Scholarly article on topic 'Grappling with long-term learning in science: A qualitative study of teachers' views of developmentally oriented instruction'

Grappling with long-term learning in science: A qualitative study of teachers' views of developmentally oriented instruction Academic research paper on "Educational sciences"

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Academic research paper on topic "Grappling with long-term learning in science: A qualitative study of teachers' views of developmentally oriented instruction"

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Grappling With Long-Term Learning in Science: A Qualitative Study Of Teachers' Views Of Developmentally Oriented Instruction

Jonathan T. Shemwell,1 Shirly Avargil,2 and Daniel K. Capps1

1University of Maine, Orono, Maine 04469 2Bar-Ilan University, Ramat-Gan, Israel

Received 29 September 2015; Accepted 4 March 2015

Abstract: The shift in science education toward deeper, more integrated learning of domain content and scientific practices requires that teachers steer clear of strategies that promote the steady accumulation of more superficial knowledge and capabilities. Instead, teachers must invest in a continuous and gradual process of long-term growth in students' capacity to think and act scientifically. Scholars call this investment taking a developmental approach to learning. It stands to reason that developmental approaches would involve teachers in different ways of thinking about instruction compared to short-term, accumulation approaches. Yet, little is understood about these potentially new ways of thinking (for us, "views"). Therefore, we conducted a qualitative study to describe and illustrate ways in which teachers' views of instruction can be developmental. The study was based on interviews with 12 teachers about their experiences of using a curriculum that was developmentally oriented in that it prioritized gradual deepening of intellectual capacity. Selecting three teachers whose views of teaching and learning offered maximum contrast in their degree of developmental orientation, we analyzed their interview transcripts to reveal essential characteristics of a developmental view of instruction in our context. When taking a developmental view, teachers (i) saw students as learning to be scientists; (ii) prioritized big ideas; (iii) saw learning as immersion; and (iv) expected gradual improvement. We combined these elements to propose a general model for a developmental view of teaching and learning: believing in transformative outcomes and investing in the process of gradual change. We argue that these findings provide useful and informative ideas for understanding ways in which teachers can effectively approach instruction in the current era of reform.

Contract grant sponsor: National Science Foundation; Contract grant number: DRL-0962805. Correspondence to: Jonathan Shemwell; E-mail: DOI 10.1002/tea.21239

Published online in Wiley Online Library (

© 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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© 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Res Sci Teach

Keywords: development; teacher education; teacher development; teaching reform; scientific practices; learning progression; inquiry; project-based learning

Over the past decade, the trend within science education reforms in many countries has been to teach fewer ideas more deeply and to focus greater attention on teaching the practices of science (Ministry of Education of Singapore, 2007; National Research Council, 2012; NGSS Lead States, 2013; OECD, 2010; Osborne & Dillon, 2008). A popular conception of these reforms is that they are changes to what students should learn in science (e.g., Dhar, 2013). This conception ignores the fact that the reforms entail a fundamental shift in thinking about how science learning occurs. Part of the shift involves the recognition that learning science should not be viewed as an accumulation of knowledge and skills. Rather, it should be seen as a gradual, continuous deepening of the capacity to think and act scientifically. One prominent reform document, A Framework for K-12 Science Education (Framework) (National Research Council, 2012), which serves as the governing document for the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) (NGSS Lead States, 2013), makes the point that this form of learning is a long-term proposition:

To develop a thorough understanding of scientific explanations of the world, students need sustained opportunities to work with and develop the underlying ideas and to appreciate those ideas' interconnections over a period of years rather than weeks or months (National Research Council, 2012, p. 26).

While the Framework does not elaborate on the meaning of "sustained opportunities," its underlying research base shows that for the sorts of learning objectives it proposes, teachers should not count on definite progress to manifest over a short time period of a few lessons. Consequently, teachers who pursue these objectives will need to engage their students in extended learning experiences designed to build intellectual capacity over the long term. Following Duncan and Rivet (2013), we call this developmentally oriented instruction. We refer to teachers who

appreciate and invest in it as having developmental views of teaching and learning, where views are defined as thinking that arises through a combination of knowledge, beliefs, and environmental factors.

It appears that many teachers tend to prefer instructional practices geared toward the steady accumulation of knowledge from lesson to lesson (Banilower et al., 2013). This preference, as argued above and illustrated in the present study, is inconsistent with the Framework/NGSS and similar reforms' emphasis on students developing intellectual capacity as practitioners of science. Thus, it seems likely that a significant proportion of teachers will be called upon to transform their practice to be more developmental if they are to implement these reforms appropriately. Changing curricula to prioritize long-term growth of intellectual capacity (in our parlance, changing them to be more developmentally oriented) should help with the transformation. However, if teachers' views of teaching and learning do not also shift to be more developmental, it seems doubtful that they will enact reformed curricula as intended. Indeed, several studies of inquiry and project-based instruction have shown how teachers' non-developmental views can conflict with the demands of developmentally oriented teaching (e.g., Cronin-Jones, 1991; Kolodner, 2002; Kolodner et al., 2003; Marx et al., 1994; Smith & Southerland, 2007). Nevertheless, these studies have not focused on teachers' developmental or non-developmental views per se, so they do not provide an altogether clear picture of the issues involved. As a result, there is a need for a more complete and detailed information about these views so as to better understand how teachers can think about and approach instruction that is consistent with current reforms.

Responding to the need just discussed, this article reports on a qualitative study that describes and exemplifies teachers taking developmental views of science instruction. The study was based on interviews with 12 experienced middle school science teachers after they taught with a commercially available curriculum that was developmentally oriented according to our definition. In particular, the curriculum had a strong emphasis on students learning to be self-directed scientific investigators while building experiences related to a narrow but important area of domain content. Concomitantly, the curriculum did not emphasize a definite increase in knowledge and capabilities from one lesson to the next. From the 12 teachers' interviews, we selected three which had maximum contrast in the extent to which they expressed developmental views when describing their experiences. We present a cross-case analysis of these three interviews, using essential contrasts to describe and exemplify four developmental views of teaching and learning in the context we studied. Using these contextualized views, we then construct a more general description, or model, of a developmental view. Finally, we point out several ways in which this model may be useful for teachers and educators as a way of interpreting and mediating practice.

Theoretical Framework

Our use of the term developmentally oriented instruction is inspired in part by the literature on learning progressions. Learning progressions show how more sophisticated understanding of scientific ideas and practices tend to develop over time (Smith, Wiser, Anderson, & Krajcik, 2006; Berland & McNeill, 2010). Duncan and Rivet (2013, p. 396) used the expression "developmental approach to learning" to explain how learning progressions informed the NGSS (NGSS Lead States, 2013). Duncan and Rivet proposed that students engaged in developmental learning continually deepened their understanding and extended their ability to reason as a result of many learning experiences over an extended period of time. They contrasted developmental learning with an accumulation approach in which more information is added during each period of instruction. Other scholars of learning progressions have advanced similar ideas. For instance, Smith et al. (2006) advocated using learning progressions in which important ideas and practices

would be progressively refined, elaborated, and extended to greater theoretical depth and epistemological sophistication through years of schooling.

