Effective learning requires that learners engage in disciplinary sensemaking practices. While the field of education has long argued for learners to learn through participation in sensemaking practices, it has also shown that this is not the norm and can be challenging to foster. I use sociocultural lenses to understand this challenge, arguing that engagement in sensemaking requires that learning activities be experienced by the classroom community as practices that work towards a sensemaking goal, rather than as a set of disconnected procedures that satisfy an evaluative audience (i.e., a teacher). In this talk, I present this theoretical argument, and illustrate how it plays out in my research regarding middle school student participation in scientific argumentation, and in my work with pre-service teachers regarding pedagogical sensemaking. In this, I demonstrate how a focus on sensemaking as a meaningful practice impacts our understanding of what the learners can do and the design of learning environments. Finally, I discuss my next steps, exploring how to design curriculum that students experience as focusing on sensemaking goals and the implications for learning objectives.
Leema K. Berland (Ph.D. 2008, Learning Sciences, Northwestern University) is an associate professor of Science Education at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Dr. Berland is broadly interested in facilitating and studying students as they engage in sensemaking practices (with a focus on K-12 students sensemaking about scientific phenomena and teacher candidates sensemaking about pedagogical phenomena). In this work, she uses sociocultural lenses to argue that engagement in sensemaking requires that learning activities be experienced by the classroom community as working towards a sensemaking goal, rather than as a set of disconnected procedures that satisfy an evaluative audience (i.e., a teacher). Thus, she focuses on understanding how students interpret sensemaking opportunities, how those interpretations influence their participation in the sensemaking, and why they interpret it in the ways that they do. Each of these questions is designed to better understand the dynamics of how and why students are able (or unable) to productively engage in sensemaking, and have implications for the design of learning environments. Dr. Berland has received and participated on numerous NSF-funded projects, was a lead designer on curriculum that is now used nationwide and that is a model for NGSS compliant curricula, and has published widely across Science Education and Learning Sciences journals.