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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.more » « less
null (Ed.)Teachers’ sense of “what is taking place with respect to knowledge” drives their perspective on “what works” and “what is likely to work” in their classroom context. Scholarship by Hammer, Russ and many others indicates that this “sense” is very often context-sensitive and may be productively modeled as a local coalescence of small-grained epistemological resources. Presented here is an investigation of the epistemological resources contributing to high school chemistry teachers’ framing of “what works” in their learning environment. Teacher reflections are unpacked and characterized for classroom information noticed and responded to when considering “what worked” during the 2019-2020 school year. Preliminary findings suggest epistemological resources guiding “what worked” often align with a view of knowledge as propagated stuff. Thus, implying that teachers’ reasoning about “what works” is guided by how well knowledge is transferred to students. Also present was evidence that epistemological resources aligned to views of knowledge as fabricated stuff were activated. The perspective that knowledge is inferred or developed from other knowledge, rather than passed from an authority figure, aligns well with reform efforts that emphasize student sensemaking. This study is part of a larger program in which a teacher-researcher collaborative adapts and refines evidence-based curricular materials for an undergraduate chemistry course for use in high school. These materials are structured around scaffolded progressions of big ideas (e.g., energy, electrostatic and bonding interactions) that build in complexity as students make sense of increasingly complex phenomena. Ongoing improvement of transformed materials is dependent upon the ability to initiate and stabilize a sense of “what works” consistent with sensemaking aims.more » « less