NGSS ConnectionsIn 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.
Asking questions and defining problems drives science and engineering. A curiosity to figure out a phenomenon or solve a problem drives many of the decisions scientists and engineers make. Having a learning orientation rather than striving to complete assignments, earn points, outperform others, or try to “look smart” supports authentic scientific inquiry and engineering design. Instructional supports for a learning orientation are also necessary to ensure that students feel comfortable asking questions, as ego-oriented students or students who are concerned about confirming negative ability stereotypes could view questions as evidence of incompetence [see Motivation as a Tool for Equity]. Scientists and engineers ask specific types of questions, and as students learn to ask these types of questions, they will make mistakes. A learning orientation will help students to focus on their growth in this skill rather than view themselves as a failure when they make mistakes as they learn.
- Use a Driving Question Board: Have students list what they are curious about regarding a phenomenon or what interests them, and then use that to generate scientific questions that can be investigated. Post the question(s) the students are trying to answer and consistently return to them throughout the unit, asking the class what questions have been answered and what new questions have arisen along the way
- A KWL graphic organizer is another way to encourage question-asking. After identifying prior knowledge in the “Know” column, students can pose scientific questions for the “Wonder” column and see that their questions are central to the process of increasing/developing knowledge
- During investigations or at the beginning of units, conduct anonymous live polling where students can both pose scientific questions and see what questions other students are asking. This will help students see that asking questions is a normal part of science inquiry
- Maintain a “parking lot” for students to place questions that arise to them during class. Regularly read those questions to the class, discuss the extent to which they are scientific and help them to understand phenomena, and incorporate them into instruction as appropriate
- Take a scientific question off of the board and say to the class, “I think we can answer this one now,” and use the question for formative or summative purposes
- Different scientific questions can be taken down from the DQB and given to different groups of students to answer collaboratively. These questions can be posed to the class, and students can choose one to answer, writing an explanation that uses evidence from class activities, readings, and what they have figured out thus far
- Students can be invited or assigned to pursue scientific questions independently and to present them to peers or to create a booklet to teach a younger student about what they want to know about a phenomenon or design problem
Models help make thinking/understanding visible to oneself and to others, which supports the development and revision of scientific ideas. There are numerous ways to develop representations of the same phenomenon or design problem, which can raise important questions and clarifications; developing a model is not about producing the one “right” representation. Instructional supports for a learning orientation help students adopt these perspectives. Additionally, models should be evaluated and revised over time as understanding develops. A learning orientation supports this kind of ongoing evaluation and revision of models and scientific ideas: with a learning orientation, early/naive models are not “wrong;” they are steps in the process of gaining understanding.
Supporting a learning orientation helps to place the emphasis on the goal of an investigation (i.e., What are we trying to figure out?), rather than casting it as merely a set of steps to complete or a way to learn a science fact. When planning investigations, an emphasis on the goal of the investigation supports students in making an investigation plan that will best achieve that goal. Framing a prediction as a best guess for right now based on available evidence and/or prior learning, and emphasizing that we update our understanding of a phenomenon or which design solution best meets the criteria and constraints of a problem as we gather more evidence are important strategies to help students students engage in making predictions as part of a learning process, rather than worrying about how their predictions will be judged by their classmates. Especially for students who do not have much experience planning and carrying out investigations, it is common to make errors during investigations and/or to obtain unexpected results. With a learning orientation, students will view those errors as a part of their own learning, as well as part of the process of doing science.
- Is this phenomenon something you could observe occurring naturally or should you do something in the classroom to explore it (i.e., a controlled experiment)?
- What evidence would you need to answer your question?
- What equipment do you need to do this?
- How will you know if you have been successful?
- For observational investigations:
- What would you need to observe to answer your question?
- For a controlled experiment:
- Which variables will be treated as the outcomes of the investigation?
- How can you measure what you think is important?
- Which conditions would you vary to see if they have any effect on the outcome variable?
- What are all the other variables or conditions that should be held constant during the investigation?
Data collection, especially by young scientists and engineers with limited experience, can contain a large amount of error. During analysis, having a learning orientation will help frame that error as a critical part of the learning experience (both learning techniques for how to reduce the error in future data collection and learning how to account for error in data interpretation) rather than a failure. Supporting a learning orientation will also help with encouraging students to engage deeply with their data to make sense of a phenomenon or design solutions to design problems, rather than merely performing calculations or getting the “right” answer.