The argument that science learning should be approached as a gradual, long-term prospect stems in part from what research over the last five decades has brought to light about learning science concepts. We refer to this body of work broadly as conceptual change research. This literature has repeatedly shown how understanding fundamental ideas is difficult (Carey, 1985), takes time (Carey, 2009; Chi, 2005), and does not follow a predictable, linear process (Strike & Posner, 1992). As an example, Carey (2009) described how it takes from 6 to 9 months for young children to learn to identify two objects as being distinct from three or more. This same time scale can apply to adults who are learning new concepts. For example, Nersessian (1992,2008) illustrated how it took James Clerk Maxwell several years of intense effort to develop new ideas he needed to introduce electromagnetic theory. More generally, the literature on expertise has made it clear that developing expert knowledge in any domain is a continuous process that requires much effort over a long period of time (Chi, Glaser, & Farr, 1988; Ericsson, Krampe, & Tesch-Romer 1993; Sternberg, 2003).

Developmentally oriented instruction as defined here is exemplified by the more "open" or "full" forms of two prominent instructional approaches in science, inquiry-based instruction (Crawford, 2000; National Research Council, 2000), and project-based learning (Marx et al., 1994; Polman, 2000). In these approaches, it is often an important goal for students to grow as investigators and problem solvers by learning how to ask and pursue answers to scientific questions and how to define and design solutions to engineering problems (Blumenfeld et al., 1991; Crawford, 2000; Marx et al., 1994). Within these activities, learners must develop capacities not traditionally taught in science class, such as the capacity to reason effectively (Lawson, 1983; Piburn, 1990; Walton, 1996), to conceptualize and engage with novel problems and questions (Willingham, 2007), and to define goals, and propose and decide on actions to achieve them (Stanovich, 2009). Accordingly, a design assumption of inquiry and project-based curricula is that learning to be investigators and problem solvers will naturally take students much time and many experiences (Thomas, 2000). Furthermore, many of these curricula, designed in light of extant research on conceptual change and the general research base on student learning (e.g., Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 1999; National Research Council, 2007), tend to focus on learning a few principles in a domain very well, as compared to providing a more limited exposure to a larger array of ideas (see, for example, Kolodner et al., 2003; Reiser et al., 2001). Thus, the major emphasis in these approaches is long-term development of the overall capacity to think and act scientifically, while sampling relatively few topics in the content domain.

Importantly, not all inquiry and project-based learning would be developmentally oriented as are the more open or full forms described above. Within inquiry especially, there are many examples of curricula wherein students pursue answers to scientific questions and design and carry out investigations, but with much less emphasis on developing the capacity to ask questions or design and conduct investigations in a domain (e.g., Ertepinar & Geban, 1996; Kim, 2006; for a review, see Furtak, Seidel, Iverson, & Briggs, 2009). Correspondingly, the inquiry cycle in these curricula does not take as long, and the process is more structured than in the more developmentally oriented versions.

Drawing on the learning progressions and conceptual change literature, and using the examples just described from inquiry and project-based learning, we propose the following more formal definition of developmentally oriented instruction: (i) it prioritizes long-term growth in intellectual capacity, as contrasted with the steady accumulation of knowledge and skills; and (ii) it anticipatesthat clear and reliable improvements to intellectual capacity will not manifest over the short term, but rather after many learning experiences over an extended period of time.

Our idea of "intellectual capacity" within this definition bears some unpacking. For science learning, two capacities can be readily identified. One is the capacity to see phenomena through the lens of scientific theory. This depends on well-formed knowledge of scientific principles running through a domain. The other is competence in the practice of science, including the potential to think and act scientifically in various situations. In this case, capacities for critical thinking (Willingham, 2007) and rational thinking (Stanovich, 2009) are especially prominent, including students' capacities to be self-directed as they approach and solve novel problems and strive to reason effectively.

Finally, developmentally oriented instruction as defined here should not be equated with using effective teaching strategies, such as giving students fruitful opportunities to construct knowledge. There are many effective, high-quality learning experiences that would not be developmentally oriented because they would not prioritize long-term growth in intellectual capacity. As one example, Yadav et al. (2014) described a case-based instructional intervention in an engineering classroom that took place over two class periods and supported student learning much better than a traditional, lecture-based approach. Likewise, Shemwell, Chase, & Schwartz (2015) showed how, in a single lesson, students used inductive activities to learn a physics principle in a way that transferred to novel situations. While these strategies may have been effective for learning, they were not developmentally oriented because they did not prioritize growth in intellectual capacities that, by nature, would tend to manifest in the long run.

Teachers' Views of Instruction. Broadly speaking, the topic of our study can be located in the area of teachers' use of curriculum, within what Remillard (2005) called the teacher-curriculum relationship. Following Brown (2002), Remillard proposed that this relationship is an interaction between teachers' personal resources, on one hand, and different aspects of curricular materials, on the other (see also Forbes, 2011). We focused on the personal resources side of this relationship as teachers reflected on teaching a curriculum that was new to them. Remillard listed a number of different personal resources that might be important, including knowledge (content and pedagogical content), beliefs, goals, and experiences. Our interest was in teachers' ways of thinking that arose from these resources, in concert with the experience of using the new curriculum in their classrooms. Consequently, following Crawford (2007), we use the expression "views" to describe these ways of thinking. Formally then, views comprise thinking that arises through knowledge, beliefs, goals, and experiences, and which may be more or less situated within the instructional environment. Thus, a teacher taking a developmental view of teaching and learning prioritizes long-term growth in intellectual capacity and anticipates a gradual deepening of these capacities through many learning experiences.

Learning Outcomes and Teaching and Learning Processes. As a way of mapping views to broad instructional concepts, we divide them into those on learning outcomes and those on teaching and learning processes. Views of learning outcomes are defined as teachers' expressed ideas and values of what students should, or do, learn in the classroom. They include general ideas about what students should come away with, as well as more contextualized thinking about what students might learn in particular situations. Views of teaching and learning processes are defined as ways of thinking about anticipated and perceived experiences teachers have as they interact with students to promote and assess learning. Again, these can be more or less situated in particular contexts. Naturally, they include thinking about the role of the teacher, especially choices and actions within instruction and assessment. However, they also extend to how teachers anticipate and perceive student learning to occur.

Research on Teachers' Developmental Views

Much of the existing knowledge about teachers' developmental views of instruction can be located in the studies reporting on teachers' reactions to developmental aspects of inquiry-based instruction (inquiry) and project-based learning. Commonly, these studies are framed in terms of teachers' beliefs, where beliefs are defined in similar ways to our concept of views (e.g., Crawford, 2007). Overall, a prominent finding in these studies is that teachers trying to implement inquiry and project-based learning can fail to appreciate or understand the ambitious, longer term outcomes that these approaches can be designed to deliver. Instead, they prefer teaching and learning processes that provide visible progress on the near term (Cronin-Jones, 1991; Kolodner, 2002; Kolodner et al., 2003; Marx et al., 1994). Additionally, teachers may subscribe to developmental learning outcomes such as a deeper understanding of fewer topics in the abstract, while in practice, they tend to favor shallower, knowledge-accumulation strategies (Banilower et al., 2013; Smith & Southerland, 2007). On the positive side, a handful of studies have described teachers taking more developmental views. These show teachers who embrace longer term objectives such as expanding students' ability to solve problems (Lotter, Harwood, & Bonner, 2007) and teachers who value instructional processes that have the potential to pay dividends in the long run even when they do not provide for obvious, short-term improvements to what students know or can do (Crawford, 2000,2007).

