Howes, E. V., Lim, M., & Campos, J. (2009). Journeys into inquiry-based elementary science: Literacy practices, questioning, and empirical study. Science Education, 93(2), 189–217.
Combining science and literacy is becoming a common teaching strategy, which builds on the importance of professional scientists’ use of reading, writing, and speaking in their work. This paper consists of descriptions of efforts of three elementary teachers to teach literacy through science. The authors’ purpose was to theorize how and why to integrate literacy practices with scientific inquiry, to provide examples for educators, and to provide considerations for implementation, all of which may also be useful for informal educators.
Maulucci, M. (2010). Resisting the marginalization of science in an urban school: Coactivating social, cultural, material and strategic resources. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 47(7), 840–860.
Education reform efforts often focus on material supplies and teacher knowledge of science, but this article points out additional constraints that teachers face within their schools and how the teachers from one middle school overcame them. These constraints have implications for what the researcher calls “inertial forces” that may derail social justice efforts. An awareness of these issues can help ISE educators in their efforts to design and lead professional development programs that support teachers.
Xu, J., Coats, L., & Davidson, M. (2012). Promoting student interest in science: The perspectives of exemplary African American teachers. American Educational Research Journal, 49(1), 124–154.
This study investigated what exemplary African American science teachers do to develop interest in science among low-income African American elementary students. The researchers found three interrelated approaches:
1) Having a genuine interest—in science, in teaching, and in students’ lives
2) Scaffolding students’ interest in science
3) Offering multiple standpoints—many ways for students to engage
Berti, A. E., Toneatti, L., & Rosati, V. (2010). Children's conceptions about the origin of species: A study of Italian children's conceptions with and without instruction. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 19(4), 506–538.
This study examines how early elementary school-aged children develop theories of the origin of species. It may interest ISE educators who are developing strategies for engaging their audiences with theories and processes of evolution. The article provides background on the research literature about teaching and learning of evolution. The results of this study suggest that direct instruction or interactions with Darwinian models, even at a young age, can support children's understanding of evolutionary theory, and may be as important as developmental or cultural concerns already documented in the literature.
Kallery, M., Psillos, D., & Tselfes, V. (2009). Typical didactical activities in the Greek early-years science classroom: Do they promote science learning? International Journal of Science Education, 31(9), 1187—1204
In this paper the analysis of science lessons in early-years classrooms shows that the lessons did not promote scientific investigation or make connections between the ideas involved and the material world. Teacher directed scientific activities observed had limited value in terms of scientific inquiry and consequently did not foster the development of ideas or support the formation of hypotheses. The paper raises questions about how to best promote scientific practices, including through continuing professional development.
McGregor, D. (2012). Dramatising science learning: Findings from a pilot study to re-invigorate elementary science pedagogy for five- to seven-year olds. International Journal of Science Education, 34(8), 1145–1165.
Rather than enacting imaginative approaches, some teachers tend to engage in safe but unexciting transmission of science knowledge. This study examined a professional development programme wherein primary school teachers learned the skills and approaches of Dramatic Science. The findings indicate that the programme met its aim of helping teachers become more confident and creative in supporting children’s science learning.
Varelas, M., Pappas, C. C., Tucker-Raymond, E., Kane, J., Hankes, J., Ortiz, I., & Keblawe-Shamah, N. (2010). Drama activities as ideational resources for primary-grade children in urban science classrooms. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 47(3), 302-325.
ISE professionals can use this article as a source of ideas to guide thinking about what makes a successful dramatic experience for learners. Alternative, physical ways to engage science learners are often the most challenging to envision, effectively execute, and articulate how learning is fostered. The researchers and teachers in this study incorporated drama into science lessons to bring in fun, creativity, thinking, and imagination as part of classroom learning, and showed how the young students collectively represented the scientific world more accurately.
Kirch, S. A. (2009). Identifying and resolving uncertainty as a mediated action in science: A comparative analysis of the cultural tools used by scientists and elementary science students at work. Science Education, 95, 308–335.
This study compares scientific practices in a research laboratory and a second grade classroom. Through conversation analysis, the author found that in both settings similar processes were followed to establish a mutual understanding about what was seen, done and concluded in a collaborative investigation. The author shows how “mutual understanding” differs from “agreement,” and suggests ways to structure science inquiry activities that can engage young children with the tentative nature of science while helping them to resolve discrepant procedures, observations or interpretations.
Johnston, J. S. (2009). What does the skill of observation look like in young children? International Journal of Science Education, 31(18), 2511–2525.
Observation is a key skill in science. It is also an important initial skill in early learning. In this paper, Johnston examines the skill of observation in 56 children (4–11 years), asks how it influences other skills in science, and considers how it may be supported. The paper draws attention to that fact that in recent years primary science education has been about the acquisition of conceptual knowledge rather than key skills, and that this balance may not be justified. Of further interest to ISE practitioners is Johnston’s comments that contexts where children can observe natural phenomena, especially animals, have been found to produce positive effects on the development of children’s language, social skills, and attitudes.
Plummer, J. D. (2009). Early elementary students’ development of astronomy concepts in the planetarium. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 46(2), 192–209.
The participation in a single planetarium program that incorporated kinesthetic learning techniques improved students’ understanding of celestial motion. Even though this study is focused on astronomy and planetariums, it is of relevance to educators who interface with learners at single events or are working with schools to integrate or complement their informal education offerings with the formal curriculum.