Learning Progression-based Teaching Strategies for Environmental Science Literacy
The Culturally Relevant Ecology: Learning Progressions and Environmental Literacy project works with hundreds of teachers and thousands of middle and high school students at four Long Term Ecological Research sites around the nation. We have constructed learning progressions describing pathways towards model-based reasoning about key concepts in environmental science. Three overarching topics are included: the carbon cycle; biodiversity and evolution; and water quantity, quality and flow. Instructional materials and professional development (PD) strategies have been pilot-tested and refined that support teachers in using what we term “learning progression-based teaching strategies.” These include: focusing on important big ideas; planning instruction based on anticipated level of student understanding; developing and using formative assessments to guide selection of instructional strategies and sequences; supporting student learning through attention and response to student thinking; engaging students in inquiry with authentic events and experiences; linking environmental science to real problems in the local environment; engaging students in and reflecting on science-based citizenship practices. Our PD addresses three goals to support teachers’ use of these strategies. 1) Teacher Content Learning. By engaging teachers in authentic investigations and use of reasoning tools as learners, our evidence shows they develop stronger content knowledge. 2) Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK). Direct engagement in considering student thinking in a learning progression context fosters teachers’ PCK development. 3) Responsive Teaching. By modeling through responsive PD, and providing formative assessments and “learning progression look-for’s” in our PD and instructional materials, teachers build confidence and motivation to probe and build on their students’ reasoning.