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Belonging

Support feelings of relatedness and belonging within the classroom community

Belonging NGSS Connections

NGSS Connections

In this section, we first explain the synergy between this MDP and the eight science and engineering practices, then provide examples, options, and variations of activities and instructional strategies that are aligned with this MDP for each science and engineering practice. However, this does not mean that teachers must use all of these strategies to enact this MDP when promoting the science and engineering practice, nor that these strategies are the only way to do so. We encourage teachers to use their professional discretion to select what will work best for them and their classrooms, and to modify and innovate on these strategies.

Practice 1: Asking Questions and Defining Problems

To engage fully in this practice, students should be comfortable with each other and trust that their questions will be met by their peers and teachers with an open mind and a lack of judgment of them as a person. Instructional strategies that support students’ feelings of belonging cultivate a safe space in which questions can be posed and critiqued as students figure out phenomena and design solutions to problems. Strategies that support belonging also encourage students to develop a sense of being part of a community of scientists and engineers, which is especially important for students who may not have a well-developed science identity or who may feel alienated from science [see Motivation as a Tool for Equity]. As students begin to feel a greater sense of belonging within their science classroom community and within science and engineering communities, they may feel more inclined to engage in scientific questioning and in defining problems.

Strategies

Respond promptly and with an open mind to student questions to communicate that their questions are valued and important.
Learn about and adopt strategies from equitable teaching frameworks (e.g., culturally responsive pedagogy) to help select phenomena that facilitate students’ ability to ask scientific questions about the phenomena and feel a sense of belonging as scientists
Provide opportunities for many scientific questions to be heard through group work (e.g., think-pair-share, inner-outer circle) and whole class share out.
Set guidelines/routines that foster peer support (e.g., how to listen to, acknowledge, and respond to others) by creating a safe environment (e.g., not laughing at scientific questions that are shared).
Share pieces of evidence (through journals or videos) of scientists from diverse backgrounds engaging in scientific questioning to help students develop their science identity.

To engage fully in this practice, students should be comfortable with each other and trust that their models will be met by their peers and teachers with an open mind and a lack of judgment of them as a person. Instructional strategies that support students’ feelings of belonging cultivate a safe space for students to: (1) develop, use, and evaluate their own models, and (2) use these models to communicate with others as they figure out phenomena and design solutions to problems. Strategies that support belonging also encourage students to develop a sense of being part of a community of scientists and engineers, which is especially important for students who may not have a well-developed science identity or who may feel alienated from science [see Motivation as a Tool for Equity]. As students begin to feel a greater sense of belonging within their science classroom community and within science and engineering communities, they may feel more inclined to engage in the practices of modeling.

Strategies

Share with the whole class how groups/students used, developed, and evaluated models (without names to prevent feelings of getting hurt during critique). Highlight differences in conceptualization to show there are multiple ways to construct and evaluate models.
Set norms for sensitive and respectful feedback to facilitate growth together in model design, feedback, and development.
Evaluate models created by scientists/engineers from diverse backgrounds .
Ask students to construct or critique models together (with reminders to communicate using class norms for critical yet respectful interaction).
Start developing models in groups to help generate ideas as a community. Have each group share their models.
Organize a gallery walk for students to observe different ways to develop and use models to figure out phenomena or solve problems.

Planning and carrying out an investigation requires the planning and execution of a sequence of varied skills to figure out a phenomenon or design a solution to a problem. At each stage of this process, students rely on each other and their teacher for the sharing of ideas and resources. Instructional strategies that support students’ feelings of belonging cultivate a safe space for students to work with their peers through this process and to ask for and receive support if they encounter challenges. Strategies that support belonging also encourage students to develop a sense of being part of a community of scientists and engineers, which is especially important for students who may not have a well-developed science identity or who may feel alienated from science [see Motivation as a Tool for Equity]. As students begin to feel a greater sense of belonging within their science classroom community and within science and engineering communities, they may feel more inclined to engage in planning and carrying out investigations as a practice.

Strategies

Frame investigations around community issues relevant to students to encourage the value of their input as scientists/engineers. This can be as small as having students identify how the results of an investigation might benefit or be useful to their community; or as large as having students identify a community need, and then design and carry out an investigation that can contribute to filling that need. This motivation can be especially important for students who identify with communities that have been marginalized or disenfranchised in science, as it empowers them to plan and carry out investigations related to issues they care about
Assign meaningful roles when conducting an investigation to figure out a phenomenon or solve a design problem. This promotes a sense of belonging within the group because everyone has something to contribute. Have students rotate group roles so everyone has a chance to try each role.
Reinforce protocols & norms for working together. This is critical for effective planning and carrying out of investigations because it promotes group cohesion by fostering trust to contribute ideas.
When possible, at the conclusion of an investigation and after students have drawn their own claims supported by evidence, provide examples of diverse scientists and/or engineers who also contributed knowledge to the same discipline (e.g., for a rocket design project, share a diverse set of individuals who contributed to rocket development and space travel).

