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Science Learning Progressions

时间:2013-01-27 03:56:41  来源:  作者:

Education Forum
Science Education
Science Learning Progressions
Ravit Golan Duncan1,*, Ann E. Rivet2
1Graduate School of Education, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ 08901, USA.
2Teachers College, Columbia University, New York, NY 10027, USA.
↵*Author for correspondence. E-mail: ravit.duncan@gse.rutgers.edu
Guided by the 2011 U.S. National Research Council framework for science education (1), the most recent draft of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) is briefly open for public comment (2). Key goals of this effort (3) include (i) reducing coverage to a select set of "big ideas" (e.g., atomic molecular theory, biodiversity, energy); (ii) providing a progression to facilitate coherence in learning of these ideas over the course of schooling; and (iii) promoting a practice-oriented approach to inquiry-based science learning.

This reform of standards is meant not merely to update content, but to shift the way U.S. kindergarten through high school (K–12) science education is conceptualized and implemented. The NGSS reflect an evolved vision of inquiry-based learning, emphasizing science as a knowledge-building endeavor. An improvement over prior science education standards (4), the NGSS are embedded in learning progressions (LPs)—research-based cognitive models of how learning of scientific concepts and practices unfolds over time. This stresses coherence in the conceptual growth of scientific reasoning across grades.

We discuss the theory and implications of the LP approach underlying the NGSS. We highlight key features of LPs and examine some challenges that accompany development and validation of these constructs.

Reframing the Science Content
Embodying a developmental approach to learning, LPs describe paths by which students might develop more sophisticated ways of reasoning over extended periods of time (5–7). LPs begin with consideration of learners' prior knowledge and build toward targeted learning goals through carefully designed instruction. These progressions define intermediate levels in students' understanding, derived, where possible, from research on student learning.

A feature of LPs, reflected in the NGSS's guiding framework (1), is that core disciplinary concepts are built and refined through engagement with the practices of scientific inquiry. The framework views scientific inquiry as a theory-building enterprise that uses systematic and evidence-based approaches to create models that explain the world around us (8). Scientists develop these models within a community with socially constructed and continually negotiated epistemological norms regarding what is knowable, how best to come to know it, and what counts as knowing (9). Such norms, often implicit, guide core scientific practices such as research design, data analysis, modeling, and argumentation and are thus critical to the development of valid and reliable scientific knowledge. The trio of concepts, practices, and epistemology is at the heart of the efforts to revise K–12 science standards.

The educational system includes LPs, classroom and large-scale assessments, and the curricula and instruction that drive learning. Assessment plays a major role in the development, validation, and use of LPs. Progressions in turn can inform science standards and are implemented through curricula and classroom instruction. Much of the research on LPs is in its infancy, and current models are largely conjectural owing to gaps in the research base. Nevertheless, they offer a productive starting place for developing standards, curricula, and assessments.

Leveraging Stepping-Stone Ideas
LPs differ from current descriptions of scope and sequence in two important ways. First, to the extent possible, they are grounded in research regarding how students actually come to understand core ideas in science rather than relying solely on normative knowledge in the domain. This is critical because intermediate steps in a LP may include understandings that vary from the canonical knowledge of science. Second, as opposed to adding more information or details over time, LPs focus on deepening understandings and developing increased complexity, applicability, and epistemological rigor with each learning opportunity.

Stepping-stone understandings on the LP path toward targeted knowledge in a domain can be substantially different from accepted scientific concepts. For example, at the middle school–level, students should understand genetic information as specifying the structure (and consequently, the function) of proteins (10). Such a conception, while grossly incomplete, is a highly productive intermediary that allows students to explain how genes bring about their observable effects. Similarly, establishing weight as a property of matter is important in early grades, necessary to understanding that even invisible things (e.g., gases and atoms) have weight (11). This targeted understanding conflates weight with a more scientific notion of mass, but serves as a productive step toward developing a full understanding of the particulate nature of matter in later grades. The term "mass" is meaningless to young learners and using it does not help them understand this concept.

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