Providing all children with access to high quality science instruction looms large as one of the most pressing issues that teachers, education researchers and policymakers must address in the coming 15 years.
Professor Mark Windschitl of the University of Washington College of Education, co-author of the chapter on science education in the American Educational Research Association's influential new Handbook of Research on Teaching (being published in conjunction with its 2016 annual meeting), said equity must be purposefully infused in the everyday act of science teaching.
"The issue of equity is essential," Windschitl said. "How we ensure all children can both learn from and participate in the disciplinary activities of science in the classroom is a significant matter for our field and for society."
Windschitl's chapter "Rigor and Equity by Design: Locating a Set of Core Teaching Practices for the Science Education Community" offers a retrospective on the past 15 to 30 years of research into science teaching, current trends in the field, new challenges in science education, and a look ahead at the most important questions researchers should pursue and policymakers must understand.
"We've learned so much about the capabilities of children," Windschitl said. "We know now that children bring enormous resources with them from their everyday life into the classroom. If teachers could only tap into those resources, science teaching could be transformed."
He noted that while science education is much more hands-on than in previous generations, more work must be done to help teachers translate action into understanding.
"Teachers generally struggle to engage students in meaningful sense making of that activity," Windschitl said.
He and fellow UW College of Education professor Jessica Thompson are currently working to change that and expand opportunities for students in under-resourced schools through their Ambitious Science Teaching project, which includes dimensions of both rigor and equity.
Through the project, UW is partnering with a number of teachers and teaching coaches in Puget Sound area districts to develop innovative practices in teaching.
"We're seeing kinds of teaching you don't see much in America," Windschitl said. "We see kids and teachers talking about students' ideas as serious science ideas, students being able to represent their ideas in terms of scientific models, students being able to argue about science in productive and disciplinary-specific ways, designing productive investigations, all these things we want to see our students achieve and are in line with Next Generation Science Standards."
Windschitl will discuss his chapter during AERA 2016 on April 10 at 2:45 p.m. in the Washington Convention Center.
Mark Windschitl, Professor of Education
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