2015 GSA Annual Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland, USA (1-4 November 2015)

Paper No. 88-7
Presentation Time: 9:30 AM


CHEEK, Kim A., Childhood Education, Literacy, & TESOL, University of North Florida, 1 UNF Drive, Jacksonville, FL 32224, k.cheek@unf.edu

K-12 reform documents like A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas and the Next Generation Science Standards emphasize the need for coherent science instruction that will enable learners to actually progress in their science understanding through schooling. Traditional instruction has often failed in this regard (National Research Council, 2012). Learning progressions (LPs) focus on core topics within a domain. They describe how learners develop increasingly more sophisticated conceptions about a topic as they explore it over an extended period of time (National Research Council, 2007). There are many paths to developing a LP, but all focus on learner pathways to conceptual understanding as opposed to expert-organized views of the progression of concepts. The ultimate goal is better curricular, instructional, and assessment alignment resulting in deeper learning over time. LPs have become an important framework for organizing research in K-12 science education in the US as a result of their emphasis in Taking Science to School, the Framework, and the NGSS.

A GER agenda organized around LPs presents our community with opportunities and challenges. LP research offers the possibility of linking GER more closely with science education researchers in other disciplines, as well as researchers across the academy, like cognitive scientists and psychometricians. While typically associated with K-12 education, LP research could be used in higher education to describe learner pathways at undergraduate and graduate levels. It has promise to impact curriculum, assessment, and instructional practice across K-20 contexts. LP research also presents a number of challenges. It can require significant time and be costly due to the cross-disciplinary nature of the work. Upper anchors or the learning goal are often fairly easy to define, but that is not the case with intermediate levels along the LP. Students’ performance can be inconsistent across tasks and their level of understanding difficult to define in the “messy middle” (Gotwals and Songer, 2010). Possible areas for LP research in geoscience along with specific challenges in those areas will be discussed.

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