Examining Teachers’ Shifting Epistemic Orientations in Improving Students’ Scientific Literacy Through Adoption of the Science Writing Heuristic Approach

  • Brian HandEmail author
  • Soonhye Park
  • Jee Kyung Suh


The role of language is critical both in how science is done and through the products of scientific practices. Importantly, language is viewed as an epistemic tool that enables learners to engage with construction and critique in the practices of science. The Science Writing Heuristic (SWH) approach places particular importance on engaging in the critical language practices of science while building the conceptual understandings of science topics through immersion in an argument-based inquiry approach to learning. This chapter focuses on a study with 28 middle school science teachers who were taking part in a 3-year research project centered on the implementation of the SWH approach for the teaching of science. Teachers were involved in a professional development program where they were introduced into four critical areas for implementing the approach: Learning, Language, Scientific Practice, and Pedagogy. Importance was placed on encouraging teachers to engage in the critical written and oral discourse practices of science that underpin the SWH approach and are essential features of scientific literacy. To track teacher change over the study, an Epistemic Orientation Survey (EOS) was developed that enabled us to examine the alignment between Language as an Epistemic Tool, Science as an Epistemic Practice, and Learning as an Epistemic Act. Building on previous work on the SWH approach, we have examined students’ critical thinking growth rates to the change in teachers’ epistemic orientations as a way to gauge how well such a language-based approach can provide cognitive resources for future growth in developing understanding of science concepts.


Epistemic orientation Science Writing Heuristic (SWH) scientific literacy construction and critique language use in science 


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© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of IowaIowa CityUSA
  2. 2.North Carolina State UniversityRaleighUSA
  3. 3.University of AlabamaTuscaloosaUSA

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