Skip to main content

How we think about science teaching

Our vision of science teaching involves students engaging in science practice through investigations to develop conceptual understandings. This vision is informed by current research in science education. For students to engage in this kind of learning, teachers must have a rich knowledge base and be skillful in a set of high-leverage science teaching practices.

We make a set of assumptions elementary science teaching and learning. Those assumptions lead us to adopt certain perspectives about science teaching and how to prepare elementary science teachers. For example, we assume that sensemaking is a crucial element of learning.  Therefore, it is important to train novice teachers to support students in making connections among ideas.  Additionally, and in line with the Framework for K-12 Science Education, we assume science learning should involve integrating disciplinary core ideas, science and engineering practices, and crosscutting concepts while engaging with natural phenomena. Therefore, it is important to support teacher candidates to learn to teach in a “three-dimensional” way.  To do so, we advocate for the use of instructional frameworks and for the use of investigations as a signature pedagogy. This helps beginning teachers to organize instruction in a coherent, consistent manner and engage students in a range of science practices while learning science content. We use the Engage, Experience, and Explain+Argue (EEE+A) framework as an instructional framework for science teaching, and many of our materials are organized around this framework.

How we think about equity in science teaching

All children deserve to engage in rigorous and consequential science learning. For us, equity refers to providing each student, despite their racial, ethnic, linguistic, and exceptionality differences, with the opportunity to learn and enjoy science in a way that engages who they are and their varied funds of knowledge. Teachers have a set of ethical obligations and can employ a suite of equity leverage points to support all children in learning science.  For example, we ask novice teachers to select and support their students’ scientific experiences with care, considering implicit assumptions about students’ prior experiences context, and other barriers.  Additionally, novice teachers should be supported when learning to make scientific practices and content explicit and introduce and use both scientific and everyday language carefully.  Finally, novice teachers should consider the ways in which they will support meaningful participation by all students in their classrooms, including broadening the concept of scientific proficiency and attending to students’ positioning in small and whole group contexts.

How we think about high-leverage content for teaching science

Elementary teachers need to have rich understandings of an enormous array of subject areas and topics, including across all fundamental disciplines of science (physics, chemistry, biology, earth science, and astronomy) as well as engineering. Furthermore, elementary teachers must have rich understandings of the science and engineering practices and the crosscutting concepts threaded through all science and engineering disciplines. Because of the limitations in time in a teacher education program, we cannot focus in depth on each of these areas in a science methods class. The areas of high-leverage content on which we focus include: cause and effect, energy and matter, structure and function, explanation and argumentation, and planning and carrying out investigations. We selected these areas based on our analysis of the Next Generation Science Standards as well as our understanding of what constitutes high-leverage content. Other choices could reasonably be made.