I always enjoy reading books that challenge my way of thinking. Working in education, I read many books for my professional development. Many taught me new techniques or strategies, but rare were the ones that challenged me to think in new ways. Becoming a Responsive Science Teacher: Focusing on Student Thinking in Secondary Science has at its core a philosophical framework for understanding the beginnings of scientific thinking in high school students.
The primary question the authors ask in the book is “What are the students thinking?” Responsive teachers understand that they have to assess and respond to what students need, in the moment, before they answer the question, “What should I do?” The book pays explicit attention to student thinking, interpreting it, assessing it, and making judgments about how possibly to respond.
Using case studies, such as the examination of the relationship between owls and snakes to the analysis of the meaning of lines from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, teachers can focus on interpreting and appreciating the substance of what their students are thinking.
The book holds out the promise that when you strive to help students work through their ideas about science, you help them learn how to learn science. The authors state that they believe that “there can and should be much more science going on in science classes.”
Attending to students’ thinking in science can be difficult, the authors explain. It can be unclear, and they may express ideas in ways that are different from what we expect to hear, but teachers need practice listening for them and to them.
As you advance your responsive listening skills to be a more effective educator, additional resources to consider include Page Keeley’s series Uncovering Student Ideas in Science; Designing Effective Science Instruction: What Works in Science Classrooms; STEM Student Research Handbook; and Scientific Argumentation in Biology: 30 Classroom Activities.