When analyzing and interpreting data in the classroom, students may work in teams, receive feedback from others, and collectively communicate results. Instructional strategies that support students’ feelings of belonging cultivate a safe space for students to hone skills for analyzing and interpreting data in these regards. Strategies that support belonging also encourage students to develop a sense of being part of a community of scientists and engineers, which is especially important for students who may not have a well-developed science identity or who may feel alienated from science [see Motivation as a Tool for Equity]. As students begin to feel a greater sense of belonging within their science classroom community and within science and engineering communities, they may feel more inclined to engage in the practices of analyzing and interpreting data.

Strategies

Allocate time for students to present findings and supporting evidence to peers and allow for student feedback/dialogue around data analysis and interpretation (e.g., what are the sources of error? How were significant features and patterns identified? To what extent does their data serve as evidence to support conclusions made?) As part of this conversation, students determine whether and describe why components of the practice (organization, visual displays, summarizing, patterns and relationships, sources of error, outlying data) are/are not appropriate to help them figure out a phenomenon or evaluate competing design solutions to a problem.
  • Set up norms for these conversations to establish a sense of belonging/comfort around how to analyze, interpret, and communicate results as evidence.
When feasible, give different groups different analysis tasks so that they can share later and make claims supported by evidence as a class or “lab team.” For example, use a jigsaw format so students engage in different analysis tasks in expert groups and share their evidence with their original groups.
Place an emphasis on the central tendency of data and data interpretation that allows everyone’s interpretation to merge into the “average” (consensus) of the classroom.
Have students analyze and interpret data in groups to promote the idea of being a community of learners working to solve design problems or figure out phenomena. Working in small groups enables both scientific collaboration and innovation.
Structure whole class discussion so that discourse builds from simpler observations about patterns and trends to more complex ones, allowing students to build on one another’s ideas constructively and allowing validation of multiple ideas at different levels of complexity.
If there are multiple tasks that can be done simultaneously within groups, define roles and assign students (or have students select a role within their groups) so that everyone can contribute to the analysis and interpretation.

Applications of mathematics and computational thinking in science and engineering require flexible thinking in a variety of contexts. Instructional strategies that support students’ feelings of belonging cultivate a safe space for students to take chances with potentially unfamiliar types of mathematical or computational thinking across contexts. Strategies that support belonging also encourage students to develop a sense of being part of a community of scientists and engineers, which is especially important for students who may not have a well-developed science identity or who may feel alienated from science [see Motivation as a Tool for Equity]. As students begin to feel a greater sense of belonging within their science classroom community and within science and engineering communities, they may feel more inclined to engage in using mathematics and computational thinking as a practice.

Strategies

Create activities where the teacher can demonstrate computational thinking with input from the whole class (e.g., students can help identify lab tools needed, and then walk the teacher through observing, measuring, recording, and processing data). This fosters a teamwork mentality among peers, and with the teacher.
Promote identification within science by having students create an algorithm that they can use at home or in their community. For example, students can create algorithms for how they do chores at home, including how often they wash the dishes (e.g., if there are more than five dishes in the sink, then wash, dry, and put away the clean dishes).
Provide opportunities for peer support by having students work in groups to brainstorm ways to organize data into a form that will simplify future calculations.
Cultivate a sense of belonging in science by highlighting the ways mathematics and computational thinking is used in everyday activities familiar to them. For example, many “free-to-play” phone games use algorithms to direct users towards giving the programmers money for in-app purchases.
Provide students with 1-2 examples of models/simulations that use algorithms, such as computer games, phone apps, or other technologies. Invite students to make observations and “wonderings” about the computational practices involved in these examples to scaffold their value for computational skills. Then ask students to share out about their experiences with similar types of models or simulations that use algorithms.

To engage fully in this practice, students should be comfortable with each other and trust that their explanations and solutions will be met by their peers and teachers with an open mind and a lack of judgment of them as a person. Instructional strategies that support students’ feelings of belonging cultivate a safe space for students to iterate upon their explanations and design solutions, engage in argumentation with their peers about alternative explanations, and receive feedback from their peers and teacher. Strategies that support belonging also encourage students to develop a sense of being part of a community of scientists and engineers, which is especially important for students who may not have a well-developed science identity or who may feel alienated from science [see Motivation as a Tool for Equity]. As students begin to feel a greater sense of belonging within their science classroom community and within science and engineering communities, they may feel more inclined to engage in constructing explanations and designing solutions as a practice.

Strategies

Create activities where all members in small groups have roles in constructing/evaluating explanations, and in designing solutions. In this way, each student serves a purpose, and the classroom operates as a community. Furthermore, working in small groups can enable scientific collaboration and innovation.
Facilitate full class discussions where each student has an opportunity to share thoughts about how the data generated from carrying out investigations provide evidence to support claims being made about phenomena or test results to identify the best characteristics among several design solutions.
Encourage students to use everyday language or home languages for initial explanations of scientific phenomena or proposed designs. Help students then connect their everyday language to academic language for scientific explanations.
Many strategies from equitable teaching frameworks (e.g., culturally responsive pedagogy) address ways to recognize and incorporate diverse communication practices into the classroom that can provide a bridge to constructing scientific explanations.
Model a respectful environment (e.g., building on students’ explanations or design solutions, adding evidence, showing value for evidence through an evidence-based way to agree/disagree). Encourage the use of sentence structures or phrases for “agreeing” or “disagreeing,” to reinforce the practice of challenging ideas not people.
Invite reluctant students to participate by using explanatory practices outside of traditional verbal share-outs (e.g., use technology where students can participate in a full class discussion anonymously).
Provide opportunities for students to work in groups to navigate each other through the systematic process of designing solutions (e.g., ask students to brainstorm with each other to define the problem and discuss how to generate, test, and improve solutions).

