Putting Ideas on the Table

One important dimension of MBI units is the consideration of how teachers can support the foregrounding of disciplinary ideas across the arc of a unit of instruction so that students’ initial everyday ways of thinking and talking are enriched as connections are made between their already developed ideas and evidences from lived experiences and scientific ideas. Care must be taken here since priority across the unit should be given to supporting students’ pursuit of coherent explanations of real world phenomena in responsive ways that build on and refine their idiosyncratic ways of thinking and offers them a level of agency in their pursuits. Given this, we have identified the following strategies to support teachers in navigating the introduction of disciplinary ideas (i.e., DCIs and CCCs in the NGSS) at strategic times and in strategic ways so that they are taken up by students as part of their sensemaking about phenomena in ways that don’t ‘short-circuit’ or ‘highjack’ students’ as the primary sensemakers as they engage an the MBI unit.

Starter Kits

Starter kits are a set of fine-grained knowledge pieces that are introduced early in the unit so that students can collaboratively negotiate the usefulness of these knowledge pieces in explaining the MBI unit anchoring phenomenon. Example starter kits highlighted here are (1) pieces of the kinetic molecular theory useful in supporting reasoning about air pressure shared from the Next Generation Science Exemplar Project and (2) pieces of a photosynthesis, cell division, matter unit toolkit used by inservice teacher collaborators useful in supporting reasoning about how a small seed grows into a giant Sequoia tree.

Texts/Readings, Videos, Simulation, Just-in-Time Instruction

Like the starter kit, texts/readings, videos, simulations, and just-in-time instruction provide mechanisms for putting disciplinary ideas on the table. Unlike the starter kit, we have generally relied on these mechanisms during MBI phase 3 (supporting on-going changes in thinking) as part of a mix of other activities including student-led investigations. As these mechanisms are employed, we have been careful to connect these to sensemaking activities where students are positioned to try out or apply the introduced disciplinary idea either to a novel related phenomena or scenario or to the MBI unit anchoring phenomenon (minimally as part of completing a row of the summary table). And, while we have included just-in-time instruction (or teacher led lecture) as one of the mechanisms we have used or seen effectively used by inservice and preservice teachers, we recommend being judicious in how frequently this mechanism is used and ensuring it is used when it is most timely (i.e., at a time after students have had a chance to think about a scenario or phenomenon without the idea so that it's usefulness becomes evident once they start trying to use it). Finally we also recommend equally balancing this mechanism with student-led investigations that help ensure students are the primary sensemakers with recognizable agency in classroom decision-making.