Winning Strategies for Test Taking, Grades 3-8: A Practical Guide for Teaching Test Preparation

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Typically, activities are introduced to make students aware of their initial ideas and that there may be a conceptual problem that needs to be solved.


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A variety of techniques may be useful in this regard. Students may be asked to make a prediction about an event and give reasons for their prediction, a technique that activates their initial ideas and makes students aware of them. Class discussion of the range of student predictions emphasizes alternative ways of thinking about the event, further highlighting the conceptual level of analysis and creating a need to resolve the discrepancy. Conceptual change shares several of the features of problem-based learning described above. In conceptual change approaches, teachers make complex scientific problems meaningful to students from the outset of study and integrate multiple strands of proficiency.

They then provide students with pieces of the problem that will allow them to make incremental progress in understanding a large, complex area of science over weeks or months. The problems—whether practical, applied, or conceptual—require the integration and coordination of multiple ideas and aspects of scientific practice. Research on these varied approaches to teaching science as practice reveals promising results. First, there is much evidence that, with appropriate support, students engage in the inquiry, use the tools of science, and succeed in complex scientific practices.

For example, students engaged in problem-based learning succeed in working with complex primary data sets. They can use scientific visualization tools to analyze primary data sets of atmospheric data and explain patterns of climate change Edelson, ; Edelson, Gordin, and Pea, There is also some evidence that these project-based experiences can help students learn scientific practices.

Kolodner et al. Students in project-based science classrooms performed better than comparison students on designing fair tests, justifying claims with evidence, and generating explanations. They also exhibited more negotiation and collaboration in their group work and a greater tendency to monitor and evaluate their work Kolodner et al.

Conceptual change researchers have found that across the K grade span, involving children in cycles of model-based reasoning can be a highly effective means of building their deeper conceptual understandings of core scientific principles Brown and Clement, ; Lehrer et al. Problem-based approaches have demonstrated that students succeed in learning complex scientific content as represented in state and national standards, using assessments like the National Assessment of Educational Progress NAEP and standardized state tests.

For example, Rivet and Krajcik found that students in a lower income urban district achieved significant gains in both science content e. There is also some evidence of the scalability of the approach. Marx and his colleagues examined the learning gains for 4 project-based units enacted in a school district across 3 years. Again, using curriculum-based test items designed to parallel those on state and NAEP assessments, they found significant learning gains more than 1 standard deviation in effect sizes on both content and process items for all four units.

These gains persisted and even increased across years of enactment, as the intervention scaled to 98 classrooms and 35 teachers in 14 schools. In more recent work, this research group has compared performance on the high-stakes state assessments for students in project-based classrooms with those of the rest of the district, again focusing on students from the lower socioeconomic distribution in this urban district Geier et al.

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Project-based students from seventh and eighth grade achieved higher content and process scores. The effects of participation in the project-based classrooms were cumulative, with higher scores associated with more exposure to project-based instruction. Taken together, these results demonstrate that instruction that situates science as practice and that integrates conceptual learning can have real benefits for learners.

Students at both elementary and middle school levels can succeed in engaging in science and in learning the science content that is encountered in these contexts. The challenges students have with epistemology and coordinating theory and evidence shown in some studies do not arise in the same way in these very supportive classrooms.

An important aspect of these designs is that they contain very carefully crafted support for the scientific practices. In the next sections we look more closely at practices that may help science learners master target concepts and practices. We have argued that children should engage in meaningful problems in science class and experience science as practice and that when they do, they can realize tremendous advances in their understanding and ability to use science.

Here we provide a finer grained description of elements of practices students can engage in that support their learning. Research on the professional practices of scientists reveals a number of interacting activities that characterize their engagement e. Scientists talk through problems in real time—through publication and through less formal written venues, such as lab books, email exchanges, and colloquia.

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They engage in an iterative process of argumentation, model building, and refinement. In some classrooms, students are engaged in several core practices that resemble scientific practice. Just like scientists, students ask questions, talk and write about problems, argue, build models, design and conduct investigations, and come to more nuanced and empirically valid understandings of natural phenomena. They have a store of life experiences and intellectual resources, but they lack content expertise, refined knowledge of investigative methods, familiarity and acceptance of scientific norms, and deep experience working with peers on scientific problems.

