What We Have Here is a Failure to Communicate: Evaluating Negotiation in an Elementary Science Classroom
Posted: Thursday, April 3rd, 2014
by Mason Kuhn
Engaging students in negotiation with their peers is considered a central motivation for recent national policy recommendations (National Research Council, 2011) and has been a focus of much scholarship in science education (e.g. Bergland and Reiser, 2009 & Hand, 2008). In the Next Generation Science Standards under the heading “Science and Engineering Practices,” the term “Engaging in Argument From Evidence” appears in almost every standard. However, most literature on negotiation focuses on theory, where little focuses on the topic of negotiation as related to science teaching and learning. The purpose of this paper is to present an approach to enhancing authentic student negotiation in a 4th grade classroom. The theoretical framework used by the teacher in this paper is the Science Writing Heuristic (SWH). The SWH is a writing-to-learn approach (Keys et al,1999) that helps a science classroom community to embed science negotiation as a core component of their inquiry experience.
Setting the Stage for Success
Many times the terms “argument” and “negotiation” are used as synonyms, but when you examine them more closely they are quite different. The meaning of the word argument can be confusing to students, especially younger children, because many times it carries a negative implication (Schoering & Hand, 2013). In an argument the goal is to win and opposing views are dismissed in fear that the other person will gain ground and be the victor. Negotiation does not have these negative connotations; in a negotiation people work together to shape and improve ideas (Schoering & Hand, 2013). An argument can be thought of as a divisive activity where a negotiation can be thought of as a collaborative event. It is important to differentiate between scientific negotiation and typical arguing that goes on between people, which is seldom based on empirical evidence and usually involves opinions, beliefs and emotion. The purpose of a dispute is for one person’s point of view to prevail over another’s. In scientific negotiation, however, explanations are generated, verified, communicated, debated, and modified. So, a critical first step in creating a classroom climate contusive to negotiation is to ensure to your students that all initial thoughts are valid and welcome.
Negotiation in the Classroom
According to the National Research Council (2009): “Students come to the classroom with preconceptions about how the world works. If their understanding is not engaged, they may fail grasp new concepts and information presented in the classroom.” (p.2) Long gone is the belief that students come to the classroom as an empty vessel waiting patiently to be filled with knowledge by the teacher. But what do teachers do with these preconceptions that the students bring? Many teachers elect to have their students fill out a KWL chart, then simply move on to the next step in their unit plan. The SWH approach differs because it asks students to do something with those preconceptions. Typically, teachers prepare an activity to elicit big ideas and concepts from their students. There are a variety of different activities that could be used to start a unit (i.e. thought experiments, journal writing, mini-activities, PWIM, etc.). The type of activity is not important; the critical component of the activity is that it will expose the students’ ideas. An example I recently used was a mini-activity to observe the students’ conceptual understanding of Next Generation Science Standard 4-PS4-2.”Develop a model to describe that light reflecting from objects and entering the eye allows objects to be seen.” Students were asked to get in pairs and complete the “Shrinking Pupil” activity.
Each student filled out a worksheet asking them to try to explain what happened during the experiment, and how they believe the interaction between eye, light, and object are related. The teacher’s role during this part of the lesson was not to provide the correct answer; instead, after individual writing and small group discussions, the teacher asked students to find others in the classroom who had similar beliefs. Once the students found some “conceptual friends” the teacher set the stage for student-to-student negotiation. Interestingly, in this experiment there was an almost 50/50 split of students who held the correct conception (light reflects off an object and then enters the eye) and a misconception (light enters the eye and then projects out to see the object). The students were then given a day to research their claims using a worksheet and access to the computer lab to search for evidence.
