Science Writing Tasks that Support Scientific Practices, Sense-making, and Communication

Workshop Proposal: Science Writing Tasks that Support Scientific Practices, Sense-making and Communication
Amy Deller-Antieau; Ann Arbor Public Schools
Leah Bricker; University of Michigan

I. Description of Proposed Workshop; Relevance to ASTE Membership; Learning Objectives
We propose to facilitate a three-hour workshop for 35 people during which we will engage workshop participants with sample products from a research-practice partnership focused on science writing (cf. Penuel et al., 2013). Working with a team of collaborating high school science teachers (across scientific disciplines), we are developing writing tasks that can be embedded in curricular units and activities. In this workshop, we will engage workshop participants with a sample of our writing tasks including accompanying rubrics, and associated student work. In addition, we will engage workshop participants with commentary from collaborating teachers so we can hear science teachers’ perspectives related to how they used and adapted the tasks and why, as well as their reflections on their students’ engagement with the tasks.

Relevance to ASTE Membership
With the release of the National Research Council’s (NRC) Framework for K-12 Science Education (2012), NGSS Lead States’ Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS; 2013), and the National Governors Association and Council of Chief State School Officers’ Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts (CCSS; 2010), it is clear that students in science classrooms must have opportunities to learn how to read, write, and otherwise communicate about science and engineering (cf., Tenopir and King, 2004). This involves understanding one’s audience, one’s purpose, and given those factors, the best genre and language to use for writing/communication. Additionally, learning to effectively write and otherwise communicate about science and engineering means learning to construct multimodal texts (e.g., words, diagrams, graphs, images) (e.g., Lemke, 1990 and 1998). Many middle and high school science teachers were not trained to help support science learners engage the demands related to disciplinary literacy (see Moje, 2008) that are involved in using scientific practices for epistemic and sense-making purposes. We started our project in order to address this need, and have drawn heavily on the NRC publication Literacy for science: Exploring the intersection of the Next Generation Science Standards and the Common Core ELA Standards (2014) to accomplish this work. We contend that our proposed workshop will be of interest to ASTE members who train pre-service teachers, who design professional development experiences for in-service teachers, and/or who design science curricula and assessments that create and measure bridges between science and literacy learning.

We plan to address our workshop audience by modeling a clear picture of best practice in science writing instruction for the secondary level. For example, we hope to provide those who train pre-service secondary science teachers with a clear picture of the practices they must make explicit for their students to be able to understand and implement. We hope to provide professional developers with a model of a workshop that can be used to efficiently support this practice with in-service teachers. Those who design science curricula and assessments will see exemplars of tasks that could be used for science writing instruction or assessment along with a window into how they would ideally be used in a classroom context.

Workshop Learning Objectives
The following learning objectives will guide our workshop:
1. Workshop participants will explore some of the research base for bringing literacy (in this case writing) instruction into the secondary science classroom, as related to the broad purposes for writing in the sciences.
2. Workshop participants will investigate connections between NGSS and CCSS.
3. Workshop participants will connect the important broad writing objectives of attending to purpose, audience, and genre to secondary science-specific exemplars and tasks.
4. Workshop participants will experience an approach to supporting secondary science teachers with meeting writing standards in science contexts.
Our overall goal is to dialogue with participants about how to best support secondary science teachers in increasing their agency related to providing writing instruction in science contexts, including building their identities as proficient writers of science text.

II. Proposed Workshop Outline & Continuing Conversation Plan
The proposed sequence of events for our workshop is as follows (proposed times are informed estimates):
A. Overview of Workshop; Introductions (10 min.)
B. Participant Activity: Considering Purpose (20 min.)
1. We will engage participants in a sorting activity used to elicit their prior knowledge and experiences. We have used the same sorting task to introduce secondary science teachers to our work. We find it a helpful way to generate consideration of specific purposes for writing in the sciences (e.g., description, explanation, recount / procedure, argument – see Schleppegrell, 2004), along with how writing/language differs in text aimed at different audiences.
2. We will have a whole group dialogue about this activity.
C. Overview of the Project and Writing Tasks (10 min.)
–Having elicited schema with an introductory activity related to our writing tasks, we will provide additional details about our project and our accomplishments to date.
D. Share Teacher Voices from the Project (10 min.)
–As noted above, we will provide opportunities for workshop participants to hear from some of the secondary science teachers who are using the writing tasks in their classrooms.
E. Participant Activity: Exploring Different Types of Science Writing (30 min.)
1. To better set the context for reviewing student work, we will provide an opportunity for workshop participants to experience one of the writing tasks we have designed.
2. We will ask participants to share initial noticings and questions, and reflect on their own writing process.

Break (10 min.)

F. Participant Activity: Considering Student Work and Associated Rubrics (30 min.)
1. We will provide participants with sample student work related to the task they experienced. We will also provide our rubrics so that workshop participants have a sense of how we evaluate student writing and provide feedback. Working in small groups, we will ask participants to analyze sample student work related to the rubric dimensions and in relation to their own writing product and process.
2. We will ask participants to share their reflections and small group conversations.
G. Outcomes and Concluding Thoughts on Partnership and Tasks (10 min.)
H. Participant Discussion: Applications and Next Steps (15 min.)
1. We will ask participants to discuss in small groups how they think they might utilize these writing tasks in their own contexts, as well as what suggestions they have for us.
2. We will ask participants to share aspects of their discussions.
I. Closing (5 min.)
1. We will collect the emails of participants who are interested in staying in contact.
2. We will provide a website URL where participants can find workshop resources. This website will also have a comment/contact section to engage participants in ongoing conversation around the work.
3. We will elicit workshop feedback via Google form.

III. Evaluation Plan
We propose to evaluate the workshop, and specifically whether participants think that the workshop targeted our stated learning objectives, by asking participants to complete a questionnaire at the end of the workshop. We will do this by using Likert scale items that are directly tied to each of our learning objectives. We also plan to ask two open-ended questions as part of the questionnaire: (a) What did you get from today’s session that you plan to use and/or apply in some way in your specific context?, and (b) What additional resources do you think you need to more fully realize this workshop’s stated learning objectives and apply workshop material, strategies, etc.? As noted in Section II above, we will share our email addresses and our website so that we are able to continue to dialogue with workshop participants and share resources.

IV. Proposed Workshop Budget & Needed Materials
We will not charge for workshop participation. We will need a projector, a screen, and speakers if they are available. (We are able to bring speakers with us if none can be provided.) We would like to request Internet access if available. We will bring all other necessary materials (e.g., copies of handouts, videos).

V. Presenter Backgrounds
Amy Deller-Antieau is a teacher and District Science Department Chairperson for Ann Arbor Public Schools. In this role she coordinates curriculum, assessments and professional development for science teachers in grades six through twelve. In addition she works as a consultant through the Strategic Literacy Initiative at West Ed to provide training for teachers in several states for integrating literacy instruction in secondary classrooms across all content areas.

Leah Bricker is an Assistant Professor of Science Education in the School of Education at the University of Michigan. Bricker’s research explores youth and adults’ (e.g., scientists) science-related learning across time and settings (e.g., science classrooms, museums, homes, neighborhoods, science cafes). In addition, she designs science-related artifacts and learning environments (e.g., curricula, professional development experiences), and then studies how those designs function in context, including how people are using, experiencing, and learning with the designs. As part of her curricular design work, Bricker focuses on engaging youth with various types of science writing and other forms of science communication.