Teaching practices that matter in middle grades science

During middle school many students lose interest in science. Christopher Harris and Ronald Marx describe techniques that can help teachers create engaging and meaningful science experiences for these students  

THE MIDDLE GRADE YEARS are a critical time for engaging students in learning science. Yet, the way science is often taught during these years leaves many students bored and struggling to find relevance and meaning in their science classroom experiences. Educational research shows a steep decline in science interest and achievement among middle grade students. A challenge facing educators is to find new ways of teaching science that are engaging, relevant, and meaningful for students.

What we know
● Contextualizing instruction helps students see the relevance of science.
● Activating prior knowledge is an effective starting point for building scientific understanding.
● Supporting explanation and reasoning engages students in thinking deeply about science.
● Focusing on learning goals helps students stay on the intended learning path.
● Attending to student thinking is necessary for students to benefit from inquiry.

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June 2010