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Teachers' Uses of Learning Progression-Based Tools for Reasoning in Teaching about Water in Environmental Systems

Abstract

"Learning progressions are a potentially powerful tool for supporting students in developing model-based reasoning. Using learning progressions to scaffold student learning in the classroom requires learning progression-based instructional resources. In this project we designed formative assessments and graphic reasoning tools that teachers could use across a variety of instructional sequences to elicit and respond to student thinking and engage students in activities that would support increasingly sophisticated reasoning about water in environmental systems. We used a quasi-experimental design to test these tools. Ten middle school teachers participated in a four-day workshop on integrating the tools into their instruction. Eight teachers who did not attend the workshop served as comparison teachers. We administered the Water Systems Learning Progression Assessment to students in all teachers' classes, pre and post instruction about water. Assessments were coded using the levels of achievement in the Water Systems Learning Progression. Overall, students in participant teachers' classes showed a significantly greater pre-post gain on the assessment than students in comparison teachers' classes (t(461) = 3.59, p <.01). Within the participant teacher group, we compared the teaching practices of a teacher with a large effect size on mean student gains with a teacher with no effect size. Both teachers targeted instruction at level 3 school science stories. However, the teacher with the large effect size engaged in practices that could lead to supporting model-based reasoning, while the teacher with no effect size did not. These findings suggest that while integrating learning progression-based reasoning tools into instruction may have a positive effect on student reasoning, the impact of these tools may depend on how teachers use the tools in their teaching practices."

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