Cronin-Jones (1991) investigated how two teachers' beliefs related to teaching a discovery-oriented science curriculum. Both teachers believed that factual knowledge was the most important learning outcome and that introducing and correcting facts through drill and repetition was the most important teaching process. These beliefs combined to undermine the teachers' use of the curriculum, which was designed to focus on deep understanding of key concepts while building a repertoire of problem solving skills. Notably, the teachers tended to short circuit the learning process, which was intended to be a cycle of "experience, discovery, reflection, and interaction" (p. 238). Similarly, Marx et al. (1994) investigated the challenges four middle-school teachers faced when using a project-based learning curriculum. One challenge was that teachers felt compelled to cover topics more quickly than the curriculum allowed. As a result, the teachers sometimes used project-based learning activities inappropriately, moving from activity to activity without allowing students to engage in all the steps of the investigations. In articles describing project-based learning, Kolodner (2002) and Kolodner et al. (2003) also noted that teachers sometimes disrupted the project-based learning cycle by directly instructing their students on particular concepts or skills at inappropriate times. Thus, teachers were sometimes not disposed to let the process unfold as intended. Instead, they seemed to expect a quicker, more definite learning process than was realistic, given the nature of the learning involved.

In a large national survey unrelated to inquiry or project-based learning, Banilower et al. (2013) showed that teachers often favored the idea of developmental learning as a general rule, but their beliefs about the learning process ran along less-developmental lines. In particular, teachers said that students should come away from science with a deep understanding of a few ideas, but at the same time, they reported explaining ideas to students before they had a chance to work with them, teaching students the content they needed to know before they did laboratories, and front-loading vocabulary. Smith and Southerland (2007) obtained a similarly contradictory result. They showed how in the abstract, teachers appreciated learning outcomes related to inquiry (in this case, motivation to learn science), yet, in practice, they favored teaching and learning processes such as lecturing, reading in a textbook, or answering worksheets that were not consistent with inquiry.

Examples of teachers exhibiting developmental views of teaching and learning are rare in the literature, even in the literature on inquiry and project-based learning. Here, we review three studies, two by Crawford (2000, 2007) and one by Lotter et al. (2007) which hint at more developmental views. Crawford's studies showed how teachers can value teaching and learning processes that have longer term benefits and which may not result in definitive increases to knowledge on the short term. Crawford (2000) described a teacher, Jake, who engaged high school students in a series of inquiry investigations over the course of a year. Jake's goal was to involve students in meaningful projects where they were "doing science, and they're developing as a scientists as they go" (p. 922). To do this, Jake designed a series of investigations where students collected data in their community and shared their findings with community members and experts. As the school year progressed, Jake began to leave the planning for data collection, experimental design, and communicating results up to his students. Jake's assessment activities concentrated not on guiding or correcting students, but on getting them to think about what they were doing and why they were doing it. Thus, he was less interested in the quality of their investigations in the short run, and more interested in the longer term prospect of students learning to think through the reasons behind their actions. Crawford (2007) examined the knowledge and beliefs of a group of pre-service teachers as they practiced inquiry teaching in their fieldwork placements. She described one teacher, Jason who embraced inquiry teaching more than the others. In one episode, Jason and his students questioned discrepancies in data, and as a class, they struggled to explain them. Jason was not perturbed that the class could not come up with definitive answers to their questions. Rather, he was gratified that students had raised the questions on their own and engaged deeply with the issue. Thus, Jason was disposed to invest in a rich process of learning and was not concerned about a definite short-term payoff in terms of knowledge gained. Lotter et al. (2007) described three teachers' conceptions and use of inquiry-based instructional strategies. The authors described one teacher, Steve, who embraced inquiry more than his peers. Steve was inclined to spend greater amounts of time exploring a single topic (e.g., he spent a semester on wetlands) as he believed it would support his students in developing a deeper understanding of essential science content. At the same time, he valued his students' thinking processes and their ability to solve problems more than their actual solutions to the problems. As Steve put it, his purpose for education was longer term and focused on "preparing his students for everyday life and not just have them memorize science content for standardized tests" (p. 1339).

A nascent literature on teachers' use of learning progressions also provides some insight into how teachers' views can be more or less developmentally oriented. Most prominently, Furtak (2012) looked at six teachers' use of learning progressions to support formative assessment for teaching evolution by natural selection. She found that four of the teachers used the progressions primarily to anticipate misconceptions that they would need to "squash." Thus, the teachers seem not to have viewed the progressions and associated misconceptions developmentally, as a series of indicators for a gradually evolving knowledge structure. Rather, they viewed them as discrete, definitive steps to achieve or corrections to make in what students understood. Hestness et al. (2014) arrived at a similar result in their study of teachers' understanding of how learning progressions could inform their teaching of climate change. The authors found that some teachers discussed understanding of climate change holistically, as something that gradually takes shape over the course of a year (to us, they took a more developmental view), whereas others conceptualized learning in a shorter, stepwise fashion in which each step would advance student understanding to the next level.

Purpose and Overview of the Study

In sum, the existing literature provides a rough sketch of how teachers may understand and prioritize long-term growth in intellectual capacity and the instructional processes that bring it about, or, by contrast, how they may be disposed to strive for more definite, short-term increments to knowledge and skills. Naturally, this sketch is rough and somewhat speculative, since it is based on our interpretation of studies that focused on issues within inquiry, project-based learning, and learning progressions, and not on the general issue of developmental orientation within these areas. Additionally, the picture is especially unclear on the positive side (i.e., views that are developmental) due to the small number of studies revealing this type of view. Meanwhile, as we have pointed out, major reforms that are now underway, especially the Framework/NGSS (National Research Council, 2012; NGSS Lead States, 2013), demand that teachers take a developmental approach to teaching and learning. This demand is made explicit within the Framework, which explains that learning is necessarily a long-term endeavor. It is also implicit in both the Framework and NGSS, through their prioritization of deep intellectual capacities, for instance, the capacity to design and conduct scientific investigations. Given this situation, there is a need to further define and exemplify what it means for teachers to have more or less developmental views of instruction. We undertook the present study to meet this need.

We based the study on interviews conducted with teachers after they implemented a commercially available developmentally oriented curriculum. The implementation lasted approximately one semester (4 months) of the school year and took place within a community of 12 teachers who had elected to change to the new curriculum. The interviews were a subset of data we collected within a larger mixed methods study of teachers' use of the curriculum, including journals and teacher surveys (Avargil, Shemwell, Capps, & Zoellick, 2013). In the present study, we used qualitative analysis to answer the following research questions:

(1) In what ways were the teachers' views more or less developmentally oriented?

(2) What were the essential characteristics of more and less developmental views of instruction?

Answering these questions began with an initial step in which we analyzed all 12 of the teachers' interviews in order to select three for further analysis. Then, we represented the contents of the selected interviews in narrative form and compared these representations to identify essential aspects of developmental views with respect to learning outcomes and teaching processes.


The study took place in the second year of a five-year National Science Foundation funded Mathematics and Science Partnership (MSP). The partnership was organized around a community of rural, middle-level teachers in the northeastern United States. The community also included some university faculty and graduate students. In the first year of the project, two teams of teachers and university personnel selected year-long science curricula that partnership teachers would use in subsequent years, one for sixth grade and one for eighth grade. The selection process utilized a modified version of the Project 2061 curriculum evaluation tool (Project 2061, n.d.). The eighth-grade team selected a three-unit, project-based learning curriculum. The first and longest unit, which took slightly more than half of the school year to complete, is featured in the present study, as being a developmentally oriented curriculum. The teachers implemented the curriculum for the first time during the second year of the partnership, when the present study took place.

