Education

Planting the seeds

Early learners' reasoning about seed structure and function.

Dandelion Plant growth and development is a foundation concept in the science curriculum. Focus on plant characteristics and life cycles in early grades is particularly important because some evidence suggests that as children develop, their ability to notice plants, their assumptions about the importance of plants, and their interest in plants deteriorates. The conceptual understanding students develop about plants in the elementary grades therefore serves as a foundation for later science learning.

Work is needed to understand how elementary students can be supported to formulate scientific explanations, particularly about topics such as seed structure and function where students exhibit a variety of alternate conceptions. A new paper examines explanation-construction within the context of a long-term investigation about plants in three third-grade classrooms and asks the following research questions:

  1. How do third-grade students formulate written scientific explanations about seed structure and function?
  2. In what ways and why do third-grade teachers provide instructional support for students’ formulation of scientific explanations about seed structure and function?

 

Scientific Practices in Elementary Classrooms: Third-Grade Students’ Scientific Explanations for Seed Structure and Function. Science Education, 14 May 2014 doi: 10.1002/sce.21121
Abstract: Elementary science standards emphasize that students should develop conceptual understanding of the characteristics and life cycles of plants, yet few studies have focused on early learners’ reasoning about seed structure and function. The purpose of this study is twofold: to (a) examine third-grade students’ formulation of explanations about seed structure and function within the context of a commercially published science unit and (b) examine their teachers’ ideas about and instructional practices to support students’ formulation of scientific explanations. Data, collected around a long-term plant investigation, included classroom observations, teacher interviews, and students’ written artifacts. Study findings suggest a link between the teachers’ ideas about scientific explanations, their instructional scaffolding, and students’ written explanations. Teachers who emphasized a single “correct explanation” rarely supported their students’ explanation-construction, either through discourse or writing. However, one teacher emphasized the importance of each student generating his/her own explanation and more frequently supported students to do so in the classroom. The evidentiary basis of her students’ written explanations was found to be much stronger than those from students in the other two classrooms. Overall, these findings indicate that teachers’ conceptions about scientific explanations are crucial to their instructional practices, which may in turn impact students’ explanation-construction.

 

2 comments

  1. This study precisely underscores something important to understand about grade school science teaching: the quality of the instruction is directly proportionate to how well the teacher understands the subject and can guide students. The percentage of el ed teachers who have ever done science is pretty small. Unfortunately core curricula seldom teach teachers material that’s appropriate for their classrooms.

  2. The most important thing is to teach by practicing. A lot of theory and you will get the children bored.

    And agriculture is a science that can easily be considered boring by students of this age.

    If you would told me when I was in high school that i’ll be a Horticulture graduate, i would told you that you are insane. And here I am…finishing the Horticulture Faculty and loving it.

    So, there are a lot of children with high potential in this area, but someone just has to unveil their inner passion.

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