A Learning Performance Perspective on Representational Competence in Elementary Science Education
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To begin to align curriculum and instruction with children’s cognitive abilities, the field requires a theoretical lens to examine how students engage in scientific reasoning for knowledge-building. This chapter employs a learning performance (LP) perspective as a lens to examine what it means for early learners to develop representational competence over a single “big science idea” within a single grade band in the elementary classroom. This lens includes: (a) identifying the knowledge elementary students bring with them into the lesson and the ways in which they build upon this knowledge through the practices of modeling, and (b) how elementary students scientifically reason about phenomena when engaging with the practice of modeling. The chapter will first describe the characteristics and design of learning performances, and the ways that this perspective is useful for describing development of both conceptual understanding and sophisticated reasoning about scientific phenomena. Next, it will examine how elementary students progress through a learning performance and how their progressions anchor learning progressions to productively inform instruction and assessment.
This paper is based on the author’s doctoral dissertation. This research was supported in part by the Paul and Edith Babson Fellowship and the Warren and Edith Day Doctoral Dissertation Travel Award, University of Nebraska-Lincoln. I appreciate the interest and participation of the students and teachers who made this work possible. I also thank Patricia Friedrichsen for insightful comments on an earlier draft of the manuscript.
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