FOSTERING 3RD GRADE STUDENTS' USE OF SCIENTIFIC MODELS WITH THE WATER CYCLE: ELEMENTARY TEACHERS' CONCEPTIONS AND PRACTICES
Teachers must perceive the value of scientific models as abstracted representations of natural phenomena, and also as pliable reasoning tools that are used to interpret observations, formulate claims, and negotiate meaning. In our study, the teachers’ ideas about what models and modeling involved only focused on certain modeling practices (construct/revise, use, evaluate) and epistemic considerations (generality/abstraction, evidence, mechanism, audience). The teachers in this study showed growth over time; understanding modeling as a complex practice; engaging more deeply into what models are used for, including additional epistemic considerations. Results from this study also suggest teachers’ classroom practices were consistent with their ideas about modeling and a greater emphasis on epistemic considerations resulted in a more student centered classroom.
This study provides insight to teacher educators and practitioners because it brings to light a disparity in how different teachers think about modeling and how these ideas affect their teaching practices. Teachers need further support and professional development in order to productively incorporate modeling practice into the classroom. Additional research around teachers’ conceptions and instructional practices will be critical to further enable elementary teachers in substantively engaging students in scientific modeling around disciplinary core ideas.