This page contains resources that we’ve developed with our teacher colleagues. These are brief papers that attempt to translate what the research tells us about important features of our classroom practice. Below we describe what these are, why they are important and we give a brief excerpt.
Discourse Primer. All of the ambitious teaching practices depend upon the teacher being able to orchestrate student talk in the classroom. This primer provides lots of basic information about how to encourage students to talk in productive ways, both with you and with each other, about science.
Talk is a natural activity that we all engage in. As part of our daily lives we use words in various combinations to create speech, and with speech we get work done such as asking questions, providing information, and explaining ideas to one another. But discourse in classrooms can be quite unlike that in our everyday life— there are unfamiliar words that get used, different kinds of work that need to get done with speech (comparing two science explanations, arguing with evidence, critiquing a model, etc.), and rules for participating that aren’t always clear.
How you can develop anchoring events. One overarching goal of ambitious teaching is to help students develop evidence-based explanations for science phenomena. This document explains how to use your curriculum and the standards to select compelling phenomena (“anchoring events”) for your students to explain over time.
Consider three very common problems for students trying to learn science: 1) They often experience instruction as a series of unrelated and isolated lessons, one after another. They don’t understand how readings or new concepts fit in with bigger science ideas. 2) They don’t know why they are doing particular science activities—when asked they will say “Because the teacher wants me to.” 3) They don’t see how science relates to their everyday experiences or how their lived experiences can be used as resources to help them and others learn important science ideas. The root of all three of these problems is that there is nothing on the horizon for students to focus on. There is no genuine puzzlement, interest, or larger learning goal that they are aware of. Consequently the motivation for learning dissipates and they disengage from learning activities. In our Framework for Ambitious Science Teaching, the first phase in any unit of instruction is the teacher planning to engage students in big science ideas.
Models and Modeling- An Introduction. It is important to know what counts as a scientific model and what the scientific practice of modeling might look like in your classroom. Scientific modeling is an activity that helps students reason about important events and processes; it makes their thinking visible and helps you guide changes in students’ reasoning.
Modeling is the process by which scientists represent ideas about the natural world to each other, and then collaboratively make changes to these representations over time in response to new evidence and understandings. Models appear as drawings on whiteboards in laboratory hallways, as diagrams in research articles, and even as sketches on napkins. Wherever they appear, they are, or will be, an object that reflects changes in thinking about some set of ideas. Models don’t just reflect reasoning, they also stimulate new ideas.
Group work: Designing for student participation. Group work is hugely important in classroom learning. We know from research what works fairly well and under what conditions.
Group work is a chance for students to learn from others, to problem-solve collaboratively, and to develop pro-social behaviors. Working regularly in small groups opens up many more chances for students to “talk science” than they would ever get in whole group discussions.
Helping students talk about evidence. This introduction to using evidence in your classroom will help you understand the varied ways that you can generate different kinds of evidence by designing investigations. The paper then illustrates how your students can use that evidence to argue about science explanations.roup work is a chance for students to learn from others, to problem-solve collaboratively, and to develop pro-social behaviors. Working regularly in small groups opens up many more chances for students to “talk science” than they would ever get in whole group discussions.
One of the central aims of science is to create explanations for events and processes that happen in the natural world. To be accepted in the scientific community, explanations have to be supported by evidence. Explanations and arguing from evidence are also important science practices for students to engage in…
Face-to-Face Tools: Making Changes in Student Thinking Visible Over Time. Before you watch case study videos about how to support students’ thinking, it will help you see how to make this thinking visible in your classroom.
This paper describes a “toolkit” of face-to-face for use in your classroom. We call them “face-to-face” because they are used with students. All the types we discuss have two things in common. First, they represent students’ ideas and are constructed, at least in part, by students themselves. Second, they change over time as students learn from observations, experiments, readings, presentations of ideas, and listening to the logic of their peers and the teacher.
Direct instruction. There is a time for telling in classrooms!
The process of telling by the teacher is often referred to as direct instruction. In research on learning however, scholars call productive versions of this just-in-time instruction, because the choices of which ideas to expand on are often driven by students. They feel a need to know more in order to make progress, rather than having the teacher delivering information to them that they don’t know what to do with.