Supporting Collaborative Scientific Communities in School

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

Working as a science teacher in a school setting offers many opportunities to support students' collaborative and intellectual growth. This lesson discusses what it means to support collaborative scientific communities in school.

Understanding Collaborative Scientific Communities

Mariah has been teaching high school biology for three years, and she loves many things about her job. She has some curricular freedom, and her students tend to be engaged and thoughtful.

Mariah also has strong working relationships with others in her school's science department. However, she sometimes feels that her students and colleagues are more individualistic in their orientation than she would like.

Mariah is really interested in the idea of a collaborative scientific community, or a group of people who authentically engage with each other in the pursuit of scientific inquiry. She wants to establish a spirit of collaboration among her students so that they learn what it feels like to be part of a team.

Mariah also thinks her department could engage in better scientific pedagogy if they had more of a collaborative orientation. So she starts thinking about how she can support a collaborative scientific community in her school.

Communities Among Students

First, Mariah considers what will help her students have a more collaborative community in the context of science classes.

Listening to Ideas

Mariah thinks that she can try harder to listen to and respect her students' ideas. Sometimes, she is so interested in keeping up with the academic calendar that she forgets to stop and listen.

She realizes that if she wants her students to listen to each other, she has to be a role model. In class, Mariah practices active listening, or listening with an eye toward respecting and actively engaging with her students' hypotheses and questions rather than just waiting for the speaker to be finished.

She soon notices that students are start showing more respect for each other's ideas and methods as well.

Modeling Effective Learning Processes

Mariah also observes that some of her students are very passive about their engagement with science. They want to read their textbooks, memorize facts, pass a test, and move on.

Mariah decides to model more investigative and open-ended approaches to science learning, which means that she shows her students how to approach this in a way that can be thoughtfully mimicked. For instance, when she reads, she models asking questions of a text.

When she conducts an experiment, Mariah models how her hypothesis changes and how she keeps track of what she learns. Most importantly, she models collaboration with others in the context of science learning.

Conveying Passion

Mariah knows that her students can only be as passionate and enthusiastic about science as she shows them it is okay to be. She starts being less shy about portraying her genuine love and curiosity regarding her field, and she notices a real shift in the tenor of her classroom community as a result.

Communities Among Teachers

Of course, students are not the whole story when it comes to collaborative scientific communities in school. Mariah uses some strategies to start establishing a stronger community with her colleagues as well.

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