COVID Connects Us: Nurturing Novice Teachers’ Justice Science Teaching Identities

In COVID Connects Us, the project team investigates the challenges of learning how to support justice-centered ambitious science teaching (JuST). The project team will partner with networks of secondary science teachers as they first implement a common unit aimed at engaging youth in science and engineering practices in ways that are culturally sustaining, focused on explanation-construction and intentionally anti-oppressive. The teachers will then use their shared experiences to revise future instruction in ways that are justice-centered and that engage students in the ways research suggests is important for their learning.

Full Description: 

This project relates to two contemporary concerns in the US: the devastation felt by racial and ethnic minoritized communities during the COVID-19 pandemic and the challenges states face as they strategically navigate the adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards. These concerns necessitate a shift in the culture of science classrooms to align with the following findings from current research on learning: (a) students are best motivated when they need to explain real world events and solve problems that are meaningful to them; (b) when students develop explanations of these real-world events or societal problems and are allowed to participate in creative ways, they can develop deep understandings of core science ideas similar to that of scientists and engineers; and (c) students need to develop a critical lens about what science is studied, how it is studied, and who is left out of what is studied to understand how science is impacted by issues of power and to engage in more just forms of participation. Realizing these cultural transformations in science classrooms will require teachers to develop professional identities that are justice-, student- and culture-centered. In COVID Connects Us, the project team investigates the challenges of learning how to support justice-centered ambitious science teaching (JuST). The project team will partner with networks of secondary science teachers as they first implement a common unit aimed at engaging youth in science and engineering practices in ways that are culturally sustaining, focused on explanation-construction and intentionally anti-oppressive. The teachers will then use their shared experiences to revise future instruction in ways that are justice-centered and that engage students in the ways research suggests is important for their learning.

The goals of this three-year project center on developing and understanding core culture-setting teaching routines that can serve as powerful footholds to realize cultural shifts in science classrooms. The project team will collect and analyze teacher narratives to study the impact of two core and focal teacher supports on participating teachers’ professional identity development as practitioners of JuST practices. The supports include 1) a culture setting unit that all teachers will implement on the science of COVID; and 2) teachers’ engagement in a network of learning communities. During each of the first two academic years of the project, about 20 learning communities made up of four teachers in three different sites will engage in design-based implementation research cycles. These learning communities will collectively study videos of their teaching and samples of student-work to understand and address the challenges of JuST practices. Expected contributions of the study include: (a) a set of JuST routines that teachers find to be effective across curricular units; (b) exemplar JuST units including, but not limited to, the initial unit on the science of COVID; (c) research-based findings about how science educators develop critical consciousness related to disciplinary racism and practices that support students’ in developing the same; and d) vignettes and in-depth case studies of teachers’ development of JuST identities.

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