Principal AST look-for tool

Nov 28, 2023

This look-for tool aligns with the Danielson framework and supports principals, instructional leaders, or coaches in doing K-12 science classroom observations. The tool includes a pre- and post-reflection and three types of look-for tools depending on the type of science lesson being observed. The first focuses on student discourse and sensemaking, the second on students’ sensemaking with evidence, and the third on conversations that contextualize science historically, culturally, and politically. The tool was designed by Sarah Clancey and the C2AST project in partnership with Seattle Public Schools, funded by the National Science Foundation (DRL 1907471) and building on the work of Dr. Christine Chew (DRL 1315995).

If you would like to practice using this tool before using it live in classrooms, we recommend watching one of these videos that feature student sensemaking:

To learn more about how principals can get involved in supporting teachers watch this research presentation by Dr. Christine Chew AST NIC: Principal participation in reform (AERA 2018).

Design Considerations

This is not an evaluation tool and should not be used this way.  The pre and post-reflections are written to support a collaborative learning approach between the teacher and observer. 

We recommend choosing one of the three look-for tools when observing a classroom. Select the tool that best reflects the type of lesson teachers focus on and the degree of criticality they take in their classrooms. 


  • Tool 1. This tool is a good place to start if your teachers are just starting to engage in critical and cultural approaches to instruction. These discourse look-fors indicate the type of environment and teacher-student relationship that are important for engaging in critical and cultural approaches to AST.
  • Tool 2. This tool is a good place to start if your teachers and students are engaging in sensemaking conversations, preparing to revise their initial models, and preparing to create their final models. These discourse look-fors indicate both the type of support and expansive interpretation of scientific sensemaking that recognizes and leverages the different experiences and ways of knowing students may use to make sense of the phenomenon.
  • Tool 3. This tool is designed for teachers who have laid the groundwork for critical and cultural approaches to AST in their classrooms and are pushing the curriculum to contextualize science further, disrupting the idea that science is acultural and apolitical.


Each look-for tool is designed to help observers notice the ways teachers and students move beyond right and wrong answers and support students engaging in expansive science. The tools build in criticality. The first tool is designed to notice questioning, student agency, and the extent to which students express ideas about rightfully belonging in the classroom and teachers notice their linguistic and cultural assets. The second tool is designed to support noticing expansive explanations and challenging what counts as evidence. The third tool is designed to support the noticing of power dynamics, and the ways students engage in historical, social, and political dimensions of the scientific phenomenon.


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This site is primarily funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) through Award #1907471 and #1315995