Teaching About the Epistemology of Science in Upper Secondary Schools: An Analysis of Teachers’ Classroom Talk
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- Ryder, J. & Leach, J. Sci & Educ (2008) 17: 289. doi:10.1007/s11191-006-9007-0
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We begin by drawing upon the available literature to identify four characteristics of teacher talk likely to support student learning about the epistemology of science: making appropriate statements about the epistemology of science in the classroom, linking the epistemology of science with specific science concepts, stating and justifying learning aims, and working with students’ ideas. These characteristics are then used in an analysis of the classroom talk of seven teachers as they use published resources for teaching about the epistemology of science for the first time. By focusing on teachers’ initial classroom experiences of using these published resources we identify feasible starting points for professional development activities likely to support these teachers in developing their expertise in this challenging area of teaching. Lessons focused on a specific aspect of the epistemology of science (the development of theoretical models) contextualised within two content areas: electromagnetism and cell membrane structure. Our analysis shows that none of these teachers made clearly inappropriate statements about the epistemology of science in the classroom. However, expertise related to the remaining three characteristics of teacher talk varied between teachers. For example, some teachers used a range of approaches to working with students’ ideas during whole class talk (e.g. asking students to justify their ideas and challenging students’ views) whereas for other teachers students’ ideas were not a strong feature of classroom discourse.