About this site

Welcome and thanks for visiting.

This site presents moments of students doing science. We offer them as professional development materials for science educators interested to recognize and support moments like these in their classes. With so much attention in the world to test scores, we hope to help teachers and professors pay attention to something that’s harder to quantify, to science as a pursuit and not just as a body of knowledge.

For the time being, we have cases from elementary school and college introductory physics classes; going forward we’ll be adding more, from middle and high school and from other sciences. The elementary cases come from an earlier project with a related website, Responsive Teaching in Science. The college cases come from physics classes at Tufts University.

About the cases

We’re trying to do three things with each:

1) Give a rich sense of what the students were doing.
There’s a section of Background about the episode, about the course and the students in general and about what had taken place just before this moment. The main presentation for each of the cases—View the Case—is a series of clips of what took place, with a short description.
The idea is for you to experience the episode, as much as is possible without actually being in the classroom. It’s never possible to capture everything—even if you’re there, you’ll miss some of what took place. There’s more video if you’d like to see it, in the section called More.

2) Explain what makes it science.
As much as science educators have argued for the importance of student inquiry, or more recently “practices,” almost all science teaching still focuses on traditional “content.” Part of the problem is recognition: Watching and listening to students, it’s easier to notice and assess for correctness, than it is to notice and consider students’ ideas and questions as nascent science.
We’re hoping this site will help by providing clear examples: These are all cases that our team of scientists and science educators agreed showed learners doing science. The Reflections section of each case study includes an explanation of what makes the episode science.

3) Offer ideas for what contributed to the students’ doing science.
This is the main purpose of our research, to understand what contributes to students’ starting and sustaining scientific work. In the project, we analyze each episode in detail. The Reflections sections each include a review of what we found for that case. There are some common threads, and there are interesting differences.
Note that our purpose in this is not to give prescriptions for instructional practice or curriculum design, although we expect our findings to have implications in that direction. Rather, we’re looking to understand what the evidence shows about what plays a role in students’ scientific engagement.

About the project

We’re producing these materials based on a research project, The dynamics of students’ engagement and persistence in science, supported by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. In that, we’re studying how learners enter into and continue in episodes (or longer) of engagement in doing science.

We start with video and/or written records of students working. When someone in the project finds an example they think is a candidate for a case, we screen it in a session with a collaborating team of professors from biology, chemistry, and physics, and of other researchers on learning in science.

Many examples don’t pass this group inspection. While it would be interesting and valuable to think about the cases that are contentious, for our purposes in this project we pick only the ones that get a consensus. In this way, we arrive at clear examples of students’ scientific engagement.

The research team then transcribes and analyzes each of the selected episodes, a process that involves many viewings, reading and re-readings, to understand each case as much as the data allows: What contributed to the students’ engagement in science? The analyses that result have informed our development of this website. For more about the research itself, see our scholarly articles.