To engage fully in this practice, students should be comfortable with each other and trust that when they engage in argumentation from evidence in their class they are arguing about ideas and not the people expressing those ideas. Instructional strategies that support students’ feelings of belonging cultivate a safe space for students to engage in such productive argumentation when making sense of a phenomenon or solving a problem. Strategies that support belonging also encourage students to develop a sense of being part of a community of scientists and engineers, which is especially important for students who may not have a well-developed science identity or who may feel alienated from science [see Motivation as a Tool for Equity]. As students begin to feel a greater sense of belonging and understand the process of argumentation used within their science classroom community and within science and engineering communities, they may feel more inclined to engage in argumentation from evidence as a practice.

Strategies

Encourage students to use everyday language or home languages for initial argumentative activities. Help students then connect their everyday language to academic language for scientific argumentation.
Many strategies from equitable teaching frameworks (e.g., culturally responsive pedagogy) address ways to recognize and incorporate diverse communication practices into the classroom that can provide a bridge to engaging students in scientific argumentation.
During full class share outs or debates between students, set norms for when students share, critique, and reconcile arguments. Relate norms to the discourse that takes place in science and engineering communities around understanding phenomena and designing solutions to problems using evidence:
  • Be sure sentence frames are visible to students (e.g., “I agree with what [name] said because…”). Whereas discussion norms should be an everyday practice, these sentence frames create a safe space for students to learn from each other how to engage in argumentation through the encouragement of non-judgmental interactions
Use groups and/or allow individual work time for students to gather their thoughts on their understanding of a phenomenon or their process for evaluating design solutions before sharing out to the full class. This can boost confidence to engage in argumentation with the larger group through support of brainstorming with a smaller, more familiar set of classroom peers and/or opportunities for individual processing of ideas.
During argumentation activities, pay close attention to student behaviors that may reflect cultural differences or individual preferences, and be prepared to modify communication structures accordingly. For example, some students may feel uncomfortable making eye contact when sharing ideas or directly contradicting a peer. Collecting sticky notes of ideas or using a fishbowl structure where some students discuss while others observe could be an interim strategy to support the development of these students’ argumentation skills in class while working individually with students on building their comfort level with eye contact.

When students obtain, evaluate, and communicate information, they may do so through a variety of media, formats, and levels of complexity. As a result, different students will encounter challenges with different aspects of obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information. Instructional strategies that support students’ feelings of belonging cultivate a safe space for students to work through those challenges and ask for and receive assistance from their peers and teachers. Strategies that support belonging also encourage students to develop a sense of being part of a community of scientists and engineers, which is especially important for students who may not have a well-developed science identity or who may feel alienated from science [see Motivation as a Tool for Equity]. As students begin to feel a greater sense of belonging within their science classroom community and within science and engineering communities, they may feel more inclined to engage in obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information as a practice.

Strategies

Support identification within science and engineering by inviting students to be independent scientists and engineers. For example, encourage students to obtain information from local sources (museums, newspapers, etc.) and record what they learned in a journal. In class they can evaluate and communicate this information with other students.
Build peer support by having students co-present information they obtained and evaluated. Partner or group students that have similar interests and together the group can obtain, evaluate, and communicate information that is interesting to them.
For student presentations, have group members and the audience take on different roles/responsibilities so that everyone contributes something to the learning community. For example, within groups one student can have a role for each part of the scientific practice (obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information) for the group. Students in the audience can use language modeled by the teacher to provide feedback on students’ communication of the information and ask the group how the information builds understanding of a phenomenon or leads to the optimization of a design solution.
Encourage students to engage in informal styles of communication and interactions with one another or as a whole class, such as using everyday language or home languages to express scientific ideas. Help students then connect their everyday language to academic language to communicate their understanding of a phenomenon or proposed design solutions.
Many strategies from equitable teaching frameworks (e.g., culturally responsive pedagogy) address ways to recognize and incorporate diverse communication practices into the classroom.
Establish and consistently enforce classroom norms around respectful listening, building on others’ ideas, and distinguishing between evidence-based information and unsubstantiated claims.
Guide students to become critical yet respectful consumers of information by having students work in groups to unpack science or engineering text together. Students can practice productive communication skills by critiquing text before critiquing each other (e.g., What are the big ideas? When is the author reporting data/observations versus making inferences? What arguments are being made, and is there enough evidence to support them?).
Support the intersection of confidence and belonging by organizing role play (e.g., productive modeling of how/where to obtain, how to evaluate, and how to communicate information).