Talk Science Impact

Implications for Future Research

Our research indicates that the Talk Science program helped lay a foundation for developing teachers' knowledge, understandings, and practice as they participated in the program for the first time. This foundation provides an important springboard for teachers' professional learning, and points to other aspects of their learning that may benefit further from more careful and continued guidance. Specifically, teachers may need support for generating more dialogic science discussions in the classroom. Whereas teachers in our research recognized the value of discussions for fostering collective meaning-making, and began to utilize talk strategies to help students explicate their individual ideas and deepen their reasoning, the teachers less often used strategies that were designed to explicitly foster co-construction of scientific knowledge among students. Less attention was given to promoting active listening and thinking with peers' ideas. This finding was consistent with some of the interview responses, where Grade 5 teachers seldom pondered how they could guide their students to work with peers' ideas, and where Grade 4 teachers seldom described benefits of discussions or reported doing discussions in terms of students co-constructing scientific arguments and developing understandings together. Therefore, future research could explore ways of helping teachers to foster students' scientific reasoning through more dialogic, student-student exchanges during science lessons.

The research calls also for fostering an analytic stance among teachers to promote greater reflection on their professional development and on their students' learning. Across the multiple data we examined, there is limited evidence of teachers analyzing their practice and their students' understandings. For example, during study group meetings teachers seldom described issues and challenges in their own instruction to support students' scientific reasoning through discussions. Similarly, during interviews, teachers did not always ponder how they might improve their facilitation to generate more robust discussions, or how they might probe into and follow up on students' understandings about the science. Our findings suggest that teachers may need more help with reflecting on their practice to enhance their orchestration of classroom science discourse for students' learning.

The insights gained from this research inform future work on guiding teachers' professional learning. To promote deeper reflection among teachers, future iterations of the Talk Science program will aim at providing teachers with ongoing feedback from their own classrooms. Although teachers in the present program met regularly in study groups, they did not have continual evidence from their classroom interactions for sustained reflection and planning, and therefore may have found it difficult to analyze their instruction in the absence of objective feedback. Hence, in future research, we plan to provide teachers with video records of their own classroom interactions. The video records will offer objective, verifiable evidence of their own teaching and of their students' participation and reasoning during science discussions, and allow teachers to identify how they might lead rigorous, coherent science discussions to deepen students' learning.