TESSA: Teaching Elementary School Science as Argument
The first phase of research involved initial implementation of the framework for teaching science as argument in the science methods course (Zembal-Saul, in press). Our goal was to characterize the ways in which preservice teachers made sense of science teaching. TESSA case responses were the primary source of data. Findings allowed us to propose a continuum for teaching science as argument. Most preservice teachers made initial shifts from activity-based to fair tests and a focus on evidence. However, few preservice teachers advanced to coordinating evidence with claims as a central activity in school science.
The next phase of research involved the implementation of a refined framework for teaching science as argument in the elementary science methods course (Zembal-Saul, in press, 2005). Our goal was to track the appropriation of aspects of the framework across the methods course. Again, TESSA case responses served as the primary source of data. Findings suggested that many interns began explaining science teaching using the following ideas: investigations provide data for argument construction; classroom discourse plays a central role in science learning; the goal of science talk is to negotiate consensus; and the teachers’ role is to monitor and assess students’ thinking, which is possible because of public discourse.
The third phase of research involved examining how TESSA cases mediate the uptake of aspects of framework over time (Zembal-Saul, in press, 2007). Ultimately we hoped to explain the influence of aspects of the framework on initial science teaching practices. Therefore, video recordings of preservice teachers’ science instruction and responses to TESSA cases served as primary data sources. There was strong evidence that teacher reflection videos influenced the uptake of aspects of the framework. In addition, particular cases had a strong influence on the uptake of aspects of the framework (e.g., role of conflict in learning). Finally, there was a high level of coherence among uptake of framework components and initial teaching practices.
Finally, we followed a subset of preservice teachers from their elementary science methods course into their student teaching experiences (Barreto, 2009). These student teachers responded weekly to a protocol for reflecting on their science teaching. Responses to the protocol were audio recorded. Findings suggested that (1) emphasis on evidence and explanation in their teaching was influenced by opportunities to plan and teach lessons in which children interacted directly with phenomena and collected data first-hand; (2) student teachers continued to see science talks as essential in aiding learners in constructing evidence-based explanations and making meaning of science concepts; (3) a focus on teaching science as argument prompted student teachers to attend to important science content, as well as engaging children in scientific inquiry; (4) responding to the reflection protocols themselves positively influenced student teachers’ attention to giving priority to the construction of evidence-based explanations in their science teaching; (5) student teachers’ beliefs about children’s capabilities influenced their attention to certain aspects of the framework.
Zembal-Saul, C. (in press). Learning to teach elementary school science as argument. Science Education.
Barreto, R. (2009). Teaching science as argument: Prospective elementary teachers’ knowledge. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. Penn State University: University Park, PA.
Zembal-Saul, C. (2007, August). Evidence and explanation as a lens for learning to teach elementary school science as argument. Paper presented at the European Science Education Research Association (ESERA) meeting, Malmo, Sweden.
Hershberger, K., Zembal-Saul, C., & Starr, M. (2006). Evidence helps the KLW get a KLEW. Science & Children, 43(5), 50-53.
Zembal-Saul, C. (2005, April). Preservice teachers’ understanding of teaching elementary school science as argument. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the National Association for Research in Science Teaching (NARST), Dallas, TX.
Zembal-Saul, C., Haefner, L., Mitchell, K., Richardson, N. & Barreto, R. (2005, January). Supporting the development of argumentation pedagogy for elementary school science. Demonstration session at the annual meeting of the Association for the Education of Teachers of Science (AETS), Colorado Springs, CO.
This project will generate the following products: TESSA online video-based cases; an online system for disseminating cases and collecting written responses from participants; and research findings to be disseminated within the science education community.