Science & Education

, Volume 28, Issue 8, pp 957–981 | Cite as

Context-Dependent “Upper Anchors” for Learning Progressions

  • Tiffany-Rose SikorskiEmail author
SI: scientific practices


In the spirit of model revision, researchers continue to refine the notion of a learning progression. Despite many advances in learning progressions research, one key design element has eluded scholarly critique, the upper anchor. Drawing on science education research and studies of science, this essay argues for a shift from the predominant model of the upper anchor as the fixed, “most sophisticated” way of thinking toward a more expansive “upper reach” that acknowledges plurality and context-dependence in ways of knowing. Three possible models for context-dependent upper reaches are offered.



I thank three anonymous reviewers, the journal editors, David Hammer, Victoria Winters, and Binyu Yang for very helpful feedback on the manuscript. An early version of this essay was presented at the March 2018 Annual Meeting of the National Association for Research in Science Teaching in Atlanta, GA.

Funding Information

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. (1439819).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The author declares no conflict of interest.


Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Curriculum and Pedagogy, Graduate School of Education and Human DevelopmentThe George Washington UniversityWashingtonUSA

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