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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available September 12, 2024
  2. Compelling evidence, from multiple levels of schooling, suggests that teachers’ knowledge and beliefs about knowledge, knowing, and learning ( i.e. , epistemologies) play a strong role in shaping their approaches to teaching and learning. Given the importance of epistemologies in science teaching, we as researchers must pay careful attention to how we model them in our work. That is, we must work to explicitly and cogently develop theoretical models of epistemology that account for the learning phenomena we observe in classrooms and other settings. Here, we use interpretation of instructor interview data to explore the constraints and affordances of two models of epistemology common in chemistry and science education scholarship: epistemological beliefs and epistemological resources. Epistemological beliefs are typically assumed to be stable across time and place and to lie somewhere on a continuum from “instructor-centered” (worse) to “student-centered” (better). By contrast, a resources model of epistemology contends that one's view on knowledge and knowing is compiled in-the-moment from small-grain units of cognition called resources . Thus, one's epistemology may change one moment to the next. Further, the resources model explicitly rejects the notion that there is one “best” epistemology, instead positing that different epistemologies are useful in different contexts. Using both epistemological models to infer instructors’ epistemologies from dialogue about their approaches to teaching and learning, we demonstrate that how one models epistemology impacts the kind of analyses possible as well as reasonable implications for supporting instructor learning. Adoption of a beliefs model enables claims about which instructors have “better” or “worse” beliefs and suggests the value of interventions aimed at shifting toward “better” beliefs. By contrast, modeling epistemology as in situ activation of resources enables us to explain observed instability in instructors’ views on knowing and learning, surface and describe potentially productive epistemological resources, and consider instructor learning as refining valuable intuition rather than “fixing” “wrong beliefs”. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available April 5, 2024
  3. The way high school chemistry curricula are structured has the potential to convey consequential messages about knowledge and knowing to students and teachers. If a curriculum is built around practicing skills and recalling facts to reach “correct” answers, it is unlikely class activities will be seen (by students or the teacher) as opportunities to figure out causes for phenomena. Our team of teachers and researchers is working to understand how enactment of transformed curricular materials can support high school chemistry students in making sense of perplexing, relatable phenomena. Given this goal, we were surprised to see that co-developers who enacted our materials overwhelmingly emphasized the importance of acquiring true facts/skills when writing weekly reflections. Recognition that teachers’ expressed aims did not align with our stated goal of “supporting molecular-level sensemaking” led us to examine whether the tacit epistemological commitments reflected by our materials were, in fact, consistent with a course focused on figuring out phenomena. We described several aspects of each lesson in our two-semester curriculum including: the role of phenomena in lesson activities, the extent to which lessons were 3-dimensional, the role of student ideas in class dialogue, and who established coherence between lessons. Triangulation of these lesson features enabled us to infer messages about valued knowledge products and processes materials had the potential to send. We observed that our materials commonly encouraged students to mimic the structure of science practices for the purpose of being evaluated by the teacher. That is, students were asked to “go through the motions” of explaining, modeling etc. but had little agency regarding the sorts of models and explanations they found productive in their class community. This study serves to illustrate the importance of surfacing the tacit epistemological commitments that guide curriculum development. Additionally, it extends existing scholarship on epistemological messaging by considering curricular materials as a potentially consequential sources of messages. 
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  4. null (Ed.)
  5. Abstract

    Many conversations surrounding improvement of large‐enrollment college science, technology, engineering & mathematics (STEM) courses focus primarily (or solely) on changing instructional practices. By reducing dynamic, complex learning environments to collections of teaching methods, we neglect other meaningful parts of a course ecosystem (e.g., curriculum, assessments). Here, we advocate extending STEM education reform conversations beyond “active versus passive learning.” We argue communities of researchers and instructors would be better served if what we teach and assess was discussed alongside how we teach. To enable nuanced conversations about the characteristics of learning environments that support students in explaining phenomena, we defined a model of college STEM learning environments which attends to the intellectual work emphasized and rewarded on exams (i.e., assessment emphasis), what is taught in whole‐class meetings (i.e., instructional emphasis), and how those meetings are enacted (i.e., instructional practices). We subsequently characterized three distinct chemistry courses and qualitatively examined the characteristics of chemistry learning environments that effectively supported students in explaining why a beaker of water warms as a white solid dissolves. Furthermore, we quantitatively investigated the extent to which measures of incoming preparation explained variance in students’ explanations relative to enrollment in each learning environment. Our findings demonstrate that learning environments that effectively supported learners in explaining dissolution emphasized how and why salts dissolve in‐class and on assessments. Changing teaching methods in an otherwise traditionally structured course (i.e., a course organized by topics that primarily assesses math and recall) did not appear to impact the sophistication of students’ explanations. Additionally, we observed that learning environment enrollment explained substantially more of the variance observed in students’ explanations than measures of precollege math preparation. This finding suggests that emphasizing and rewarding the construction of causal accounts for phenomena in‐class and on assessments may support more equitable achievement.

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  6. null (Ed.)
    The construct of active learning permeates undergraduate education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), but despite its prevalence, the construct means different things to different people, groups, and STEM domains. To better understand active learning, we constructed this review through an innovative interdisciplinary collaboration involving research teams from psychology and discipline-based education research (DBER). Our collaboration examined active learning from two different perspectives (i.e., psychology and DBER) and surveyed the current landscape of undergraduate STEM instructional practices related to the modes of active learning and traditional lecture. On that basis, we concluded that active learning—which is commonly used to communicate an alternative to lecture and does serve a purpose in higher education classroom practice—is an umbrella term that is not particularly useful in advancing research on learning. To clarify, we synthesized a working definition of active learning that operates within an elaborative framework, which we call the construction-of-understanding ecosystem. A cornerstone of this framework is that undergraduate learners should be active agents during instruction and that the social construction of meaning plays an important role for many learners, above and beyond their individual cognitive construction of knowledge. Our proposed framework offers a coherent and actionable concept of active learning with the aim of advancing future research and practice in undergraduate STEM education. 
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