Practice Brief 60 -- Topics: Background Instruction Practices Equity

Designing ‘productive uncertainty’ into investigations to support meaningful engagement in science practices

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Why It Matters To You
  • Teachers should routinely incorporate productive uncertainties in instruction so students can experience the surprise, puzzlement, and disagreement that drives science investigations.
  • District staff & PD Providers should engage teachers in complex scientific activity with productive uncertainties and support adapting instructional materials to include those elements.
  • School leaders should expect to see students trying to work through uncertainties in how to carry out investigations, rather than strictly following procedures or rules.

What is the Issue?

We want students to engage from the earliest ages in science and engineering practices with sincere curiosity and purpose. Science investigations can be viewed as “working through uncertainty.” However, 3D instructional materials often try to support engagement in science practices by making them very explicit and scaffolding the process to make it easy to accomplish—arguably, too easy. An alternative approach that emphasizes productive uncertainty focuses on how uncertainty might be strategically built into learning environments so that students establish a need for the practices and experience them as meaningful ways of developing understandings.

Authors:

BY EVE MANZ, SARAH ARNOLD, COLLEEN BAZINET, BETSY BECKERT, DIANA GARITY, GRISELDA GEORGE, PAT O’BRIEN, LAUREN REILLY | MAY 2019


Reflection Questions

  • Do students know why they are engaging in a specific practice? Does your curriculum engage them in the practice without motivating why it is useful?
  • Where do students get puzzled, disagree, or not see what they are “supposed to?” How can those investigation moments motivate engagement in science and engineering practices?

Things to Consider

Attending to Equity

Recommended Actions You Can Take



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