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Development of a learning community in a science classroom

By James J. Watters and Ian S. Ginns


Extensive research has shown that school practices in teaching science are alien to the routine processes of scientific endeavour in the real world and hence school science lacks interest for many students. Advocates of authentic science argue that school science should seek to redress this situation through the development of the discourse of science manifested in such notions as a community of learners. This paper reports on a study that explored pedagogical practices that emphasised the collaborative and communal nature of knowledge construction in science. The challenge was to develop strategies by which students become effective learners of science and enculturated into a community of scientific practice. A science program was conducted in a grade 8 class of 32 students over a term. During these 27 lessons, students were engaged in exploring ways of colonising Mars and investigating the planning and establishment of a space colony on Mars. Analysis of videotapes of the lessons, survey data and interviews with the participants provided insights into the dynamics of establishing a community of learners, and identified constraints and expectations held by stakeholders of what science teaching should be about. The implications for teaching science using these pedagogical practices are examined

Topics: Learning community, science education, motivation, community of practice, collaborative leanring, Classroom research
Year: 1999
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