Someone not familiar with this approach of engaging learners may ask: “Why don’t you just tell the students which concept is correct?” Existing views in philosophy of science propose a more effective model of conceptual change. Posner et al. (1982) view conceptual change as the process whereby a learner’s existing beliefs change over the course of that person’s experience with established concepts. If the learner is adding new knowledge to the framework that is not radical but rather extends or strengthens the framework, then it is considered to be assimilated into the existing framework (Norton-Meier, Hand, Hockenberry, & Wise, 2008). Accommodation is a process where students must replace or reorganize their central concepts (Posner et al., 1982). Once prior knowledge conflicts with existing conceptions, and then it cannot become credible or useful until the learner becomes dissatisfied with their old conceptions (Hewson, 1992). In the classroom example the two groups could be described as a group going through the process of assimilation and a group in need of accommodation. Simply telling the group in need of accommodation that they are wrong will not raise the new concept to a status that holds more weight than their current belief. In my experience having students research their claim and negotiating with their peers has been an effective way to promote accommodation. The teacher can facilitate the research day in a number of ways, for example, schedule a trip to the computer lab to search the internet, provide the students with a packet of information, or pick out books that highlight the correct concepts. A “Check with the Experts” page is used in the experiment.
The public negotiation has the potential to raise the status of the new concept for the accommodation group and help the assimilation group generalize their understanding of the concept because it 1) Gives the students ownership of their learning 2) Lets them act like actual scientists (backing claims with evidence) 3) Negotiation with peers makes the outcome of the argument more plausible than simply being told by the teacher (Kuhn, 2010). The entire lesson plan for this unit and many others aligned to the Next Generation Science Standards can be found at www.waverlyshellrockswh.weebly.com.
Berland, L. K., & Reiser, B. J. (2009). Making sense of argumentation and explanation. Science Education, 93(1), 26-55.
Hand, B. (2008). Introducing the science writing heuristic approach. In B. Hand (Ed.), Science inquiry, argument and language: A case for the science writing heuristic. Rotterdam, The Netherlands: Sense Publishers.
Hewson. P. W. (1992). Conceptual change in science teaching and teacher education. Paper presented at a meeting on “Research and Curriculum Development in Science Teaching,” under the auspices of the National Center for Educational Research, Documentation, and Assessment, Ministry for Education and Science, Madrid, Spain.
Keys, C., Hand, B., Prain, V., & Collins, S. (1999). Using the science writing heuristic as a tool for learning from laboratory investigations in secondary school. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 36(10), 1065 – 1084.
Kuhn, D. (2010). Teaching and learning science as argument. Science Education, 94(5),1–15.
Posner, G., Strike, K. A., Hewson, P.W., & Gertzog, W.A. (1982) Accommodation of a scientific conception: Toward a theory of conceptual change. Science Education. 66(2), 211-27.
Schoering, E. & Hand, B. (2013). Using Language Positively. How to Encourage Negotiation in the Classroom. Science and Children. 50 (9) p. 52-57.
National Research Council. (2009). How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School. Commission on Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education National Research Council. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.
National Research Council. (2011). A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas. Committee on a Conceptual Framework for New K-12 Science Education Standards. Board on Science Education, Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.
Next Generation Science Standards (2013). For States, By States. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
Norton-Meier, L., Hand, B., Hockenberry, L., & Wise, K. (2008). Questions, claims, and evidence: The important place of argument in children’s science writing. National Science Teacher Association Press.
Mason Kuhn is a 4th Grade Teacher at Shell Rock Elementary. Shell Rock, Iowa and is an EdD. Student at the University of Northern Iowa
Posted: Wednesday, October 12th, 2016
by Jessica Sawko
In June 2016 California submitted a waiver application to discontinue using the old CST (based on 1998 standards) and conduct two years of pilot and field tests (in spring 2017 and 2018, respectively) of the new science assessment designed to support our state’s current science standards (California Next Generation Science Standards (CA-NGSS) adopted in 2013). The waiver was requested because no student scores will be provided as a part of the pilot and field tests. The CDE received a response from the U.S. Department of Education (ED) on September 30, 2016, which provides the CDE the opportunity to resubmit a revised waiver request within 60 days. The CDE will be revising the waiver request and resubmitting as ED suggested.