The Developmentally Oriented Curriculum

The curriculum was the Vehicles in Motion volume of Project-Based Inquiry Science (Kolodner, Krajcik, Edelson, Reiser, & Starr, 2010), hereafter referred to as the developmentally oriented curriculum (DOC). It was designed to be completed in one semester of instruction and has been shown to promote science learning (Kolodner et al., 2003). Its domain content area was force and motion with perhaps a heavier emphasis on motion, particularly velocity in one and two dimensions. This subject matter is foundational in physics and challenging for students of all ages (Dykstra & Sweet, 2009; Hestenes, Wells, & Swackhamer, 1992; Trowbridge & McDermott, 1980). The project-based inquiry within DOC was structured as a set of three overlapping investigations in which learning of domain content and scientific practices was integrated into building, testing, and improving a toy car to meet performance specifications.

Our claim that DOC was developmentally oriented is rooted in three design aspects of the curriculum. First of all, it immersed students in the intense study of a small set of concepts. This immersion is evident in the fact that the entire semester comprised only three investigations, all of which included inquiry into or utilizing speed, distance (in two dimensions), and time. Second, DOC supported slow but continuous growth of a coherent knowledge base by delaying introduction of scientific concepts and measurements until after students had many opportunities to experience and conceptualize these on their own terms. For instance, to learn about measuring and calculating speed, DOC had students first work on a challenge in which they would try to make their toy car go straight and far. The challenge was designed to last for seven 50-min class periods. To meet the challenge, students would try to measure distance traveled in different ways and observe the car over many trials in which it moved faster or slower, veered different amounts, and went different distances. Questions in the text were meant to help students think about concepts in their own terms. For example, a question asked, "What about your Coaster Car's motion do you think you can measure to allow you to compare the motion of one coaster car to another?" (Kolodner et al., 2010, p. 18). In this way, DOC provided students many opportunities to conceptualize distance and time relationships qualitatively and mathematically. Only after these experiences did DOC formally introduce the concept of speed.

Third, and most germane to our definition of developmental learning, DOC was designed for students to grow in the capacity to independently practice science, using many cycles of trial, failure, reflection, and further trial. Its authors' view was that "failure, promotes the need to explain" (Kolodner et al., 2003, p. 502), leading to reflection, revision of goals, and proposing new actions to achieve these goals. To this end, students were permitted to carry out complete cycles of investigations with unrefined methods and incomplete scientific ideas, so that they would both see the need for better methods and ideas, and recognize the particular ways in which their ideas had been deficient. Then they would repeat the cycle. An instructional sequence near the beginning of the unit provides an example of this approach. Its focus was on students learning to independently design and carry out investigations. As preparation for designing their investigations, students would "mess about" with the cars and make observations about their parts, structure, and motion. Then, students would work in groups to write initial investigation procedures, after which they would share and reflect on their procedures with their classmates. Subsequently, they would revise their procedures. Only after completing this cycle were they to pilot their investigations by collecting data. After piloting, they were to reflect again on issues with their procedures and make additional revisions. As a part of this second iteration, students would also reflect on what, in general, goes into a well-designed procedure. After the second round of iteration and reflection, students would finally carry out their procedures and collect data about their cars. However, the design cycle would not yet be finished (the data would be provisional). A third round of revision

would ensue bringing students together as a class to develop a useful procedure that all groups in the class would follow. Only after working out this standard procedure would the actual data be collected. The sequence was intended to take approximately three weeks to complete. Similar patterns were carried out over the course of the unit, providing students with many opportunities to become more proficient investigators.

Support for Implementing DOC

As members of the MSP community, all teachers were involved in ongoing professional development as they taught DOC. This began with a 1-week summer institute in which teachers learned about the materials and how to teach with them, working through many of the activities with trainers from the publisher. During the school year, teachers attended monthly professional development meetings in which they focused on upcoming units and discussed issues that arose as they implemented the curriculum. University science and education faculty facilitated all meetings and led most of the activities. Teachers received monetary stipends for the time they invested in the sessions. Classroom support included initial and ongoing provision of instructional materials and weekly classroom visits by a university "partner" who was generally a graduate student or a member of professional staff. Further support occurred through an online forum in which teachers shared their teaching experiences or suggested options for approaches to teaching in regular journal entries. University faculty and staff were a part of the online community, and designated staff members were responsive to teacher needs and concerns online.



The participants were the 12 teachers who comprised the eighth-grade portion of the MSP community. As a group, they were evenly divided between men and women. The group had a median of 17 years of science teaching experience and five teachers held master's degrees. All identified as being primarily science teachers and all held state certification for secondary science. Each occasionally taught other subjects (e.g., mathematics). All taught in middle schools (grades six through eight). Three of the teachers eventually became the focal participants in the present study. They are identified by the pseudonyms Frank, Leah, and Molly. Frank had 11 years of experience, during which he taught mostly eighth-grade physical science. Leah had 10 years of experience teaching seventh-grade life science. (Leah's experience with DOC was her first of teaching physical science). Molly had 23 years of teaching experience, with the last 11 years teaching physical science. Frank, alone of the three, had a master's degree, which was in education.

Data Collection and Analysis

Conducting the Interviews. All 12 teachers agreed to participate in an interview in which they were asked about their experiences of teaching with DOC. All of the interviews were conducted by an author or a researcher colleague, either on the telephone or in person, with audio recording. The interviews lasted 30-45 minutes. The interviews were semi-structured, with questions growing out of our analysis of journaling teachers did while teaching with DOC (Avargil et al., 2013). This analysis revealed some potential sources of satisfaction and dissatisfaction with DOC that we decided to explore in greater depth through the interviews. In the present study, our interest was in learning outcomes that teachers valued and teaching and learning processes that they favored, and how each of these related to the developmental orientation of DOC. Table 1 shows the questions we asked. In addition to direct questions about learning outcomes and teaching and

Table 1

Interview questions sorted by topic

Topic Questions

Learning In more general terms as a science teacher, what are you hoping to

outcomes have students come away with in a science class?

Teaching and In the course of the year, there are many kinds of lessons intended to achieve

learning different kinds of learning. All are necessary but some are more enjoyable and

process satisfying. What kinds of lessons do you find to be most personally satisfying?

General In what ways, if any, has your teaching changed from last year to this year? Has

your teaching changed over the year?

What do you think your students are learning from [DOC]?

Compared to what you did in the past, how well do you think students learned the

required science content?

Compared to what you did in the past, how well do you think students learned

science practices?

How was the pacing of the curriculum?

Do you think the experience of teaching [DOC] improved your understanding or

teaching of content this year?

Can you think of any advantages or disadvantages to student learning using the

materials and approach of [DOC]? How about advantages or disadvantages to


learning processes, we asked several more general questions intended to elicit responses relating to these issues. For example, we asked about the advantages and disadvantages of teaching with DOC. The interview also included a few questions not shown in Table 1 that were used in a study that investigated community relationships (Zoellick, 2013). For example, one question was about who teachers turned to for advice. We conducted the interviews near the end of the school year or shortly after, approximately 2-3 months after the teachers completed DOC (between March and July). We used this retrospective approach so that the teachers could consider the entire run of their experiences rather than focus on near-term peaks and valleys.

