PDI-4: Discussion and Writing in the Inquiry-Based Elementary Science Classroom: Critical Partners in the Development of Scientific Reasoning and Conceptual Understanding (Education Development Center)
Date: Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Location: Boston , MA–Boston Convention and Exhibition Center; Room 251
Recommended Pathway Sessions
The Center for Science Education of the Education Development Center, Inc., Newton, MA
Karen Worth, EDC
Sally Crissman, EDC
Jeff Winokur, EDC
Martha Winokur, Tufts University
- How do writing and discussion work together to foster scientific reasoning and help to build conceptual understanding in inquiry based science classrooms?
- What is the role of group discussions in fostering scientific reasoning and understanding?
- What is the nature of science notebooks and how can they be used to enhance scientific reasoning and understanding?
- What are skills students need to learn and teachers need to teach to effectively use discussion and writing in the science classroom?
This institute focuses on the development and use of literacy skills in science to foster students’ scientific reasoning as they move from direct experience to conceptual understanding. Our target audience is upper elementary students (3rd–5th grade), however participants interested in the younger grades will find that much of the content of the institute can be applied at younger grade levels.
To set the stage and establish a model of classroom based guided inquiry, participants will first engage in a brief science investigation. This will be followed by an in-depth exploration of the roles of oral and written language in deepening scientific reasoning. Using classroom video, transcripts of student discussions, student writing, and mini-case studies, we will identify a range of instructional strategies that: structure and guide serious accountable talk among students; foster careful use of notebooks for recording and concluding; and provide opportunities for students to apply their understanding through different genres of writing. We will also focus on the relationship between talking and writing and the important back and forth that takes place as students clarify and deepen their understanding of science ideas. Participants also will have the opportunity to explore the relationship between literacy and science teaching and learning and the important connections that can and should be made in the classroom.
Much is being made of the connection between science and literacy in many educational arenas. Publishers are producing science readers by the dozen. Science journals and science notebooks are more and more common. Teachers and other educational leaders are emphasizing the connection in the hopes of keeping science off the back burner. Others see science as a way to motivate students to build their literacy skills and improve test scores. This institute builds on the growing literature on the role of discussion and writing in interpreting, analyzing and synthesizing the ideas and experiences of scientific investigations. There is little doubt that direct experience with science phenomena is critical to student science learning, but it does not in itself lead to the development of conclusions and new theories. For this to take place students need to reflect on their experience, examine and analyze their data, debate and discuss their ideas, write down their conclusions, and communicate them to others. In other words they need to use language—literacy. How they use language and what teachers do to support this is the focus of this institute.
This institute is intended for science educators interested in exploring how discussion and writing permeate effective inquiry based instruction at the upper elementary level (3rd–5th grade). In large and small highly interactive groups, participants will have the opportunity to learn from the resources provided by the institute leaders as well as from one another.
The presenters of the workshop reflect a critical partnership between literacy and science educators. Three of the presenters of this institute are science educators with many years of experience in developing inquiry based curricula, working with both pre-service and in service teachers on inquiry based science teaching and learning. One of the presenters is an expert in comprehensive literacy and has many years experience providing professional development to teachers.
This institute is based on the work done with a grant received in 2003, by the Center for Science Education at EDC from The National Science Foundation. The purpose of the grant was to develop professional development materials to enhance the use of language in the inquiry based classroom with a particular focus on science discussions; student writing in notebooks and in other contexts; and the explicit connection between the teaching and learning of literacy and that of science.