Academic journal article International Electronic Journal of Elementary Education

The Impact of Notebooking on Teacher Candidates' Construction of Knowledge

Academic journal article International Electronic Journal of Elementary Education

The Impact of Notebooking on Teacher Candidates' Construction of Knowledge

Article excerpt


The need for something better

Science education continues to be a vital subject for the United States and its citizens. Recent advances in technology mean that emerging careers are strongly linked to education, training, and knowledge in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. In addition to career opportunities, science education is critical in helping citizens prepare for incorporating scientific advances into their personal lives. And, of course, the process skills and scientific attitudes developed through science are important to help young and old navigate (Achieve, Inc. 2013; National Research Council 1996; National Science Teachers Association, 2002). But, for many in the United States science education is not meeting the demand for educating students to live and work in a rapidly changing scientifically enhanced world. One of the nation's leading advocates for reform in science teaching or education, the National Science Resource Center (NSRC), expresses its mission as " improve the learning and teaching of science for all students in the United States and throughout the world." (NRSC, 2011). This reform is largely based on research that supports inquiry based coursework. Such coursework, and appropriately connected elementary teacher instruction, promotes problem solving and deeper understanding of science content. Such instruction often requires integrated learning connected to solving problems and investigating problems over time.

To help address the need for something better, the NRSC, and other leading reformers, call for a change in the way curricula is taught to elementary students. One such change is the incorporation of inquiry based kits. Inquiry based kits have existed and been used in elementary classrooms for about half a century and have seen an increased emphasis over the last decade. One reason for their use is that the kits often include assessment tools that help teachers monitor and determine students' abilities to master science process skills and the content knowledge upon which a kit is based. These assessment tools often require students to write out their answers as they learn. Researchers have long demonstrated, and still do, that students better learn the science when they write about it (Aschbacher & Alonzo, 2006; Endreny, 2010; Fulton & Campbell, 2004; Matsumura, et al., 2002; Rivard, 1994; Scardamalia & Bereiter, 1985). Rowell's (1997) metanalysis on writing in science implies that students can improve their conceptual understanding of science through notebooking. This is largely due to the cognitive disequilibrium they experience as they attempt to scaffold existing schemata into a new framework to integrate new information, terminology, and linkages. Therefore, notebooking and writing can be used as essential curricular strategies to enhance learning in the elementary classroom.

The role of science notebooks

While students have long used writing in school it has not always been done in a systematic way. Copying class notes from a board, completing worksheets, or writing one word answers to questions on laboratory sheets is not currently viewed as best practices in learning and assessment with inquiry-based methodology. To address this deficiency in elementary science, student notebooks are often incorporated as a pathway for students to better learn through an authentic, inquiry-based method. Science notebooks include the ways scientists (and students) systematically develop research questions, record observations and data, draw inferences and conclusions, and communicate findings as they go about their work. Notebooking and writing practices are critically important and directly called for in Practice 4 (Analyzing and Interpreting Data) and Practice 8 (Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information) of the Next Generation Science Standards (Achieve, 2013).

To effectively model the process by which adult scientists go about their work, elementary teachers are encouraged to utilize notebooks with their students. …

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