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Teacher Learning for Science Sensemaking: A Systems Approach

Teacher Learning for Science Sensemaking: A Systems Approach

Wednesday, December 6, 2023
12:00pm - 1:00pm
CERAS 204

GSE Colloquium Series in Science, Engineering, Technology Education

Benjamin Lowell, Clinical Assistant Professor of Science Education

Science education in the United States is in the midst of large-scale reform focused on engaging science students in making sense of the natural world rather than learning science as a set of disconnected facts. This reform, embodied by the Next Generation Science Standards and other similar documents, asks that we design learning environments in which all students engage with relevant natural phenomena using their personal experiences and identified science practices to tell a how or why story about that phenomenon. Several supports have been developed to help teachers understand and implement this vision, including professional learning and high-quality curricular materials, but uptake and implementation of this approach to science instruction remains inconsistent.

In this talk, I engage with that problem by looking at the systems in which teachers, teacher educators, and instructional leaders operate to understand what might explain this inconsistency and how we can design teacher learning experiences to better support them. Building on Allen’s framework of organizational sensemaking in science education, I look at how combining curriculum, curriculum-based professional development, and instructional leadership can support teacher learning and practice. Specifically, I share results from two different studies that take distinct methodological approaches to understand systems of teacher learning. First, I share the results of a study of a nationwide sample of middle school science teachers engaging in a multi-year curriculum-based professional development program. I demonstrate how their instructional and self-efficacy beliefs changed over time and use hierarchical linear modeling to identify teacher characteristics associated with differences in those changes. Second, I report on a case study of two different school implementing the same curriculum materials with different levels of success, demonstrating the role of teacher agency and collaboration in supporting teacher learning. Finally, I discuss where I see this line of work going in the future to build school, district, and university-based systems that can support teachers to engage all students in authentic sensemaking around the natural world.

Benjamin R. Lowell (he/him) is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Science Education, Residency Director, and Science Content Mentor in the Teacher Residency Program. He earned his PhD in Curriculum and Instruction from the Boston College Lynch School of Education and Human Development. He also holds an MA in Teaching Science from Stanford University and an ScB in Biochemistry from Brown University.

Event Details


Event Admission 
GSE community only
Event Audience 
Faculty/Staff
Prospective Students
Admitted Students
PhD Students
MA/MS Students

Contact Information


Contact Name 
Jesse Rivas
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