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  1. Learner-centered interactions, whether in formal or informal settings, are by their nature unscripted and require both the educator and learner to improvise. In fact, improvisation skills have been recognized as beneficial and applied in a variety of professional development training programs (including science communication, organizational development in university administration, teambuilding and leadership in business, and communication skills in medical education); yet, their inclusion in educator training has been limited. MOXI and UCSB partnered with a professional actor and theater instructor (third author of this paper) to implement applied improvisation training to support informal educators' skills development. After four years ofmore »incorporating applied improvisation training in our facilitation training program, we have found that the basic skills of listening, observing, and responding that are critical in learner-centered education are taught effectively through the well-developed, practical, and fun exercises of improvisational theater. In this article, we describe our applied improvisation training and how it builds skills pertinent to implementing learner-centered facilitation, how graduates of our training program connected applied improvisation training to their facilitation, and how other institutions can incorporate it into preparing educators for working in either informal or formal settings.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 1, 2023
  2. Communication of ideas involves the simultaneous efforts of verbal, physical and neurological processes (Sherr, 2008). In elementary classrooms where young students are in the process of developing their verbal capacities, gestures from both the teacher and students serve as a key component of communication of new ideas and the processing of social information (Foglia & Wilson, 2013). Thus far, research efforts to understand how students utilize gestures in the communication and understanding of ideas have focused primarily on mathematics and the physical sciences (see Nemirovsky & Ferrara, 2009; Nuñez, Edwards & Matos, 1999; Shapiro, 2014; Sherr, 2008). With the introductionmore »of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS Lead States, 2013), students engineering is now included in K-12 instruction. Engineering education centers around designing and optimizing solutions to engineering challenges. The creation of a design solution differentiates engineering education from other classroom subject areas. Current work in engineering education focuses mostly on students’ words or drawings, leaving out gestures as an important component of students' communication of engineering designs. This study aimed to contribute to the general understanding of students’ use of gestures and manipulatives when discussing their engineering design solutions and is part of a larger NSF-funded project. Students participated in pre- and post-field trip classroom activities that extended learning done on an engineering-focused field trip to the local science center into the classroom. For this study, we focused on a module that challenged students to design a craft that either slowed the fall of a penny (classroom engineering design challenge) or hovered in a column of upward moving air (field trip engineering design challenge). We analyzed six videos (3 from the classroom and 3 from the field trip) of first-grade student explanations of their crafts to identify their use of gestures and prototyped craft design solutions in communicating. In this paper, we explore how student use of gestures and use of prototyped design solutions overlap and differentiate to understand how student sense-making can be understood through each.« less
  3. Wolf, S. (Ed.)
    We present design principles for leveraging the affordances of schools and an interactive physical science museum to design curriculum modules that result in students learning physics through the practices of science and engineering. The modules include a field trip program and pre and post activities implemented in elementary school classrooms. The design principles are the result of research conducted during the first two years of a three-year design-based implementation research (DBIR) project and conducted through a long term Research-Practice Partnership (RPP) and on iterative development and testing the field trips and activities with 18 classrooms ranging from grades 1 throughmore »6 and representing a range of demographics.« less