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“Making Space”: How Novice Teachers Create Opportunities for Equitable Sense-Making in Elementary Science

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Scholarly calls to reform science education for all students emphasize scientific sense-making. Despite the importance of sense-making, few strategies exist to help novice teachers learn to notice and respond equitably to students’ scientific sense-making in elementary science. In this article, we report on a qualitative case study in which we investigated sense-making moments that occurred when novice teachers facilitated classroom discussions. Findings suggest that when novice teachers made space in class discussions for sense-making—for example, by trying different responses to clarify student ideas or waiting before responding to figure out next steps—this expanded opportunities for shared epistemic authority; however, novices did not often recognize these moments as productive for sense-making. Findings also suggest that novice teachers may benefit from support to help them develop their abilities to notice, interpret, and respond equitably to students’ scientific sense-making in class discussions.
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DOI: 10.1177/0022487118800706
Every year, thousands of novice elementary teachers join
the workforce, replacing retiring teachers and filling gaps
left by high levels of attrition (Carroll & Foster, 2010).
These novices feel pressure to learn how to manage a class-
room and cover curriculum for standardized tests (Kennedy,
2005). As a result, novices’ teaching focuses on students’
behavior rather than on supporting students’ sense-making
(Levin, Hammer, & Coffey, 2009; Liston, Whitcomb, &
Borko, 2006). Contemporary reforms in science education
emphasize sense-making—that is, a proactive engagement
in understanding the world by generating, using, and
extending scientific knowledge within communities of
practice—for all students (National Research Council,
2012). However, supporting students’ sense-making is
challenging for teachers. This dilemma is well-documented
in science education where maintaining authoritative con-
trol over subject matter clashes with creating genuine
opportunities to construct understanding (e.g., Braaten &
Sheth, 2017; Windschitl, 2002).
Teachers struggle to predict what students will share, to
envision managing students’ sharing, or leveraging student
thinking for learning. This leads to uncertainty in the class-
room, requiring increased improvisation where teachers act
as guides for student learning while still allowing students
to make choices about what and how to learn (Schoerning,
Hand, Shelley, & Therrien, 2015). Enabling students to
make choices also requires a more flexible understanding
of the science content, a competence eluding many nov-
ices (Larkin, 2013).
Sense-making refers to “what” students are learning and
students’ “ways of understanding” the world (Rosebery &
Warren, 2008). A sense-making perspective positions stu-
dents as capable of asking and answering scientific questions
to build knowledge and skills (Engle & Conant, 2002). In
this article, we focus specifically on equitable sense-making,
where classroom interactions—typically grounded in an
epistemic stance privileging particular ways of knowing and
talking—expand, thereby shifting historicized relations of
power and position (Bang, Brown, