Supporting Young Children’s Early Learning in Science. Leslie Rupert Herrenkohl, Ph.D. University of Washington Conference on Early Learning University of Washington September 2007. Presentation Outline. Research literature relevant to early learning in science
Leslie Rupert Herrenkohl, Ph.D.
University of Washington
Conference on Early Learning
University of Washington
Research literature relevant to early learning in science
Children’s developing theories of mind
Children’s early science learning in free-choice learning settings
Teaching science to young children in school settings
What we know and how we teach are out of alignment
Principles to realign early science teaching with what we know about early science learning
Piaget’s Legacy Underestimating Children’s ability to
children’s cognitive conceptualize others
abilities (Donaldson as having “minds” with
and others) intentions, beliefs, desires
- beginning perspective-taking
understand that people feel good when they get what they want and that they will persist if at first they don’t find something they want
appearance reality distinction is manipulated (pretending).
- level two perspective-taking
- understand that people may expect something that isn’t the case (false belief)
Early school age through middle childhood
more capable and articulate reporters of their own thinking
thinking is influence by prior beliefs and biases
- minds as active interpreting processors
- Research in free choice learning situations demonstrate that young children have remarkable abilities to learn about the natural world. Observing, questioning, predicting, and explaining are spontaneous practices observed in these settings.
- Bell’s work with the UW LIFE Center - suggests that there is a mismatch between how kids take up their interests in science out of school and how they are directed in school. By late elementary school, some students did not see what they were doing out of school as “science.”
Children are concrete thinkers who are incapable of abstract thinking
One time experiences rather than sustained inquiry over time
Offering up activities that build skills such as observation and prediction, little emphasis on explanation and theorizing
Guidance offered by NSTA and NARST about early learning in science is limited, especially in the preschool years; NAEYC is a good resource for preschool but often science is seen as a vehicle for encouraging language and literacy skills
Why? Requires communication and collaboration across disciplinary and institutional lines– developmental psychologists, learning scientists, science educators, and early childhood practitioners, curriculum designers, and policy makers
Empirical Question: How do children’s developing theories of mind impact developing theories about other domains?
Are we failing our children?
Percentage of Bachelor's Degrees Awarded in Engineering by Ethnicity and Gender
ETHNICITY 2000 2005
African-American 5.6% 5.3%
Hispanic 5.8% 5.8%
Other 8.5% 8.6%
Asian American 13.1% 14.1%
Caucasian 67.0% 66.2%
GENDER 2000 2005
Female 20.8% 19.5%
Male 79.2% 80.5%
Data source: American Society for Engineering Education.
Asking meaningful questions as the starting point for sustained inquiry
Asking Why and How? Theorizing, not just predicting and observing
Theory revision and change
Representing and communicating theories in multiple modalities
Potential distraction became object of intensive investigation and learning
Revisiting theories about growth, height, and age for short bursts over extended periods
predicting theorizing to theorizing predicting
“It came from the sky, out of the clouds. The color inside the cloud pushed hard on the clouds and then it came outside of the cloud, down down down. If a leaf was hanging out, it came on the edge and moved quickly along the whole leaf. It only happens if a leaf is hanging out.”
“First when it was fall, they were all green. Then just a teeny bit of color—a dot of color came on the edge. It moved slowly around the leaf. It very quietly tiptoed into the middle.
Circle Time/Reporting Out
Student 1: “In fall, the trees begin to get naked, because the leaves fall off and the leaves
are like clothes.”
Student 2: “It’s cold in fall. You can wear short sleeves in summer and long sleeves in fall.”
Student 3: “It’s cloudy and it gets rainy.”
Student 1: “There’s storms and lots of grey clouds and hard rain.”
Teacher: “So in fall it’s cold, and dark early, and windy and cloudy and rainy and stormy. What do you think is the connection between these things and why leaves change color?”
Student 3: “More things are happening to leaves, so they’re changing. The leaves would have to comfort themselves. God puts coats on the leaves, because it gets colder.”
Student 1: “I don’t agree. Color doesn’t do anything. It just decorates the leaves. It just makes things pretty.”
Teacher: “It’s a curious question to think about: What is the job of the color? What does color do for leaves?”
Guinea Pig Behavior
I found out that Andy Goldsworthy’s sculptures require balance
Astington, J. W. (1993) The child’s discovery of the mind. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Bransford, J. D., Brown, A. L. & Cocking, R. R. (Eds.) (2000). How people learn: Brain, mind, experience, and school. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.
Dierking, L.D. & Falk, J.H. (2002). Lessons without limit: How free-choice learning is transforming education. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press (Roman & Littlefield).
Flavell, J. H. (2000). Development of children's knowledge about the mental world. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 24(1), 15-23.
Gopnik, Meltzoff, & Kuhl (1999). The Scientist in the Crib. New York, NY: William Morrow & Co., Inc.
National Research Council (2001). Eager to learn: Educating our preschoolers. Committee on Early Childhood Pedagogy. Bowman, B.T., Donovan, M.S. & Burns, M.S. (Eds.). Commission on Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.
Metz, K. (1995). Reassessment of developmental constraints on children's science instruction. Review of Educational Research, 65(2), 93-127.
Pelo, A. (2007). Take time to see through children’s eyes. Seattle, WA: Harvest Resources.
Reddy, M., Jacobs, P., McCrohon, C. & Herrenkohl, L.R. (1998). Creating scientific communities in the elementary school: Perspectives from a teacher-researcher collaboration. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.