CAREER: Teaching Elementary School Science as Argument (TESSA)

Project: Research project

Project Details


Renewed emphasis on scientific inquiry in school science has shifted attention from science as exploration and experiment to science as argument and explanation (NRC, 1996, p. 113). Increased interest in argumentation in school science stems from the potential to engage students in authentic scientific practices, situate knowledge in its original context, help students learn about science and scientific practices, and engage students reflective, sense-making activities that support meaningful science leaning. Unfortunately, argumentation practices in school science are rare, even more so in elementary school that high school. The reality is that most beginning elementary teachers have not learned science in this way and are unlikely to have the subject matter and pedagogical understandings and abilities needed to support children in giving priority to evidence and argument as part of their science learning experiences.

The Teaching Elementary School Science as Argument (TESSA) project is investigating the development of an electronic learning environment designed to support beginning teachers in learning science content and learning to teach science. These resources include an argument articulation component (i.e., tools for assisting prospective teachers in constructing evidence-based arguments as part of their science learning) and a teaching science as argument component (i.e., tools that explicitly connect prospective teachers' science learning experiences to the development of pedagogical knowledge and abilities for teaching science to children in ways that give priority to evidence and argument). TESSA resources are being integrated into science courses and science methods courses for prospective elementary teachers. In these contexts, we are examining how prospective teachers use the electronic resources and how the resources mediate participants' development as they learn to teach science as argument. Results of these design studies will inform the revision of TESSA resources, as well as modifications to course assignments and activities. In addition, the project is investigating two aspects of beginning teachers' learning: (a) how beginning teachers learn science concepts and learn about science as they engage in constructing evidence-based arguments, and (b) how beginning teachers learn to give priority to evidence and argument when teaching science to children. The differences in foci reflect distinctions in teacher knowledge (i.e., subject matter knowledge versus subject-specific pedagogy). These learning studies track beginning teachers over time, from a specialized life science course, to a science methods course that is part of an intensive, field-based, internship program, and finally into their first years of teaching. Continued research in this area will contribute to the development of substantial theory about learning to teach science as argument and how electronic resources support teacher development. This work is being undertaken with the assistance of science education graduate students who are receiving training in both science teacher education and research methods appropriate for studying teacher learning.

Effective start/end date3/1/032/28/09


  • National Science Foundation: $579,740.00


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