At its October 2016 North/South Assessment meetings CDE confirmed that there will be no administration of the old CST in the spring of 2017. (An archive of the meeting is available at http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/tg/ai/infomeeting.asp.) Learn More…
Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016
by Carol Peterson
1) To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, Google has put together a collection of virtual tours combining 360-degree video, panoramic photos and expert narration. It’s called “The Hidden Worlds of the National Parks” and is accessible right from the browser. You can choose from one of five different locales, including the Kenai Fjords in Alaska and Bryce Canyon in Utah, and get a guided “tour” from a local park ranger. Each one has a few virtual vistas to explore, with documentary-style voiceovers and extra media hidden behind clickable thumbnails. Ideas are included for use in classrooms. https://www.engadget.com/2016/08/25/google-offers-360-degree-tours-of-us-national-parks/. Learn More…
Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016
CSTA is pleased to announce the winners of the 2016 CSTA Awards for Distinguished Contributions, Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award, 2014 and 2015 PAEMST-Science recipients from California, and the 2016 California PAEMST Finalists. The following individuals and organizations will be honored during the 2016 California Science Education Conference on October 21- 23 in Palm Springs. This year’s group of awardees are truly outstanding. Please join us in congratulating them!
Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award
The Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award honors an individual who has made a significant contribution to science education in the state and who, through years of leadership and service, has truly made a positive impact on the quality of science teaching. This year’s recipient is John Keller, Ph.D. Dr. Keller is Associate Professor, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Co-Director, Center for Engineering, Science, and Mathematics Education, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. In her letter of recommendation, SDSU science education faculty and former CSTA board member Donna Ross wrote: “He brings people together who share the desire to make a difference in the development and implementation of programs for science teaching. Examples of these projects include the Math and Science Teaching Initiative (MSTI), Noyce Scholars Program, Western Regional Noyce Initiative, and the Science Teacher and Researcher (STAR) program.” Through his work, he has had a dramatic impact on science teacher education, both preservice and in-service, in California, the region, and the country. He developed and implemented the STEM Teacher and Researcher Program which aims to produce excellent K-12 STEM teachers by providing aspiring teachers with opportunities to do authentic research while helping them translate their research experience into classroom practice. SFSU faculty member Larry Horvath said it best in his letter:“John Keller exemplifies the best aspects of a scientist, science educator, and mentor. His contributions to science education in the state of California are varied, significant, and I am sure will continue well into the future.” Learn More…
Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016
by Peter A’hearn
NGSS is a big shift. Teachers need to learn new content, figure out how this whole engineering thing relates to science, and develop new unit and lesson plans. How could NGSS possibly make life easier?
The idea that NGSS could make our lives easier came to me during the California State NGSS Rollout #1 Classroom Example lesson on chromatography. I have since done this lesson with high school chemistry students and it made me think back to having my own students do chromatography. I spent lots of time preparing to make sure the experiment went well and achieved the “correct” result. I pre-prepared the solutions and organized and prepped the materials. I re-wrote and re-wrote again the procedure so there was no way a kid could get it wrong. I spent 20 minutes before the lab modeling all of the steps in class, so there was no way to do it wrong. Except that it turns out there were many. Learn More…
Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016
by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller. Graph of evening planet setting times by Dr. Jeffrey L. Hunt
Our evening twilight chart for September, depicting the sky about 40 minutes after sunset from SoCal, shows brilliant Venus remaining low, creeping from W to WSW and gaining a little altitude as the month progresses. Its close encounter within 2.5° N of Spica on Sept. 18 is best seen with binoculars to catch the star low in bright twilight. The brightest stars in the evening sky are golden Arcturus descending in the west, and blue-white Vega passing just north of overhead. Look for Altair and Deneb completing the Summer Triangle with Vega. The triangle of Mars-Saturn-Antares expands as Mars seems to hold nearly stationary in SSW as the month progresses, while Saturn and Antares slink off to the SW. Learn More…