CAREER: Teacher Learning through Expansive Sensemaking in Science

This project considers how teachers’ engagement in scientific sensemaking as an opportunity for teachers’ learning to support more expansive science learning environments. It seeks to address two ongoing challenges in science teacher education: the need for teachers to learn (1) to recognize, value, and integrate students’ diverse ways of knowing, communicating, and relating with one another and phenomena and (2) to acknowledge and disrupt restrictive narratives that shape what counts as science in schools and who is seen as a scientist. This project will provide new models for science teacher education to engage teachers in expansive scientific sensemaking, seeking to develop more humanizing relationships between teachers, students, and science. More broadly, the project will produce a new structure for professional learning and resources for supporting more heterogeneous and equitable forms of science in teacher education. 

Full Description

While there have been extensive efforts to support teachers with curricula and pedagogical practices to implement Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), teachers’ disciplinary learning experiences has been underexamined. This project considers how teachers’ engagement in scientific sensemaking as an opportunity for teachers’ learning to support more expansive science learning environments. It seeks to address two ongoing challenges in science teacher education: the need for teachers to learn (1) to recognize, value, and integrate students’ diverse ways of knowing, communicating, and relating with one another and phenomena and (2) to acknowledge and disrupt restrictive narratives that shape what counts as science in schools and who is seen as a scientist. This project will provide new models for science teacher education to engage teachers in expansive scientific sensemaking, seeking to develop more humanizing relationships between teachers, students, and science. More broadly, the project will produce a new structure for professional learning and resources for supporting more heterogeneous and equitable forms of science in teacher education.

The goal of this project is to design and study for secondary science teachers’ learning to value heterogeneity and challenge restrictive narratives of science in schools. In particular, it will examine (1) the moment-to-moment interactions of teacher learning in their own scientific sensemaking, (2) how these interactions support teacher learning communities to develop practices that meaningfully integrate heterogeneity in their pursuits of coherent and causal accounts of phenomena, (3) how teachers connect their scientific sensemaking to dominant narratives of STEM in school, and (4) how these aspects of teacher learning impact their goals and plans for teaching. The project team will design for teachers’ expansive sensemaking in two settings: in a Science Modeling Course for pre-service secondary teachers at Vanderbilt University and in Science Teachers’ Circles (STCs), in which in-service and pre-service teachers engage in their own scientific inquiries to reflect on disciplinary learning. Through multiple design-based research cycles, project analyses will consider how opportunities for heterogeneity emerge, get taken up, or get shut down in teachers’ disciplinary engagement. These analyses will inform conjectures about how to design and facilitate teacher learning communities that help teachers (a) attune to heterogeneity in science, (b) develop practices for integrating diverse ways of knowing, communicating, and relating with one another and phenomena, and (c) challenge restrictive narratives about science learning. The project builds on existing relationships with secondary science teachers in local schools; the STCs will be co-designed with teacher partners to fit within the local schools and community contexts. This collaboration will develop resources for new models of professional learning for science teachers that foregrounds heterogeneity and issues of power in scientific sensemaking.

Project Materials

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