Relating Research to Practice has identified a limited set of Hot Topics representing pressing issues facing the ISE field. Download synthesis papers or browse research briefs related to these topics.





All research briefs tagged to Youth and STEM Learning
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Oliver, M. (2011). Towards an understanding of neuroscience for science educators. Studies in Science Education, 47(2), 211–235.

In this review, Oliver calls for greater cross-pollination between neuroscience research and educational practice. She argues that a richer understanding of the brain can dispel educational myths—and indeed uses research data in this paper to do so. She explores ways in which brain science can not only inform emerging theories of learning and teaching but also inspire effective educational interventions.


Gutwill, J. P., & Allen, S. (2012). Deepening students’ scientific inquiry skills during a science museum field trip. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 21(1), 130–181. doi:10.1080/10508406.2011.555938

This article describes how two inquiry games promoted student science skills in a museum setting while minimizing demands on teachers, fostering collaboration, and incorporating chaperones. Students who played these games engaged in more scientific inquiry behaviors than did students in control groups.


Hudicourt-Barnes, J. (2003). The use of argumentation in Haitian Creole science classrooms. Harvard Educational Review, 73(1), 73–93.

This article uses critical ethnography and analysis of student talk to refute claims that Haitian children are less than fully engaged in science classrooms. Josiane Hudicourt-Barnes provides examples from a bilingual science classroom to explain cultural differences in language and in students’ understanding of scientific argumentation. Hudicourt-Barnes posits that the Creole talk style of bay odyans is naturally scientific because it uses logic in argumentation. Ultimately, Hudicourt-Barnes proposes, cultural ways of thinking and speaking are good bases for science talk, particularly for argumentation.


Archer, L., Dewitt, J., Osborne, J., Dillon, J., Willis, B., & Wong, B. (2012) ‘Balancing acts’: Elementary school girls’ negotiations of femininity, achievement, and science. Science Education, 96(6), 967–989. doi:10.1002/sce.21031

This paper explores how science-aspiring girls balance their aspirations and achievement with societal expectations of femininity. In-depth interviews revealed two models that the girls tended to follow, termed feminine scientist or bluestocking scientist, and the precarious nature of both of these identities. The researchers suggest ways that practitioners can better support girls in their balancing acts.


Laubach, T. A., Crofford, G. D., & Marek, E. A. (2012). Exploring Native American students’ perceptions of scientists. International Journal of Science Education, 34(11), 1769–1794.

Some say that if we could dismantle negative stereotypes of scientists, minority students would be more likely to consider careers in STEM. But precisely what views do minority students hold? In this study, researchers examined the perceptions of 133 Native American students by analysing students’ drawings of scientists and their accompanying written explanations.


Jaakkola, T., Nurmi, S., & Veermans, K. (2011). A comparison of students’ conceptual understanding of electric circuits in simulation only and simulation-laboratory contexts. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 48(1), 71–93.

This article makes a case for providing multiple types of hands-on resources to support learner inquiry. More specifically, a computer simulation of an electric circuit complemented work with a real circuit to support learners’ conceptual development. When learners had the opportunity to use both simulated and real circuits, less structured guidance seemed to benefit the inquiry process.


Sjaastad, J. (2012). Sources of inspiration: The role of significant persons in young people’s choice of science in higher education. International Journal of Science Education, 34(10), 1615–1636.

Researchers asked 5,000 Norwegian college-level students of STEM about the sources of inspiration for their educational choices. The most influential people were teachers and parents—the people who knew the young people best. The findings suggest that the most effective STEM role models are individuals who have a personal connection with the young person making education and career choices.


Vadeboncoeur, J. A. (2006). Engaging young people: Learning in informal contexts. Review of Research in Education, 30, 239–278.

This 2006 paper reviews the ways in which structured informal learning programs for youth have been characterized in the research literature. The paper synthesizes opportunities for and challenges to research in this domain; it categorizes programs and gives concrete examples of various program types. A proposed Vygotskian research framework is organized around key dimensions of the informal learning context, including location, relationships, content, pedagogy, and assessment.


Ruiz-Mallen, I., & Escalas, M. T. (2012). Scientists seen by children: A case study in Catalonia, Spain. Science Communication, 34(4), 520–545. doi:10.1177/1075547011429199

This study helps us understand how children and adolescents perceive science and scientists, and it suggests some factors that influence those images. Researchers collected drawings from Catalan students ages 6 to 17 and analyzed them using the Draw-A-Scientist Test (Chambers, 1983). Findings show that, in general, Catalan students, and particularly boys over 12, retained classic stereotypes of scientists.


Sandoval, W. A., & Reiser, B. J. (2004). Explanation-driven inquiry: Integrating conceptual and epistemic scaffolds for scientific inquiry. Science Education, 88(3), 345–372. doi:10.1002/sce.10130

The past 50 years have seen a change in how science is perceived, from an “unproblematic accumulation of facts that describe the world” to a much messier enterprise involving building and revising models and theories. In an effort to bring this new understanding to science teaching and learning, this foundational article presents a conceptual framework of how inquiry can be driven by cognitive tools that support disciplinary knowledge. The authors use rubrics to help students gain a deeper understanding of their work and of the inquiry process.




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