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The Talk Science research investigates how teachers develop their capacity at leading productive science discussions to foster students’ scientific reasoning. The research examines changes in teachers’ attitudes, knowledge, and practice as they participate in a sustained professional development program.
Talk Science is a NSF funded research and development project to enhance elementary science teachers’ facilitation of productive science discussions in classrooms to promote students’ scientific reasoning. The project is based on the premise that aligning teachers’ professional learning with a conceptually–driven curriculum (The Inquiry Project) by providing teachers with resources to deepen their understanding of core disciplinary ideas in science, and to develop their skills at orchestrating productive discussions will change the culture of classroom talk.
The Talk Science research investigates how teachers develop their practice at facilitating productive science discussions to promote students’ scientific reasoning. In our research, we focus on identifying how teachers participate in the Talk Science professional development program, and on examining changes in teachers’ understandings of the nature and importance of science discussions in the classroom; changes in teachers’ understanding of the core scientific ideas in the curriculum; and changes in teachers’ practice at implementing science discussions in their classroom. To study the various aspects of teachers’ professional learning, we draw on multiple sources of data: teachers’ study group meetings to understand how they engage with the professional development resources; interviews to examine changes in teachers’ attitudes towards classroom discussions, and in their understanding of core disciplinary ideas from the curriculum; and recordings of classroom discussions to identify the changes in teachers’ facilitation of and students’ participation in classroom talk.
We address the following questions in our research:
- How do teachers’ understandings of the nature and importance of science talk and their skills at orchestrating it change as they participate in the Talk Science Professional Pathway while implementing the Inquiry Curriculum?
- How do teachers’ understanding of the core science concepts in the Inquiry Curriculum change as they participate in the Talk Science Professional Pathway while implementing the Inquiry Curriculum?
- How does student talk (amount and quality of scientific reasoning and co-construction with peers) change from early to late as their teachers participate in Talk Science Professional Pathway while implementing the Inquiry Curriculum?
- How do classroom discourse patterns change as a result of changes in the teachers’ actions? That is, do we see less I–R–E recitation and more evidence–based reasoning and argument?
Our work draws on a body of research on promoting academically productive, accountable talk in the classroom (Chapin, Anderson, & O'Connor, 2009; Michaels, O'Connor, & Resnick, 2002; Resnick, Michaels, & O'Connor, 2011). The Talk Science program presents teachers with a web–enabled collection of multimedia resources focused on promoting productive, teacher–guided science discussions. The web resources are aligned with the Inquiry Project curriculum units for Grades 4 and 5. The resources consist of a series of videos of scientists reasoning and talking about the scientific phenomena that students investigate through the curriculum; of classroom cases to provide teachers with opportunities to see productive science discussions in action in another teacher’s classroom; and of cases providing teachers with the background needed to understand the nature and importance of productive classroom science talk, and a collection of strategies to support productive talk in their classroom. In the Talk Science program, teachers study the web resources independently, and meet in face–to–face study groups with grade–level colleagues to discuss the web resources, and to plan for and reflect on their classroom practice.
Here we present briefly findings from our research on how teachers participate in the Talk Science program, and how they develop their understandings and practice at supporting productive science discussions.
Chapin, S., Anderson, N., & O'Connor, C. (2009). Classroom Discussions: Using Math Talk to Help Students Learn, 2nd edition. Sausalito, CA: Math Solutions.
Michaels, S. & O'Connor, M.C., with L. Resnick. (2002). Accountable Talk: Classroom Conversation that Works. Electronic Book on CD-ROM published by the Institute for Learning, LRDC, University of Pittsburgh.
Resnick, L.B., Michaels, S., & O'Connor, C. (2011). How (well structured) talk builds the mind. In R. Sternberg & D. Preiss (Eds.), From Genes to Context: New Discoveries about Learning from Educational Research and Their Applications, pp. 163-194. New York: Springer.