A vision of Ambitious Science Teaching

This week, I begin a book study of Ambitious Science Teaching (Windshitl, Thompson, & Braaten, 2018) with a nationwide group of science educators. The study was organized by @sbottasullivan. We are going to work through one chapter of the book each week and I will blog about each chapter. This post is about Chapter 1, A Vision of Ambitous Science Teaching. You can follow our book study using #ASTBookChat on Twitter.

The first thing that struck me about this chapter is the emphasis on two equally important ideas in science teaching – rigor and equity. Often I have seen efforts in science teaching or curriculum that have emphasized one of these, while not attending to the other. For example, a curriculum may focus on cultural relevance, but not provide opportunities for students to grapple with important science ideas. On the other hand, a curriculum may focus on rigor, while not attending to equity. I have seen many examples of this, including approaches that naively present science as culturally neutral.

The authors describe how there is consensus in the science education research literature about the kinds of experiences that are important in science teaching and learning. They point out four things that students and teachers should be able to do:

  1. Understand, use and interpret scientific explanations of the natural world
  2. Generate and evaluate scientific evidence and explanations
  3. Understand the nature and development of scientific knowlege
  4. Participate productively in scientific practices and discourse

Nationally, the current state of science teaching and learning reveals that these things are frequently NOT observed in K-12 science classrooms. The AST book is a “how-to” for developing the skills we need as we work toward doing the things that are important for science learning in a way that addresses equity and rigor. However, reading and understanding what needs to be done is quite different (and much easier) than doing it well in real classrooms with real students. Professional development providers and teachers need to work together to change our science classrooms.

Changing science teaching and learning is a challenging task, but it is important. By enabling students to do the four things in the list, we are preparing them to be productive citizens who can engage in discourse around issues that are important to our world. We need citizens who can evaluate evidence and explanations, and make choices that use science to act responsibly.

I am looking forward to the weekly discussions from the #ASTBookChat group on Twitter and synchronously via Zoom each week.

For more about Chapter 1`, see my post Reflections on CH1 #ASTBookChat

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