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.
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The quote “descriptions of the successively more sophisticated ways of thinking about a topic” generated 157 results in GoogleScholar on July 15, 2019.
TSTS uses the terms “big idea” and “core idea.” To avoid potential confusion with the more specific use of “core idea” in the Next Generation Science Standards, the term “big idea” is used in Table 1.
To clarify, the emphasis here is not on the number of progress variables, but on the kinds of progress variables.
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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.
This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. (1439819).
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Sikorski, TR. Context-Dependent “Upper Anchors” for Learning Progressions. Sci & Educ 28, 957–981 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11191-019-00074-w