Mathematics and computational thinking are skills that scientists and engineers use to gain deeper understanding of the phenomenon or problem they are investigating. Supports for a learning orientation frame the purpose of this work as such, rather than as an activity to complete in and of itself, or with the purpose of obtaining the correct answer. Because of varying proficiency in mathematics and computational thinking, supporting students’ learning orientation can help to sustain motivation if or when students struggle with, for example, abstract thinking, logic, or algorithms so that they do not become discouraged by mistakes or incorrect answers. This support may be especially important for students who are concerned that their struggles are confirming negative stereotypes that others may hold about their mathematical and computational ability [see Motivation as a Tool for Equity]. A learning orientation can help students view their mistakes as part of the process of developing mathematics and computational thinking skills in the context of science and engineering.
A learning orientation helps convey the important understanding that there are multiple ways to construct explanations and design solutions, rather than a single right answer that the teacher is seeking. Exploring different solutions and explanations is a part of the process of learning engineering and science. The goal is for students to be thinking deeply and meaningfully about the how and why of phenomena or problems, rather than merely completing an explanation or design as a classroom task. A learning orientation helps students feel comfortable with sharing explanations and design solutions at an early, potentially underdeveloped phase and helps students to be receptive to feedback geared toward improving their work. When students discuss alternative explanations and design solutions with their peers, a learning orientation supports the perspective that the purpose of discussion is to create better explanations and design solutions.
Demonstrate a commitment to the process of sense-making in relation to explanations by:
- Asking open-ended questions and asking students to support their claims with evidence using the language of science (see talk moves)
- Providing tools/scaffolds/structures to support sense-making (e.g., consistent tools for helping students construct and evaluate Claim-Evidence-Reasoning statements across units). Scaffolds should give general guidance (e.g., “You should explain why the phenomenon occurred”) as well as guidance specific to the explanation they are currently working on (e.g., “You should explain why the salt and ice mixture was able to freeze pure water.”); be detailed enough to help students but not so detailed that students ignore the help; and should fade over time
- Modeling sense-making during more teacher-led demonstrations or presentations of information to develop a greater understanding of a phenomenon (e.g., think-alouds while explaining how a variable or variables relate to another variable or a set of variables, describing how to judge the appropriateness of the claim, evidence, and/or reasoning and how to articulate reasoning for making this judgment)
- Actively communicating the value and scientific authenticity of revising explanations and providing opportunities for students to revise their explanations based on new evidence and more developed understanding of phenomena
- 1(2011). Supporting Grade 5-8 Students in Constructing Explanations in Science: The Claim, Evidence, and Reasoning Framework for Talk and Writing (1st ed.). Boston: Pearson..
- Eliciting students’ ideas of how to define the problem
- Providing ample time for students to engage in an iterative and systematic process of generating, testing, and improving their solutions
The purpose of argumentation in science and engineering is to come to consensus on explanations, models, data analysis, interpretations, and other artifacts of engaging in science and engineering practices. When students are the authors of these artifacts, they can perceive arguments about their work and ideas as a critique of them personally or a judgment on their intelligence, especially if they worry about confirming negative stereotypes that others may hold about their scientific ability [see Motivation as a Tool for Equity]. A learning orientation helps students see that argumentation is focused on reaching consensus about ideas (i.e., reaching a shared understanding of a phenomenon or design problem) rather than judging an individual or the individual’s ideas. Argumentation requires that students listen to each others’ evidence and ideas, which could lead them to reflect on and revise their own ideas or choose other supporting evidence. Having a learning orientation sets up students to be open to adjusting their own explanations/models/interpretations/designs based on others’ arguments to improve their understanding of a phenomenon or optimization of a design solution.
- Some “why” questions that can be asked to help students support their claims:
- What evidence do you have?
- What scientific ideas support your claim?
- Why do you agree or disagree? What are your reasons? What is your evidence?
- What could be some other possible claims? Do you have evidence?
- Do you agree with the points being made? Why?
- Who has a different opinion? What is it? How is it different?
- Why are you using that as evidence and not the other data? How would your claim change if you used all the data?
- How is that idea related to what was previously discussed? What reasons do you have for saying that?
A learning orientation is important to help students actively process and think critically about the information they are obtaining, evaluating, and communicating in service of figuring out phenomena or solving design problems. Students with an ego orientation or who are concerned about confirming negative ability stereotypes can be prone to using shallow learning strategies to “just get by” and avoid looking incompetent, especially when they lack confidence in their skills [see Motivation as a Tool for Equity]. Enacting this practice effectively should be less about the rote regurgitation of information that lends itself to shallow engagement and more about using higher-order thinking to obtain, evaluate, and communicate information. Supporting students’ learning orientation is important to ensure that students engage in information-seeking and communication for the purpose of sense-making and developing competence, rather than for task completion, points, or trying to look smart or avoid looking less capable than other students.