This project aims to reduce youths’ opportunity gaps in secondary science classrooms by building a sustainable research–practice partnership. We explore how deliberately coordinated activities that facilitate the collaboration between researchers and practitioners can reduce opportunity gaps at schools, promote complex thinking in youth, and build on student ideas to promote responsible citizenship.
Despite decades of reform efforts, research indicates that classroom learning for students remains largely procedural, undemanding, and disconnected from the development of substantive scientific ideas. Furthermore, access to high-quality science instruction that promotes such complex thinking is far scarcer for students of color in communities with high concentrations of families living in poverty compared to their white counterparts. Research shows that many students from disadvantaged communities experience instruction geared to promote development of rote skills, working at a low cognitive level on fill-in-the-blank worksheets and test-oriented tasks that are profoundly disconnected from the skills they need to learn to be successful citizens. This is especially alarming in the United States, as students of color are projected to comprise 54 percent of total enrollments in elementary and secondary schools by 2024 (Kena et al., 2015). The purpose of this project is to reduce the learning opportunity gap in secondary science classrooms by building a sustainable research–practice partnership over five years.
We found that it is possible to transform classroom teaching at the high school science level in a way that expands powerful learning opportunities for Latinx and ELs if a group of teachers and researchers work together with the shared vision, framework, and tools. We also found that this work is highly relational because it involves supporting teachers to expand their identities while de-settling existing norms, practices, and expectations. The amount of work that goes into this transition and the competing values and expectations among the multiple stakeholders, including teachers and parents, make it difficult to broaden participation.