Academic journal article Science and Children

Negotiating the Way to Inquiry: Encouraging Negotiation Early in the Year Promotes Scientific Communication

Academic journal article Science and Children

Negotiating the Way to Inquiry: Encouraging Negotiation Early in the Year Promotes Scientific Communication

Article excerpt

One challenge of teaching science is getting students to communicate as scientists do. Scientists employ many different forms of communication as they develop and pass on information to others. Unfortunately, in many classrooms, student communication about science concepts is limited to filling in information on worksheets, finishing teacher-created data tables, answering end-of-chapter questions, or creating formal written reports. Although creativity is a fundamental aspect of the way science is practiced in "the real world" (McComas 2004), students are not typically given opportunities to incorporate creativity into communication about science concepts.

One way students can be given this opportunity is through the use of multimodal writing-to-learn activities. Introducing these activities in the beginning of the year will establish an environment of scientific negotiation in your classroom. In this article we will show how negotiation can be a tool for inquiry by discussing how a fourth-grade teacher facilitated negotiation and scientific communication through a lesson using model rockets early in the school year.

The negotiation phases we suggest are based on the Science Writing Heuristic (SWH) approach to teaching science (Norton-Meier et al. 2008). The SWH is an inquiry-based approach that places an emphasis on writing to learn. The components of the SWH include the following: (1) Prelaboratory activities during which students report their ideas through informal writing, make observations, brainstorm, and pose questions; (2) Participation in the laboratory activity and observation; and (3) A progression of four "negotiation phases." We define "negotiation" as making a claim that is backed up with data and evidence. Claims are challenged, and the information that the students use to strengthen their argument can come from prior knowledge, data collected from the investigation or experiment, or text.

The four negotiation phases are:

* Self-Negotiation: Students write their personal understandings of what they observed during the laboratory activity.

* Peer-to-Peer Negotiation: Students share and compare data interpretations in small groups.

* Check With the Experts: Students compare their ideas to textbooks or other resources.

* Write to Learn: Students individually reflect and write.

We feel that the SWH approach used in this unit nicely fits the eight essential elements of the K-12 science and engineering curriculum listed in dimension 1 of the scientific and engineering practices of A Framework for K-12 Science Education (NRC 2012). They are:

1. asking questions (Preactivity questioning about what makes a "good" rocket in individual journals and small groups)

2. developing and using models (Building model rockets)

3. planning and carrying out investigations (Designing the experiment)

4. analyzing and interpreting data (Peer-to-peer negotiation)

5. using mathematics and computational thinking (Measuring the distance the rocket traveled)

6. constructing explanations (Check with the experts)

7. engaging in argument from evidence (All four negotiation phases)

8. obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information (Write-to-learn project)

To demonstrate how negotiation can be incorporated into the classroom, we use an activity that requires a PVC pipe air rocket launcher. To complete this activity with rockets, you will need to purchase a few materials for a PVC pipe rocket launcher (see Figure 1, p. 53). An internet search for "PVC pipe rocket launcher" will offer many options with detailed instructions, but we have found one University of Texas-Dallas document particularly helpful for constructing an industrial-strength paper rocket launcher (see Internet Resource). Teachers will also need sheets of paper for each student, tape, note cards, and may want to include additional rocket-building materials such as cardboard or a plastic bag (for a parachute). …

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