Preliminary Analysis of Interviews. After transcribing the interviews, we conducted a preliminary analysis of the transcripts to establish the relative degree to which teachers' views were developmental. This analysis depended on an early, working definition of a developmental view of teaching and learning processes1 that was roughly consistent with the definition given in our theoretical framework:

(1) Developmental view: learning occurs as a continuous and deep-seated change through extended experience with many small pushes on student thinking.

(2) Non-developmental view: learning occurs as a buildup of relatively discrete knowledge and skills in which each new experience adds something new and identifiable.

To conduct the analysis, we examined each teacher's transcript for portions of responses that suggested they either favored or disfavored each of the two types of view. Working together, and explicitly comparing transcripts to the working definitions given above, we extracted portions of

responses relating to developmental or non-developmental views and placed them in a matrix, with teachers in rows and the four categories of evidence in columns (i.e., favoring or disfavoring the more developmental view, and favoring or disfavoring the less developmental view). The extracts varied in size from single sentences to half-page paragraphs.

Selecting the Focal Teachers. After completing the matrix just described, we used it to group the 12 teachers into three basic categories of views as follows: mostly developmental, mostly non-developmental, and mixed between the two. Four teachers had mostly developmental views, six had mixed views, and two had mostly non-developmental views.2 Then, we selected one teacher's interview from each of the three groups for detailed qualitative analysis, giving preference to those with richer, more informative responses. Frank represented the mostly developmental view, Leah represented the mixed view, and Molly represented the mostly non-developmental view.

Cross-Case Analysis. Before beginning in-depth analysis, we constructed a narrative summary for each of the focal teachers' interviews. Each summary was a descriptive retelling of what the teachers said, organized mostly according to the interview prompts but also keeping similar topics together. Our purpose in constructing these summaries was to render the information in each interview coherent and readable, which facilitated comparing across them. The summaries are available as supplementary material accompanying the online version of this article (see Interview Narrative Summaries S1). To construct the summaries, we began by combing through each interview to highlight everything the teachers said related to learning outcomes or teaching and learning processes in DOC, whether or not they seemed to be touching on an issue of developmental learning. We used this broad approach, as opposed to focusing on developmental issues alone, to reduce the hazard of bias in selecting and representing the evidence, and to give a fuller, more life-like account of the teachers' experiences. To write the summaries, we took each interview and paraphrased everything we had highlighted using embedded quotations as much as possible. The resulting initial drafts strictly followed the time sequence of the interviews to ensure completeness and to facilitate checking them with the original. We then constructed a second draft by reorganizing the descriptions more topically, in order to provide coherent, readable narratives. As part of this process, we divided the summaries into the major topics within to our analysis, learning outcomes and teaching and learning processes.

In the analysis itself, we focused on comparing the three narrative summaries to identify essential contrasts highlighting more and less developmental views of instruction. This was an iterative process of reading the summaries, creating representations of key ideas they contained (generally tables), comparing across teachers within those representations, drawing out tentative findings, and checking these findings against the interview summaries and/or the original transcripts.

The last step of the analysis was to write the long-hand descriptions of the developmental views that are presented as the findings. In this step, we described the substantial features of each view and justified them with evidence from the narrative summaries. In presenting these descriptions, as with the analysis described above, we focused on bringing out the contrasts that defined the essential features of views that were more developmental or less developmental.


In this section, we present a comparative analysis of the three narrative summaries to describe four developmentally oriented views of teaching and learning in DOC. Table 2 presents these views in a somewhat abstracted form. The first two, wanting students to "be a scientist," and

Table 2

Four developmental views of instruction based on the experience of teaching DOC

Category View Definition Contrasting alternative

Learning Wanting students to Seeing students as building the capacity Seeing students as

outcome "be a scientist" to think and act scientifically acquiring

scientific skills

Prioritizing big Being comfortable setting aside minor Thinking in terms

ideas concepts to focus on major ideas of a topic list;

feeling compelled

to cover the list

Teaching and Seeing learning as Recognizing that learning Wanting to move

learning immersion depends on prolonged through topics

process involvement and has unpredictable

rates of progress

Expecting gradual Being comfortable with a Expecting definite

improvement multi-pass and unreliable increments

learning process; tolerating to knowledge and

apparent inefficiency (i.e., messiness) skills

within lessons

prioritizing big ideas, are learning outcomes. The remaining two concern teaching and learning processes. They are seeing learning as immersion, and expecting gradual improvement. Within the text, each of these views is described and justified in separate subsections. Superscripts in the text reference the line number(s) in the narrative summaries which are available as supplementary materials accompanying the online version of this article (see Interview Narrative Summaries S1). At the beginning of each subsection, we provide a short overview in italic type. This overview distills the most essential aspects of the view while maintaining some connection to the context and evidence upon which it is based. In the fifth subsection, we consider the four views together to construct a general model of a developmental view.

Wanting Students to "Be a Scientist"

Frank and Leah both strongly valued student learning of what the Framework (National Research Council, 2012) refers to as scientific practices. However Frank's conception of learning the practices went further than Leah's. Frank saw students as building a general capacity to think and act scientifically, while Leah tended to see students as acquiring useful and important skills for science. Nevertheless, at two points, Leah's conception strongly resembled Frank's, suggesting that her thinking about learning the practices was changing.

"Process skills" and "knowing how to be a scientist" were the first learning outcomes that Leah and Frank mentioned when the interviewer asked them what they wanted students to come away with from science class.3,84 Both talked at length about these outcomes and their importance. By contrast, Molly's response to this question emphasized following the curriculum and wanting students to know everything they needed for high school.166,171 Moreover, Molly did not mention scientific practices until asked directly about them near the end of her interview.205

At a descriptive level, when Leah and Frank talked about scientific practices, they referred to the same learning outcome. Frank summarized "knowing how to be a scientist" as being able to set up and carry out a good investigation.3,5,12 Similarly, Leah's notion of the process skills comprised looking at a problem, coming up with a question, and designing a good experiment.85 Additionally, Leah was very articulate about the different skills involved, including developing procedures, displaying and interpreting data, and explanation.88 However, Frank took the idea of practices further than Leah, saying that being a scientist should be useful to students in non-scientific fields.6 Moreover, Frank explicitly valued students learning to make choices and be self-directed as they conducted investigations in DOC.10 This sentiment was consistent with his view that students were learning to apply scientific practices to new situations on their own.7 Leah's framing of process skills, by contrast, did not extend beyond the context of science.84,11,117

111 113 122

Correspondingly, Leah used acquisition language to describe proficiency in the skills. , , For instance, she explained that students "don't [necessarily] have these science skills."111 Thus, Leah had a less profound outcome in mind than Frank's notion of learning how to "be a


An emphasis on skill acquisition notwithstanding, there were two points in Leah's interview when she seemed to consider students as becoming scientists, similarly to Frank. One was after she described how hard she had worked to improve students' skills, when she said that students had "grown as scientists. They're much more independent now."102 The other was appended to a criticism that domain content did not come quickly enough in DOC, when she said, "But I do feel that they [students] are learning how to be good scientists."128 Thus, Leah was beginning to think of scientific practices as a more profound learning outcome than simply acquiring a set of skills. This evident transition in Leah's thinking was consistent with her realization that scientific practices were learned through immersion, which is described in the third section of these findings.

