Students come to classrooms with diverse ways of knowing and communicating. The aim of this project is to work with teachers to create engaging and equitable opportunities for science discourse by bridging the resources and experiences students have gained from their homes and communities with the science taught in school.
Although there is significant evidence that sense-making through discourse is an essential part of learning, student talk typically makes up a small percentage of classroom time. Further, scholars are calling for the need to re-imagine classrooms for science discourse, away from ‘school science’ to hybrid spaces where students’ experiential ways of knowing, home languages, and cultural practices are viewed as resources for advancing their understanding of science phenomena (Emdin, 2011; Gutiérrez et al., 1999; Rosebery et al., 2016).
This project is working towards this vision for equitable science discourse. Middle school science teachers serving in urban classrooms attend summer professional development and work in same grade lesson study teams throughout the academic year to plan a lesson around a science talk goal, observe one another’s classrooms, and reflect on how their students’ funds of knowledge serve as assets in science discourse activities (Calabrese Barton & Tan, 2009; Lewis et al., 2006; Moje et al. 2004). This project is based on the premise that when we center students and the contexts that are relevant to them, student engagement in science talk, and ultimately deeper understanding of science ideas and practices will be achieved.
Findings point to the potential of hybrid spaces for engaging students in science talk. In these spaces, teachers value students’ interests, experiences, and diverse modes of speech, and position students as agents in science discourse activities.
The COVID-19 pandemic presented both challenges that our teachers rose to, as well as new possibilities for science discourse. We collaborated with teachers on virtual science talk activities, leveraging the affordances of online and asynchronous platforms. Lesson study was a helpful model for teachers to observe one another’s virtual classrooms and find ways to create equitable science talk opportunities for their students.