Supporting Teacher Customizations of Curriculum Materials for Equitable Student Sensemaking in Secondary Science (Collaborative Researcher: Reiser)

This project is developing and researching customization tools to support teachers’ instructional shifts to achieve equitable sensemaking in middle school science classrooms. These tools will help teachers to better notice and leverage the ideas and experiences of non-dominant students to support all students in equitable sensemaking.

Full Description: 

This project is developing and researching tools to support teachers’ instructional shifts to achieve equitable sensemaking in middle school science classrooms. Sensemaking involves students building and using science ideas to address questions and problems they identify, rather than solely learning about the science others have done. Despite it being a central goal of recent national policy documents, such meaningful engagement with science knowledge building remains elusive in many classrooms. Students from non-dominant communities frequently do not see themselves as “science people” because their ways of knowing and experiences are often not valued in science classrooms. Professional learning grounded in teachers’ use of innovative high quality curriculum materials can help teachers learn to teach in new ways. Yet teachers need guidance to customize curriculum materials to fit their own local contexts and leverage students’ ideas and experiences while maintaining the goals of recent policy documents. This project is researching and developing customization tools to support teachers in their principled use and adaptation of materials for their classrooms. These customization tools will help teachers to better notice and leverage the ideas and experiences of non-dominant students to support all students in equitable sensemaking. During the project, 74 teachers from diverse schools will participate in professional learning using these customization tools. After testing, the customization tools and illustrative cases will be disseminated broadly to support teachers enacting any science curriculum in leveraging the ideas and experiences that students bring into the classroom. In addition, the research results in the form of design principles will inform future design of curriculum materials and professional learning resources for science.

A key element in science education reform efforts includes shifting the epistemic and power structures in the classroom so that teachers and students work together to build knowledge. Research shows that shifts in science teaching are challenging for teachers. Researchers and practitioners have collaborated to develop curriculum materials that begin to support teachers in this work. But teachers need to interpret these materials and customize the tasks and strategies for their own context as they work with their own students. Curriculum enactment is not prescriptive, but rather a “participatory relationship” between the teacher, curriculum materials, students and context, where teachers interpret the materials and the goals of the reform, and customize them to adapt the tasks and activity structures to meet the needs and leverage the resources of their students. The field needs to better understand how teachers learn from and navigate this participatory relationship and what supports can aid in this work. This project will include design-based research examining teachers’ customization processes and the development of tools to support teachers in adapting curriculum materials for their specific school context to facilitate equitable science sensemaking for all students, where all students engage in ambitious science knowledge building. The major components of the research program will include: (1) Empirical study of teachers’ customization processes; (2) Theoretical model of teacher thinking and learning that underlies customization of curriculum materials; (3) Tools to support principled customization consistent with the goals of the reform; and (4) Empirical study of how tools influence teachers’ customization processes. The project is addressing the urgent need for scalable support for teacher learning for recent shifts in science education in relation to both a vision of figuring out and equity.

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