Prioritizing the Big Ideas

Frank preferred to prioritize the big ideas within domain content, and he was comfortable with students not learning many traditionally taught but less fundamental concepts. Leah and Molly did not distinguish big ideas from smaller ones. Rather, they tended to think about domain content in terms of a list of topics. Influenced by state standards and reporting requirements, they criticized DOC's lack of breadth. Frank, by contrast, rejected the topic list conception of outcomes because it obscured what he considered to be the more appropriate goal of focusing on big ideas.

In describing what students should learn about domain content, Frank explained that he wanted students to learn the "big ideas"15,27 meaning the major concepts running through a domain (e.g., Windschitl, Thompson, Braaten, & Stroupe, 2012). In part, Frank defined big ideas by differentiating them from smaller ones. Using the example of energy, he explained that students should build "understanding that energy goes from one thing to another, or changes from one form to another" in contrast to having to "remember every form of energy."15 This example also reflects a clear distinction in ways of knowing bigger versus smaller ideas—understanding versus remembering. This distinction was consistent throughout Frank's interview. Moreover, Frank often paired "understanding" with adjectives such as "really"16,24 or "deeper" 30,37 to reinforce his meaning.

An important part of Frank's emphasis on big ideas was his readiness to let go of smaller ideas as learning outcomes. The energy example above shows this readiness. It was also evident when Frank defended DOC for covering only a narrow swath of domain content. As Frank put it, "maybe they got like three content standards for three months," but they achieved "more in-depth

understanding because they took the time, they did all the different tests, they have the evidence to prove it."19 When the interviewer asked if Frank was concerned about covering only three standards, he said

My only concern is that the school that I'm in, all they care about is the test results and my personal view is, yeah it can be important, but the test sucks so who really cares. I've always had the view that it is more important for them to really understand the science and maybe I don't get to every single concept, but they understand how to be a good scientist. They can always go out and learn those other concepts. Understanding the big ideas versus hitting every 50 things that are on the list of things you are supposed to teach in the year. But that's not the way schools go.23

Thus, Frank's stated preference for teaching the big ideas reflected his belief that these ideas should be viewed not only as important: they should have clear priority in the competition for what gets taught.

Leah and Molly, in contrast to Frank, did not prioritize big ideas over smaller ones. In fact, neither of them distinguished between more and less important content topics. Molly made it clear that she wanted students to learn a large volume of content, so much so that the high school course would be largely a review for her students.171 Leah echoed this sentiment, albeit more distantly, by talking about the importance of students learning the correct and appropriate content.105 Neither teacher mentioned deep understanding as Frank did. Molly, in particular, reflected that she was unsure what students had learned in DOC.188 This contrasted sharply with Frank's observation that students came to a fairly deep understanding of major concepts.36 The two teachers' reflections on energy learning are a case in point. Frank emphasized that students learned big ideas like energy transfer and transformation;15 Molly reflected that they learned about different forms of energy— more forms than in the past.201 Unless Molly's students did not actually learn as Frank's did, it appears that her conception of what students should learn—namely a large volume of domain content—made it difficult for her to recognize that students were coming to understand the big ideas in DOC, or at least had that opportunity.

Unlike Frank, who was wary of focusing too much on standards, Leah, and to some extent Molly, accepted the list of state standards as their way of thinking about learning outcomes.130,178 Thus, where Frank praised DOC for emphasizing a few key ideas in depth, both Leah and Molly criticized DOC for covering too few of the topics they were required to teach. Of course, their complaints were justified. Leah, in particular, explained that her school's standards-based assessment scheme listed each standard individually on report cards. Not addressing some of these standards undoubtedly put Leah in a difficult position when reporting achievement—much more difficult than Frank's or Molly's. Furthermore, using the list of standards as an organizing framework for domain content would be reasonable for Leah given that DOC's domain, physical science, was new to her.145 She could not be expected to differentiate and prioritize the big ideas from the smaller ones with as much confidence as Frank. The same idea would probably also apply to Molly, whose past teaching emphasized chemistry concepts over physics.181 However, notwithstanding good reasons for the way that Leah and Molly thought about domain content, the fact remains that, unlike Frank, they did not conceptualize outcomes as building deep understanding of big ideas, and they were less prepared than Frank to let go of the idea of covering the topic list. For both of these reasons, they were in a less comfortable relationship with DOC than Frank was.

Seeing Learning as Immersion

Leah began to realize that learning the scientific practices (for her, process skills) involved immersion—deep and prolonged experience, with unpredictable rates of progress. However, for domain content, Leah thought in terms of moving through different topics, and in DOC, she missed the familiar experience ofdoing this. Molly expressed a similar preference for movement, albeit less distinctly. In contrast, Frank, explicitly rejected the idea of moving through topics. Rather, he appreciated sustained engagement, echoing Leah's conception of immersion.

Through teaching DOC, Leah realized that learning what she called process skills was not a simple matter of engaging in or practicing the relevant activities.100 Instead, the skills needed to be intentionally taught. Furthermore, she referred to the process of learning them as being deep immersion:

The curriculum has really forced me to embrace the fact that the kids don't have these science skills, and that they don't necessarily, I mean they might have exposure, but I think this is a deep immersion in experiences that will foster those skills. I guess before, I expected that they're going to have them.110

Learning by immersion calls to mind a naturalistic process that unfolds through experience, as part of the effort to get along in one's environment. Leah's use of the immersion is consistent with this conception. For instance, in the passage above, she contrasts "exposure," which is inadequate, with "immersion in experiences that will foster." A little after this passage. Leah pointed out that students progressed in learning process skills at different rates, saying "they're not all going to get it [the skills] at the same time"121 Additionally, she reflected that students were still working on their process skills at the time of the interview.88 Thus, she recognized progress in learning the skills was gradual and not altogether predictable. Later, Leah reiterated that the idea of students needing to learn the process skills was new to her. She also alluded again to the fact that this learning required prolonged experience.88,109 Thus, the idea of learning through immersion seemed to be a significant transformation in Leah's thinking about how students learned process skills.

As a metaphor for learning process, immersion can be contrasted with the traditional "course" metaphor in which the learner moves along a set path through a number of different topics. Rather than movement, immersion connotes being stationary, for example, taking up residence in a country where a different language is spoken. This contrast is important for considering Leah's thinking about the teaching and learning processes for domain content, in which she continued to prefer movement through topics as opposed to a more sustained experience. This preference was evident in her criticism that the physics in DOC did not come "quick enough".126,133 She voiced this criticism at several points in her interview, using the word "quick"126 or "quicker"135 to describe how she wanted to experience progress through domain content. She also mentioned that, in her past teaching, she covered "a lot more"141 standards, suggesting that she was used to moving faster through topics. At one point, Molly expressed a similar preference for moving faster, when she explained that DOC was a poor fit for more capable students. She said that these students got frustrated with the lengthy focus on the model car. She said that more capable students became excited again in the unit after DOC, which was quicker paced.250

In contrast to Leah and Molly, Frank criticized the idea that instruction should move students precipitously from topic to topic: "Like today we are going to do X1a; tomorrow we are going to do X1b, and this is the standards you are going to learn."35 Instead of a tour through different topics, Frank preferred DOC's approach of sustained engagement in a single, topically integrated context.4,25 In talking about that engagement, Frank did not separate the process of learning

domain content from that of learning scientific practices, in which authenticity and opportunities for self-directed action were of major importance.55

Expecting Gradual Improvement

Frank looked for a multi-pass and gradual learning process within DOC. He was able to tolerate messiness and did not look for distinct increments to knowledge and skills from one day to the next. Leah, on the other hand, expected a more definite learning process in which she could monitor and correct student performance. Molly talked about a similar inclination when she found it difficult not to correct students' misconceptions.

