The Common Core Standards call for students to engage in literacy practices across the content areas. I am providing the STEM Writing Template as a model so that students can write to learn science.
The following is a workshop agenda.
STEM Writing Template (Adapted from Keys et. al, (1999:1067-1069) and also Hand, Prain and Wallace (2003:20-22)
The template provides a routine or procedure, a short-cut, if you will. By following the spirit as well as the letter of the template, you will have a classroom routine which supports students’ inquiry learning of STEM subjects.
We will conduct the Jet Straw design activity as if we were a class of K-12 students. As we turn to spaghetti bridge building, we will follow the Teacher Template.
1. Beginning ideas – What are my questions?
2. Tests and Experiments – What did I do?
3. Observations – What did I see, hear, smell, feel? (Probably don’t ask students to taste.) How did I measure what I observed?
4. Claims – What can I claim as a result of my observations?
5. Evidence – How do I know? Why am I making these claims?
6. Conferences, Science or Math Talks, Reading and Instruction – How do my ideas compare with other ideas?
7. Reflection – How have my beginning ideas changed?
8. Redesign or Extension – How can I use my new ideas to improve my design (engineering) or investigate something new?
–Hand, Prain & Wallace (2003:21).
1. Beginning ideas: Students beginning ideas do not come from thin air, but from their prior experiences. In addition, students should have the opportunity to “mess around” with the materials in order to come up with questions and ideas. It is crucial to the process that the teacher does not tell students what questions they should have. In order to accomplish your learning goals, you choose the materials and task carefully. Direct instruction can occur in Step 6, after the students have had a chance to think about the implications of the activity. When scientists are beginning their investigations, they also use what they already know, and play around to get a feel for what kinds of questions might be interesting.
2. Tests and Experiments: Students will choose how to answer their questions. Because you have provided them with a task, and materials to use the tests students perform will be scaffolded. The teacher’s job is to consult with students to make sure they are designing studies that will answer their questions. You should also encourage students to collect quantitative data, and support them in this process by asking questions. It is crucial to the process that the teacher does not tell students what tests they should carry out. If there are flaws in testing procedures, discuss them in Step 6. The decision about how to design an experiment is part of the creative process of science.
3. Observations: Students will record data in a manner that makes sense to them. It is crucial to the process that the teacher does not tell students how to record data. If students’ data collection is problematic, discuss issues in Step 6. In Step 6 students will discuss the adequacy of designs with one another. On the other hand, this is an excellent point at which to introduce science or mathematics concepts.
4. Claims: This step is likely to be difficult for many students, especially if they are accustomed to being told what they are supposed to think. This step is actually difficult for scientists! Figuring out what data means is one of the major activities of science. The question of what data means is often not obvious. It is crucial to the process that the teacher does not tell students the correct answer at this point.
5. Evidence: This is the heart of what we want students to be able to do: Use data to support claims. It is crucial to the process that the teacher pushes students to think about what their data means and turn it into evidence. In fact, most of the conversation the teacher has with individuals and small groups should have the purpose of getting students to make sense of their findings.
6. Conferences, Science or Math Talks, Reading, and Instruction:
a. Conferences: Student groups will present their findings to the class. In order for presentations to be meaningful, students’ presentations should not all be the same, and every student should have an investment in getting the information which is provided by the different groups. In terms of engineering design challenges, this can mean distributing variables to be tested, with the class listening attentively, pointing out flaws in experimental design or data analysis.
b. Science or Math Talks: The teacher provides a prompt which asks students to make sense of the activities they have completed. The students talk with each other; the teacher steps in only when the conversation bogs down.
c. Reading: Students read textbooks or other reference material about the topic they have been investigating.
d. Instruction: The teacher explains any concepts which students are still unclear about or which have been missed in the student-centered process.
7. Reflection. Students revisit their journal entries and write about how their ideas have changed. It is crucial to the process that this opportunity for reflective inquiry be included.
Partial Research Base
This STEM Writing Template comes from several strands of research, although the work of Keys, Hand, Prain, Wallace et al. is its basis.
Hand, B., Prain, V., & Wallace, C. (2002). Influences of writing tasks on students’ answers to recall and higher-level test questions. Journal of Research in Science Education 32, 19-34.
Keys, C. W., Hand, B., Prain, V., & Collins, S. (1999). Using the science writing heuristic as a tool for learning from laboratory investigations in secondary science, Journal of Research In Science Teaching, 36, 1065-1084.
Keys C. W. (1997). Revitalizing instruction in scientific genres: Connecting knowledge production with writing to learn in science. Science Education, 83, 115-130.
Kolodner, J. L.; Camp, P. J.; Crismond, D.; Fasse, B.; Gray, J. H.; & Puntambekar, S.; et al. (2003). Problem-based learning meets case-based reasoning in the middle-school science classroom: Putting Learning by DesignTM into practice. The Journal of the Learning Sciences, 12, 495-547. Retrieved May 25, 2010, from http://www.its-about-time.com/htmls/pbis/pbllbd.pdf
Warren, B., & Rosebery, A. (2011). Navigating interculturality: African American male students and the science classroom. Journal of African American Males in Education, 2(1). Accessed June 8, 2012 at http://journalofafricanamericanmales.com/wp-content/uploads/downloads/2011/03/Navigating-Interculturality.pdf.
This template contains a series of suggested activities to involve students in meaningful learning activities. More precisely, we can defined it as socio-constructivist pedagogical scenario to promote laboratory understanding. Teacher’s are of course encouraged to adapt it to their local context.
1. Exploration of pre-instruction understanding through individual or group concept mapping.
2. Pre-laboratory activities, including informal writing, making observations, brainstorming, and posing questions.
3. Participation in laboratory activity.
4. Negotiation phase I – writing personal meanings for laboratory activity. (For example, writing journals.)
5. Negotiation phase II – sharing and comparing data interpretations in small groups. (For example, making group charts.)
6. Negotiation phase III – comparing science ideas to textbooks for other printed resources. (For example, writing group notes in response to focus questions.)
7. Negotiation phase IV – individual reflection and writing. (For example, creating a presentation such as a poster or report for a larger audience.)
8. Exploration of post-instruction understanding through concept mapping.
Hand, Prain and Wallace (2003:20)