanations and models for the anchoring phenomena. See Pathways page for exploring our resources.
Pressing students for evidence-based explanations
This final set of practices will help students construct a final, evidence-based explanatory model for an anchoring event.
The goals of this practice are:
1) Engage all students in authentic disciplinary discourse around using evidence to support explanations.
2) Hold students accountable for using multiple sources of information to construct final explanatory models for the anchoring event (this accountability of course must be supported by scaffolding and guidance from you).
3) Support students in using evidence to support different aspects of their explanatory models.
See Pathways page for exploring our resources.