Frank appreciated that in DOC, students did not necessarily "get," or learn, a concept or skill during any one learning event. Rather, there should be a gradual change in how students thought and what they were able to do over time and experience. As he put it, "you don't have to get it all done today because you are going to see it ten more times throughout the book."32 Thus, Frank set aside the need to secure definite increments to knowledge and skills during any one lesson. Consistent with this idea, Frank embraced the untidiness that came with students being self-directed and sometimes failing. As he described it, students should "take chances and risks and try stuff out, and if it doesn't work, well, that's alright because it doesn't always work out."32

In contrast to Frank, Leah was inclined to seek definite improvements to knowledge and skills in the midst of instruction. Some evidence of this inclination can be found in Leah's wish to assess student learning in a more structured way than was intended in DOC, for instance, wanting to see an answer key in order to correct students' force diagrams.155 More compelling evidence comes from the way Leah taught science practices (for her, process skills). As she explained, her approach was to be "right behind them and on them all the time to try to get them to improve those skills."118 Leah described staying on top of students' process skills as being "pretty challenging" 118 and "a lot of work."110 This high degree of difficulty would make sense. As Leah herself admitted, real improvement did not actually occur over the short term, but rather took shape over

122 124

time, with unreliable rates of progress. , Thus, Leah's approach was out of step with the fact that DOC intended for skills to gradually improve as students designed and conducted their investigations and then sought to improve on their approaches. Interestingly, Leah's approach was also out of step with her emerging realization that the process skills were best learned through deep immersion. It seems that although Leah had begun to recognize the value of extensive, prolonged experience (i.e., immersion), she had not yet adopted a style of teaching that would accommodate this process. Instead, she did what came naturally to her, which was to try to increment students' process skills in a fairly direct way, by closely monitoring and correcting what students were doing.115,119

Molly reflected on feeling that she should intervene and correct misconceptions in a way that resembled Leah's inclination to directly teach process skills. After confirming with the interviewer that she was more comfortable with a traditional, presentation style teaching, Molly explained that it was difficult for her to relinquish immediate control over whether students' thinking was based on misconceptions:

You know, I had to give that up [control] a bit. It was hard for me with the students that had misconceptions not to tell them just what it is. That was difficult because some students when they get a misconception and it's later, okay this is what it's really about. Sometimes some students hang onto those misconceptions, I feel. So it was hard to, present it that way, where okay if that's what you think right now, and then later on they did discover it.212

This passage makes it clear that Molly knew she was supposed to let students' conceptual thinking evolve as the investigations progressed, although she seemed to have worried that misconceptions might persist as a consequence of gaining a foothold. Leah, by contrast, did not seem to realize that DOC was designed for process skills to evolve gradually. Nevertheless, the basic inclinations of the two teachers were similar. Molly found it difficult not intervene to correct misconceptions despite her awareness of what DOC intended. We would expect Leah, with similar awareness that process skills should evolve gradually, would still have found it difficult not to intervene to correct process skills, given her urge to strive for definite improvements to those skills within each lesson.

Toward a Model of a Developmental View of Instruction

Figure 1 condenses the four in-context views described above into a general model for a developmental view of instruction. This model is meant to aid in translating from the specific context of this study to other teaching and learning contexts. While it is by no means complete, we believe the model is substantive enough to be useful for thinking about teachers' approaches to developmentally oriented teaching and learning. As the left hand side of the figure shows, the two contextualized views for learning outcomes, wanting students to "be a scientist" and prioritizing big ideas, are combined under the basic heading of believing in transformative outcomes. Our use of the term transformative outcomes is inspired from the theory of transformative learning (Elias, 1997; Mezirow, 1997) in the sense that learning how to be a scientist and deepening one's understanding of big ideas represent growth in the capacity for scientific thought and action.3 In our data, the quality of transformation is most salient in wanting students to "be a scientist." Here, Frank wanted students to be able to use scientific ways of knowing and doing in their lives outside of science, and he marveled at how they could grow to be self-directed as investigators. Pushing a little farther, and adopting the pragmatist's definition of belief as that upon which one is prepared to act (Peirce, 1905), we would claim that Frank believed in these transformative outcomes because he was prepared to act on them. Here, we come back to a finding in the literature that teachers can exhibit conflict by preferring certain types of outcomes in the abstract, but not favoring teaching and learning processes that tend to achieve those outcomes (Banilower et al., 2013; Smith & Southerland, 2007). Molly exemplified this sort of conflict by saying that students should learn to think independently but not preferring instruction that would tend to support independent thinking. Frank was not conflicted in this way. He was clearly comfortable with giving priority to transformative outcomes in DOC, such as learning how to be a scientist and coming to understand big ideas, and he rejected instruction aimed at the steady accumulation of knowledge and skills which he described as "how schools go." Indeed, Frank's belief in

Figure 1. General model of a developmental view of instruction. Also shown are connections to the four contextualized views.

transformative outcomes is perhaps more evident in what he was prepared to set aside, namely smaller ideas within domain content and the correctness of students' actions in the short term, than in what he was prepared to support. The other teachers were not so ready to let go of these less transformative outcomes, and, as reported earlier, this seems to be a frequent result in the literature (e.g., Cronin-Jones, 1991, Kolodner, 2002; Kolodner et al., 2003; Marx et al., 1994)

With respect to teaching and learning processes, Figure 1 summarizes the developmental view as investing in the process of gradual change. As it happens, the two contextualized views, seeing learning as immersion and expecting gradual improvement, describe two different aspects of the overall view, one conceptual and one practical. Seeing learning as immersion is the conceptual aspect. It describes what a developmental teaching and learning process is: deep, sustained involvement, as opposed to a guided tour through a series of topics and experiences. It is also a fairly high level idea, distant from events within instruction day-to-day. Expecting gradual improvement is more about the teachers' actions, and at the level of day-to-day classroom activity. It involves devoting energy to a learning process that may not provide obvious results short term, but which should pay benefits in the long run. Importantly, both seeing learning as immersion and expecting gradual improvement can commit teachers to learning activities that do not directly resemble the outcomes they are intended to produce, at least not on the surface. This commitment can be seen in the difference between Leah's and Frank's approach to teaching scientific practices. Frank was comfortable when students designed and carried out poor plans and procedures and subsequently needed to repeat the process. Thus, the short-term result of the process, failed investigations, did not resemble the desired long-term outcome, becoming competent investigators. By contrast, Leah continually guided students toward good process, producing short-term outcomes that resembled her overall objective.

Finally, the double arrow at the top of Figure 1 shows that believing in transformative outcomes and investing in the process of gradual change should be mutually reinforcing. This relationship can be seen, for instance, in the preceding example of Frank's and Leah's views of scientific practices. Frank saw himself as teaching students to think and act scientifically; so for him, it was important for them to make mistakes and to learn from them—to learn, for instance, about false avenues they should steer clear of in future, and the consequences of not steering clear of them. Thus, Frank's belief in a transformative learning outcome reinforced his investment in a teaching and learning process that was messy and unpredictable. On the other hand, Leah saw herself as teaching students to have good process skills, so she guided students fairly heavily to the performance levels she wanted. Thus, a subtle but profound difference in the way the two teachers viewed the learning outcome was consistent with a corresponding difference in the teaching and learning processes they preferred. Similarly, the relationship should go in the opposite direction, as understanding immersion and having faith in gradual improvement should tend to support belief in more transformative outcomes.


