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Teaching Science for Understanding in Elementary and Middle Schools

Teaching Science for Understanding in Elementary and Middle Schools

by Wynne Harlen, Page Keeley
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"This book comes at just the right time, as teachers are being encouraged to re-examine current approaches to science instruction."
-Lynn Rankin, Director, Institute for Inquiry, Exploratorium

"Easy to read and comprehend with very explicit examples, it will be foundational for classroom teachers as they journey from novice teacher of science to expert."
-Jo Anne Vasquez, Ph.D., Past President of the National Science Teachers Association

"Teaching Science for Understanding is a comprehensive, exquisitely written guide and well-illustrated resource for high quality teaching and learning of inquiry-based science."
-Hubert M. Dyasi, Ph.D., Professor of Science, City College and City University of New York

Even though there is an unending supply of science textbooks, kits, and other resources, the practice of teaching science is more challenging than simply setting up an experiment. In Teaching Science for Understanding in Elementary and Middle Schools, Wynne Harlen focuses on why developing understanding is essential in science education and how best to engage students in activities that deepen their curiosity about the world and promote enjoyment of science.

Teaching Science for Understanding in Elementary and Middle Schools centers on how to build on the ideas your students already have to cultivate the thinking and skills necessary for developing an understanding of the scientific aspects of the world, including:

  • helping students develop and use the skills of investigation
  • drawing conclusions from data through analyzing, interpreting, and explaining
  • creating classrooms that encourage students to explain and justify their thinking
  • asking productive questions to support students' understanding.

Through classroom vignettes, examples, and practical suggestions at the end of each chapter, Wynne provides a compelling vision of what can be achieved through science education...and strategies that you can implement in your classroom right now.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780325061597
Publisher: Heinemann
Publication date: 03/12/2015
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 176
Sales rank: 240,614
Product dimensions: 7.20(w) x 9.20(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Wynne Harlen has spent a lifetime as a teacher, researcher, and author in science education. Until recently, she was Director of the Scottish Council for Research in Education and before that was Professor of Science Education and Head of the Education Department at the University of Liverpool. In 1991, she was honored by the Queen for her services to education. Harlen is now Visiting Professor at the University of Bristol, editor of Primary Science Review, and a consultant to various science projects in the United States and United Kingdom.

Table of Contents

Foreword Page Keeley viii

Introduction x

1 Why Teach Science? What Science Should We Teach? 1

Science Education in Action 2

Investigating ice 2

Sun, Earth, and moon 4

Cold cans 6

Features of Effective Practice 8

Student engagement 8

Materials for investigation 9

Linking to preexisting ideas 9

Student talk 10

Developing inquiry skills 10

Planning 10

Why? 11

What to Teach? 12

Which ideas? 13

Which skills? 14

Which attitudes? 14

Action Points 15

2 How Should We Teach Science? 16

Views of Learning and Approaches to Teaching 16

Teaching for Understanding Through Inquiry 18

Inquiry in Action 19

Modeling the Development of Understanding Through Inquiry 20

Introducing alternative ideas 22

The role of inquiry skills 23

Developing a Climate for Learning 24

Motivating learning 25

Neuroscience and Learning 26

Action Points 28

3 Taking Students' Ideas Seriously 29

Examples of Students' Ideas 30

Ideas about living things 30

Ideas about how we see 31

Ideas about how we hear 32

Ideas about floating and sinking 33

Characteristics of Students' Own Ideas 34

How Do Students Form Their Ideas? 35

Finding Out Students' Ideas 36

Questioning 37

Drawings and writing 37

Concept maps 38

Concept cartoons 39

Student discussions 40

Helping Students Develop Their Ideas 41

Action Points 42

4 Teachers' and Students' Questions 43

Teachers' Questions 43

Question form 45

Question function 46

Question timing 48

Allowing time for answering 49

Responding to Students' Answers 50

Students' Questions 51

Responding to Different Types of Questions 52

Comments expressed as questions 53

Philosophical questions 54

Requests for simple facts 54

Questions that can lead to investigation by students 55

Questions requiring complex answers 55

In summary 57

Action Points 58

5 Students Raising Questions and Planning Inquiries 59

Progression in Inquiry Skills 59

Identifying Inquiry Skills 61

Raising Questions 62

Investigatable questions 62

Types of Questions and Investigations in Science 62

Which … is best? 63

Is there a pattern in…? 63

What happens when…? 63

I wonder why…? 64

How can we…? 65

Helping Students' Progress in Raising Questions 65

Planning Inquiries 66

Thinking about variables 67

Investigating relationships 68

Helping Students' Progress in Planning 70

Providing opportunities 70

Scaffolding planning 71

Discussing completed investigations 72

Action Points 74

6 Students Gathering Information 75

Observation 75

Ideas affect observation 76

Aspects of observing 77

Benefits of developing observation skills 79

Helping Students' Progress in Observation 80

Encouraging development 81

Using Secondary Sources of Information 85

Using reference books 85

Using digital resources 86

Action Points 87

7 Students Analyzing, Interpreting, and Explaining 89

Analyzing and Interpreting 89

Which is best… (the best place in the classroom to keep ice from melting)? 90

Is there a pattern… (in the direction and length of shadows and the time of day)? 91

I wonder why… (moisture appears on a cold surface)? 92

From Interpretation to Explanation 92

Scaffolding possible explanations 93

Using analogies in explanations 94

Different levels of explanation 97

Helping Students' Progress in Analyzing, Interpreting, and Explaining 98

Action Points 100

8 Students Communicating, Arguing, and Reflecting 101

Science and Literacy 101

Spoken Language: The Importance of Talk 102

Dialogue 103

Argumentation 104

Small-group and class discussions 105

Presentation to others 107

Communicating Through Writing and Drawing 108

Using a notebook 108

Reporting completed inquiries 109

Using Scientific Vocabulary 111

When and how to introduce and use scientific words 112

Helping Students' Progress in Communication, Arguing, and Reflecting 114

Action Points 115

9 Formative Assessment in Science 116

Purposes of Assessment 116

Summative Assessment 117

The Nature and Importance of Formative Assessment 118

The nature of formative assessment 118

The importance of formative assessment 120

Formative Assessment in Practice 121

Collecting information 121

Interpreting information 122

Deciding next steps 125

Taking next steps: Feedback 126

The Role of Students in Formative Assessment 128

Communicating goals 128

Communicating standards of quality 130

Students' role in deciding and taking next steps 131

Peer assessment 132

Action Points 134

10 Formative Evaluation of Science Learning Opportunities 135

Formative Evaluation at the Class Level 135

Gathering data for evaluation 137

Deciding on action 137

Focused Evaluation: An Example of Inquiry-Based Learning in Science 138

Formative Evaluation of Science at the School Level 140

Standards for evaluating science at the school level 141

Gathering m formation for school self-evaluation 142

Using school-level information: Taking action 142

Science Curriculum Leadership 143

Continuing Professional Development 144

Action Points 146

Conclusion 147

References 151

Index 155

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