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ISEC 2021


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Gregory J. Kelly

Professor of Science Education and Senior Associate Dean for Research, Outreach, and Technology in the College of Education at Penn State University

Engaging Students in Epistemic Practices of Engineering

Elementary engineering education provides opportunities for students to learn science and engineering through participating in the design and analysis of technologies. Educational experiences can be designed to engage students in the epistemic practices of science and engineering. Epistemic practices refer to the interactionally accomplished and social organized ways communities propose, justify, assess, and legitimize knowledge claims. In this talk, I present analyses of discourse from elementary school students engaging in engineering design. These analyses show that student learning of science and engineering can be fostered through engaging in common tasks, focusing on evidence, and sharing their designs and analyses with classmates.

Gregory J. Kelly
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Lynn Bryan

Professor at Purdue University 

Underestimated Capabilities and Underemphasized Science Practices: Teaching Young Children Core Ideas in Physical Science through Discourse-Rich, Modeling-Based Science Instruction


This presentation focuses on the formative potential of young children’s science learning—specifically potential that rests at the intersection of the underestimated capabilities of young children and the underemphasized scientific practice of modeling. Considering the vast body of literature on science teaching and learning, only a small percentage of studies exist that examine young children’s emerging understandings of science, and in particular, physical science concepts. Within the developmental literature addressing young children’s capabilities in science, there is a deep and consequential division among researchers regarding whether or not young children possess the cognitive skills to engage in simple forms of epistemic and scientific practices or even to develop beginning understandings of core physical science ideas that provide a critical foundation for future science learning. At the same time, the most recent science education reform efforts in the United States stress the importance of developing students’ knowledge of the practices that scientists use to investigate phenomena, build models, and develop theories while concomitantly strengthening students’ competency with these practices (National Research Council [NRC], 2012; NGSS Lead States, 2013). Yet, as noted in A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas, modeling is a scientific practice that has “too often been underemphasized in the context of science education" (p. 44, NRC, 2012). In addressing the formative potential of young children’s science learning, I will present the work we have been doing at Purdue University that lies at this intersection of underestimated capabilities and underemphasized science practices. Over the last decade, we have been engaged in a design-based research program to learn more about specific learning outcomes from discourse-rich, modeling-based early science experiences. Our work with young learners (ages 5 to 8 years old) is yielding important theoretical information about the nature of early elementary students’ conceptual development in the physical sciences as they engage in scientific practices. Further, our research findings have been critical to our efforts to develop cognitively grounded and research-based science curricula for early science instruction as well as professional learning opportunities for teachers’ to develop the knowledge and skills for adopting modeling-based approaches to engage young children in scientific modeling as they develop beginning understandings of core abstract physical science concepts.

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Victor Sampson
Associate Professor of STEM Education
Fellow, Elizabeth Massey Chair in Education, The University of Texas at Austin

Towards a better theoretical understanding of how groups and individuals negotiate meaning during an episode of scientific argumentation


This talk will outline the foundation of a new theory that science educators can use to explain how groups and individuals negotiate meaning during an episode of argumentation. This new theory, which is called Idea Selection, is based on a large body of literature that examines the ways students interact with each other, materials, ideas when engaged in argumentation into a coherent and parsimonious explanation that can be used to predict the outcome a group will reach and what individuals will take away from the experience. The theory consists of ten postulates that stem from the results of empirical studies or findings highlighted in reviews of the available literature. Together, these postulates provide an underlying causal mechanism that shapes how people negotiate meaning during an episode of argumentation on both the group and individual level. The talk will then conclude by outlining some potential implications of this new theory for science educators in terms of future research and classroom practice.

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Lim Tit Meng
Chief Executive, Science Centre Board

Branching from STEM to bear fruits of applied learning


I will talk about the relevance and significance of STEM education not only in preparing students for the VUCA world awaiting them, but also for lifelong learning after formal education because of the rapidly changing landscape for future jobs.  The talk will share some examples of STEM applied learning practices in Singapore and the region. The role of science centres and museums as an effective platform for fruitful STEM learning and application will also be highlighted.


Tan Aik Ling

Deputy Head (Teaching & Curriculum Matters), Natural Sciences & Science Education Academic Group, National Institute of Education

Understanding Students’ Ideas and Experiences about Science Learning

The emphasis on authentic and better ways to teach science in school has been the focus of science research since Dewey encouraged science as inquiry in schools in 1901. Teachers’ choice of teaching strategies contribute to students’ experiences of science learning in schools. In this presentation, I will present findings from researching on students’ science learning experiences that was carried out in Singapore schools over the last eight years. The focus of this presentation is students’ ideas about learning science in schools.

It is hypothesized that teaching science as inquiry and by inquiry will shape students’ views about their classroom experiences and their attitudes toward science. As such, science as inquiry formed the core of the Singapore science curriculum since 2008. Our research findings show that inquiry learning can increase students’ interest in school science, but simply engaging students in hands-on activities is insufficient. Science learning is perceived by grade 4 students as (1) conducting hands-on investigations, (2) completing workbook, and (3) a social process. Students also hold the idea that to be a good science student, they need to be well-behaved and that scientists are more likely to work alone and do things that are dangerous. Some students also viewed themselves “acting like a scientist” in class, particularly when they are doing experiments. Other students, however, opined that they are unlike scientists as they perceive that scientists work alone on dangerous experiments and do not need to listen to the teacher and complete workbooks. Students generally have high interest in science class. Self-efficacy and leisure-time science activities and not gender are significantly associated with an increased interest in school science. While hands-on activities are viewed as fun and interesting, connecting learning to real-life and discussing ideas with their peers had a greater relation to students’ interests in school science.  Indeed, similar to grade 4 students, grade 8 students in Singapore show similarly high science learning self-efficacy when compared with Taiwanese counterparts in areas such as conceptual understanding, practical work, everyday application and science communication. Further, our research evidence also suggested that students’ personal commitment to learning science is an important aspect to cultivate as it has the ability to predict conceptions of science learning and self-efficacy.

Lynn Bryan
Victor Sampson
Lim Tit Meng
Tan Aik Ling
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