The Influence Of Primary Children’s Ideas In Science On Teaching Practice
A large body of research has examined how children enter the science classroom with previously formed ideas about the content they will learn. These ideas influence how the child interprets instruction. This study reversed the investigative focus by exploring how children’s ideas in science influence teaching. Specifically, the study examined how primary teachers identify student ideas, how they react to student ideas, and how teacher responses impact students’ learning of science.
Two experienced second grade teachers, and one teacher intern were observed, videotaped, and interviewed over the course of an eight-week astronomy unit. Ten students in each class participated in pre- and post-instruction interviews to determine development of content understanding. All interviews and observations were video- and audio-taped and transcribed for data analysis.
Results indicated that while primary teachers approached science instruction differently, but children’s ideas influenced all three teachers. To identify student ideas teachers used idea invitation and probing questions. Teacher One used lesson development, demonstration, explanation, literature connection and scaffolding strategies to help students change their conceptions. Teacher Two used explanation, literature connection, and activity debrief strategies to address student ideas. The Intern Teacher used strategies such as ignoring, partial acknowledgement, and leading that discouraged the expression of ideas. While students in both classrooms improved in their knowledge, those with Teacher One had more accurate knowledge of astronomy at the conclusion of the study.
Science instruction in these classrooms played a major role in developing general literacy skills. Teachers used whole class and small group discussions, as well as reading and writing assignments to help students learn astronomy content. Several factors, such as time, teacher knowledge, and number of students sharing ideas, mitigated delivery of instruction.
Implications are that children’s ideas do play a role in primary teaching by (a) influencing teacher planning of lessons designed to elicit and address ideas, (b) encouraging teachers to seek ways of responding to student ideas, including the cycling of ideas repeatedly in instruction, (c) forming a basis for dialogue and discussion about science, and (d) informing teachers of areas for improving their own content knowledge.
Type of Publication
Dickinson, Valarie L.
Oregon State University
Number of Pages
Nation(s) of Study
United States of America