We have illustrated four developmental views of teaching and learning in our context (see Table 2) and induced from them a general model comprised of believing in transformative outcomes and investing in the process of gradual change (see Figure 1). This model provides a clearer and more complete image of taking a developmental view than previously existed in the research base. We believe that this image should provide useful reinforcement to the argument that transitioning to more developmentally oriented science instruction, for instance, as called for in the Framework/NGSS (National Research Council, 2012; NGSS Lead States, 2013), is far from a simple matter of specifying what teachers will and will not teach. Rather, fundamental changes to teaching are involved, including shifts in the sorts of learning outcomes teachers value, and

building trust in unfamiliar teaching and learning processes. Furthermore, the model should serve as a simple but useful set of ideas with which to understand how teachers may think about and approach instruction when deepening intellectual capacity is the objective. We hope these ideas will stimulate educators to debate and further explore the impact of current reforms on teaching practice. Perhaps, teachers themselves could use the ideas to think about their instruction, as well as to evaluate or create curricula. The need for ideas of this sort is very large. As we argued at the outset of this paper, for the simple fact that scientific practices rely heavily on critical and rational thinking (Stanovich, 2009; Willingham, 2007), the concept of developmental orientation would apply to any instruction that takes seriously the notion that students are learning to be practitioners of science.

The ongoing requirement for effective classroom assessment exemplifies a more specific practical use of the model presented here. Taking for granted the fact that short-term lesson and unit assessments must align with intended learning outcomes (Slavin, 2015), the concept of developmentally oriented instruction presents a difficult question: if progress toward transformative outcomes is gradual and possibly difficult to detect over a day or even a week of instruction, what can teachers do to know whether students are progressing? We can think of two very different answers to this question, depending on whether the focus of assessment is on learning outcomes or teaching and learning process. One is to say that it should be possible to adequately specify the full trajectory of progress for all learning, no matter how slowly it develops. Thus, researchers and curriculum designers should be able to identify day-to-day outcomes that would mark progress toward long-term objectives, for instance, knowing to how to design scientific investigations. Such specification would be a logical extension of the current research program on learning progressions (e.g., Alonzo & Steedle, 2009; Catley, Lehrer, & Reiser, 2004; Mohan, Chen, & Anderson, 2009). However, most of this work remains focused on longer term markers of progress. Less formally, practitioners could develop an increasingly sharp "eye" for short-term indicators of progress toward long-term outcomes. More precise specification of key long-term outcomes would probably aid this process. As an example of how, consider Leah's approach to assessing process skills, which was to stay on top of students and continually correct them. We speculate that this was an attempt to map student performance (exhibited process skills) on an outcome within the curriculum (becoming an effective practitioner) that was not clearly defined. If Leah had been armed with more precisely defined objectives relating to becoming a practitioner, for instance, the objective that students should learn to think through potential consequences of poor investigation design, she might have more easily realized that mistakes in process skills represented progress, since each mistake would have represented a potential lesson in the consequences of poor design.

The second answer would be to point out the benefit of shifting the focus of assessment off of learning outcomes and onto the quality of the learning process. In this strategy, which is geared toward formative assessment, instruments would be designed to measure the extent to which students were thinking and acting in ways that would be expected to contribute to developmental goals (e.g., thinking through issues of investigation design), but without expressly measuring progress toward those goals. Teachers routinely use this "proximal" formative assessment when, for instance, they evaluate whether student talk is productive within classroom discussion (Scherr, Close, & McKagan, 2012). A similar approach was described in our review of literature when a teacher, Jason, was gratified by the depth of student engagement with difficult ideas, and he was not concerned with whether students got to correct answers at a given moment (Crawford, 2007). Perhaps, a formal introduction to proximal formative assessment could help teachers take more developmental views of instruction by pointing out what they should be looking for in teaching and learning processes and explaining how these processes push student thinking and knowing toward distant outcomes. Instantiating this idea on our context, if DOC had provided Leah with an

assessment tool showing the indicators of effective learning processes for science practices, she could have more easily realized that continual correction was not a productive strategy, at least not for their long-term development as practitioners.

Looking at the larger picture, the present study indicates that some important challenges attributed to prior-generation efforts to change how science is taught, notably inquiry and project-based learning, are likely to persist within more contemporary reforms like the Framework/NGSS. These "new" reforms have described learning the practices of science in ways that shed much of the terminology and rhetoric associated with inquiry and project-based learning, so they have perhaps avoided some of the criticisms associated with these approaches (e.g., Kirschner, Sweller, & Clark, 2006; Klahr & Nigam, 2004). Nevertheless, the Framework/NGSS and similar reforms have in common with inquiry and project-based learning4 that they push for transformative outcomes in the form of deep-seated changes to intellectual capacities, most prominently the capacity to think and act scientifically. Therefore, it is a mistake to think that the new reforms will somehow leave behind the essential challenges of the older ones. To provide specific examples, two aspects of less developmental views highlighted in the present study were teachers wanting to move through a series of topics and expecting to bring about definite increments to knowledge and skills over the short term. Earlier in this article, we identified shades of these views as challenges within inquiry and project-based learning (e.g., Cronin-Jones, 1991; Kolodner et al., 2003; Marx et al., 1994; Smith and Southerland, 2007). Thus, it is our argument that these challenges are not specific to inquiry or project-based learning. Rather, they are general to any science instruction which is developmentally oriented. As a result, they should be seen not as outmoded challenges of past reforms, but rather as ongoing challenges for the current and future reforms.


The central question we have engaged with in this article can be summed up as follows: how should teachers approach instruction day-to-day, if the priority is to build intellectual capacity over the long term? We believe that this is a very important question for science education. As a step toward answering it, we have introduced, defined, and illustrated a way that teachers and teacher educators can think about instruction as building intellectual capacity, namely taking a developmental view. We think that understanding this view could help teachers support the fundamental purpose of current reforms in science education. We hope that it also reinforces the argument that current reforms, most prominently, the Framework/NGSS, should not be thought of as merely changing what is taught, shifting from covering more topics and skills superficially to going deeper into fewer topics and skills. As we have illustrated here, this way of thinking does not sufficiently acknowledge the priority that is given to long-term development within these reforms, a priority that necessitates fundamental changes to teaching practice. Thus, we have sought to shift the rhetoric to put less emphasis on what extant reforms say about what should be taught in science, and more emphasis on what they say about the nature of science learning, how it occurs, and how teaching can support it.

The authors would like to thank Bill Zoellick for his contribution to conducting and shaping this study. We would also like to thank three anonymous reviewers for their critical feedback and encouragement as we revised this article.

This work was supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation (DRL-0962805). Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the granting agency.


1 We did not yet have a working definition of developmental learning outcomes.

These should not be taken as hard and fast numbers since the category divisions were approximate.

Here, we speak of versions of inquiry and project-based learning which emphasize learning to bepractitioners of science.

The authors would like to thank graduate students David Kerschner, Andrew Beach, and Emily Wilkins for introducing this concept and terminology as part of their independent analysis of these data.


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