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Topic: "MSPnet Academy: Responsive Teaching and the Complexity of Learning Science"

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MSPnet Academy Discussion
December 12 - December 23, 2011

David Hammer, Professor of Education and Physics, and Co-Director of the Center for Engineering Education and Outreach, at Tufts University

This webinar will consider the rich dynamics evident in a moment of third-grade student inquiry about motion -- including the complex interactions among students' conceptual knowledge, and how they frame and feel about what is taking place. From there the discussion will turn to the challenges for teachers of recognizing and responding to these dynamics, and what sorts of experiences could help prepare them to meet those challenges.

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Welcome to the discussion, "Responsive Teaching and the Complexity of Learning Science"

posted by: David Hammer on 12/12/2011 2:47 pm

Hi - welcome to the discussion board - go ahead and post comments, questions, whatever. Thanks!

post moderated on 12/12/2011

Relational history

posted by: Jen Richards on 12/13/2011 12:31 pm

I love this clip of Sharon and Kirven's interactions, and I find myself wondering what their interactions have been like before this moment. It is entirely plausible that the joy and excitement we see is in part (or even mostly!) specific to the substance of this moment -- the snowball analogy, that Kirven is authoring his own ideas, etc. But this moment is also set against the backdrop of a relational history between Sharon and Kirven, and I'm wondering in what ways that factors into what we see here.


posted by: David Hammer on 12/14/2011 6:50 am

Hi Jen -

Well, I hear two parts to your question. Part is to say this moment came out of and reflects Kirven's and Sharon's earlier relationship- absolutely! E.g. we can see in this clip that the kids have a lot of freedom to move about and do things other than the ostensible task (writing in journals!). There's a history of children's ideas and initiations becoming the focus of discussions and investigations. There's also one of respect for kids as doers and thinkers - e.g. Sharon's sending the girl off to figure out the answer to her problem.

The other part of what I think you're asking is about evidence. What supports or should support the claim that Kirven was excited (or joyful-now I wonder if that's the right word?) about his idea. Or that Sharon was. What I see is that he starts "dancing" at the same time that he articulates that idea, and that Sharon starts smiling just as he's completing his sentence. It's plausible that some other exciting thought has just occurred to him, and with more data than this moment you might see evidence of something else...?

post updated by the author 12/14/2011

Where do the questions come from?

posted by: Brian Drayton on 12/13/2011 7:56 am

It is always interesting to think about classroom vignettes, and I like your reminder, David, about bearing in mind the multiple dimensions of every such event. A propos of which, I was fascinated by the conversation between the teacher and student as a text, that is, as a mutually constructed discourse. In particular, it seemed to me, the teacher was supplying the questions, and maintaining the logical consistency, or building up the sequence of the reasoning. I would be curious to know how the habit of asking questions is supported, in Sharon's teaching or anyone else's? This seems related in some way also to the mystery that you alluded to, of the "version" of science that seems dominant in the minds of high school students...

student questions and teacher questions

posted by: David Hammer on 12/14/2011 6:26 am

Hi Brian" I should have been more clear about this interaction! It came on the last of 14 days of activity, almost of of which was dominated by student generated questions and ideas. It wasn't until the very end that the topic became explicitly about "energy" "a student had used the word in his "journal," and Sharon had asked everyone about it.

So this was a "let me check if I've understood what you've been saying" moment, Sharon asking Kirven.

Actually, Fred, Sharon and I have a paper under review about this class. I've posted a draft of that here: .pdf

practices of science

posted by: Kenneth Huff on 12/19/2011 2:04 pm

Hello David,
Thank you for posting a draft of your accompanying journal article. I found that in reading the document the content of the webinar became more meaningful especially how Sharon's questions promoted student learning both conceptually and epistemologically.

I also appreciate the emphasis on this work to engage students in the practices of science. As a member of the Writing Team for the Next Generation Science Standards I am particularly interested in how you believe your work aligns with the NRC Conceptual Framework for K-12 Science Education and the subsequent standards being developed from this document.
Best regards,
Kenneth Huff

practices of science, and concepts, and feelings!

posted by: David Hammer on 12/19/2011 9:36 pm

Thanks Kenneth --

And thanks for the question. In general I think it aligns pretty well, mainly in the increased emphasis in the Framework on disciplinary practices as central targets of instruction. So Kirven was entering into disciplinary practices, which we should support.

But the framework doesn't quite get to the complexity of the interaction among practices and concepts, which I think we did a better job describing in the paper than I got to do in the webinar. So, Kirven was both learning a kind of conversation to have and building ideas within that kind of conversation... and there's a complex interaction between them, such that his having this wrong idea was productive for his taking up the practices, which will be productive for his having more ideas...

And what I really wanted to get to in the webinar was how it's more complex still in Kirven's agency. He's not having this idea because it will score him points on a rubric, or because someone told him he's supposed to "he's having this idea out of his own interest and desire and initiative. So in that sense he is the agent of his learning; he is taking up the pursuit. My advisee Lama Jaber has taught me this, the substantive role of affect in students' agency: He is feeling what a scientist feels, in this moment, and I think she's right that that needs more explicit focus. (Another advisee, Jen Richards, is thinking about how teachers notice and consider students' affect...)