To do meaningful scientific work in classrooms, they require strategic supports, input, and guidance from teachers and curriculum materials. Research reveals both the promise and challenges of teaching science as practice. As instruction taps their entering knowledge and skills, students must reconcile their prior knowledge and experiences with new, scientific meanings of concepts, terms, and practices.

Similarly, they may enter class-. In this section, we discuss three key features of K-8 science practice that require carefully crafted support and instruction. As students wrestle with meaningful scientific problems they 1 engage in social interaction, 2 appropriate the language of science, and 3 use scientific representations and tools.

These are features that are central to scientific practice and require that teachers and instructional materials provide clear guidance and support for learners as they acquire these practices. Social interaction is a central feature of both scientific practice and productive learning generally, and accordingly it plays an important, specialized role in K-8 science learning.

As noted in Chapter 2 , social studies of science describe a highly interactive and social practice of bench scientists in which argumentation—articulating and communicating understandings, testing ideas in a community, giving and receiving feedback, and processes for evaluating and reaching consensus—is a central feature e.

Prior reviews have also identified the importance of social interactions for learning generally. The research studies of social interaction in K-8 science classrooms reveal both the unique challenges of drawing on and teaching productive social interaction and the promise of seriously attending to social interactions.

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Children enter school with a range of resources that can be tapped to support meaningful social interaction. They also bring habituated ways of interacting with their peers that often run contrary to desirable productive social interactions that sustain science learning. For example, while science practice entails argumentation as a process for refining knowledge claims, students may view argumentation in a different light. They may see arguments as unpleasant experiences. Children may also view argument as something that is won or lost on the basis of status and authority e.

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We can expect that students will need instruction in how to work on science problems collectively. National data suggest that opportunities for meaningful social interaction are limited across U. These may be particularly infrequent for nonmainstream students, students in urban schools, English-language learners, and students with disabilities Gilbert and Yerrick, ; Palincsar and Magnusson, ; Rodriguez and Berryman, When educators succeed in creating a community of learners, in which students see their goal as one of contributing to a community understanding of scientific problems, students can reap cognitive, social, and affective benefits.

For example, student learning from hands-on investigation is dramatically improved when they also present their ideas and arguments about investigations to their peers Crawford, Krajcik, and Marx, ; Krajcik et al. Debating with peers can help make scientific tasks more meaningful, lead to more productive and conceptually rich classroom dialogue, and improve conceptual mastery Brown and Campione, , ; Herrenkohl and Guerra, ; Herrenkohl et al.


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The benefits of rich social interactions apply to the range of students that populate K-8 classrooms. The program of research at the Cheche Konnen Center has demonstrated that urban English-language learners can effectively engage in high-level scientific reasoning and problem solving if taught in ways that respect their interests and modes of social interaction e.

For example, Hudicourt-Barnes used her knowledge of the traditional Haitian form of talk called bay odyans chatting to foster arguments or diskisyon discussion in science classrooms for Haitian students. She worked with other members of the Cheche Konnen Center to help poor bilingual students build on their interest in talking and in exploring phenomena in the world by using their indigenous form of argument and their interests, e.

The message that culturally diverse students can participate in meaningful science discussion is echoed by Lemke For K-8 students, each of these kinds of communication may require learning new uses of language. Thus, while scientific language skills can be considered important learning goals in their own right, specialized language can also help students perform the activities of scientific practice Lemke, ; Moje et al. Disciplinary language can carry specialized, technical meanings.

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As mentioned in Chapter 2 , some words may have nonscientific, lay meanings that conflict with their scientific meanings e. Students need opportunities to master the specialized meanings of scientific words and to sort these from their nonscientific meanings. Using technical language appropriately may be particularly trying for students who bring different ways of using language into academic settings Rosebery, Warren, and Conant, An important strand of instructional research is the attempt to support more productive ways of using scientific language.

Given the challenges that learners face in acquiring modes of discourse associated with science, researchers have analyzed the effects of teaching distinct roles to individuals and assigning individual students to a particular role.

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Finally, the representation of ideas is a central part of scientific work that carries over to instruction and is evident across programs of research on instruction. Scientists use diagrams, figures, visualizations, and mathematical representations to convey complex ideas, patterns, trends, and proposed explanations of phenomena in compressed, accessible formats.

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