NARST Practice Session: Examining the Teacher's Role in Supporting Elementary Students' Meaningful Engagement in Scientific Modeling

Li Ke, Christina Schwartz, Gail Richmond

Examining the Teacher's Role in Supporting Elementary Students' Meaningful Engagement in Scientific Modeling


Scientific modeling is one of the core scientific practices that can help learners develop subject matter expertise in addition to understanding the nature of knowledge in the discipline. Despite the increasing emphasis on scientific modeling in the community of science education, there is little research on how teachers’ instructional practices can support students engage in modeling practices meaningfully, as opposed to procedurally, especially at the elementary level. In this study, we use Epistemologies in Practice framework developed by our larger research group as our theoretical framework to examine students’ engagement in modeling practice. By comparing and contrasting two teachers’ instruction using the same modeling-based unit, we seek to understand what supports teachers might provide students while engaging in modeling and how these supports might lead to students’ improvement in aspects of modeling. We found that 1) a teacher’s framing of scientific modeling, 2) a teacher’s instructional emphasis on epistemic consideration of the practice, and 3) students’ opportunities to engage in specific epistemic considerations of modeling practices have considerable influence on how students engage in the modeling practice – particularly with respect to the meaningfulness of the practice and the depth in which they engage with the epistemic considerations.