What's in a name: Science practices, epistemic agency, and the purpose of science classrooms
David Stroupe, Michigan State University, firstname.lastname@example.org
The term “science practice” occupies significant airtime in current science education literature. Thus far, the surge in science practice-related conversation aims to advance theories of science teaching and learning, to provide concrete recommendations for activities in and out of classrooms, and to facilitate the design of new material resources (i.e, curricula, textbooks, kits).
While such efforts could ultimately benefit student learning, two unresolved issues about science practice can potentially limit the impact of current efforts in learning settings. First, “science practice” is not well defined in the field of science education. While we agree that students should engage in “authentic” science activities, there is little consensus about the specific dimensions of disciplinary work that students should learn (Duschl, 2008). Second, establishing a definition of “science practice” does not automatically result in opportunities for students to engage in such work. Many context-based factors, including people (e.g., teachers and administrators) and resources (e.g., curricula and materials), play crucial roles in providing (or limiting) opportunities for students to learn science practice (NRC, 2007, 2011).
In this talk, I first offer my definition of “science practice” based on features of disciplinary work and perspectives on how novices learn to participate in valued community activities. I next use Science Studies literature to highlight three themes about science practice that emerge from research about “typical” science settings (e.g., laboratories, field sites, etc.). Such themes have implications for science educators as they consider how to make definitions of science practice actionable in classrooms by providing students’ with opportunities to engage in authentic disciplinary work. I conclude with recommendations for research that can enhance the field’s press for science practices.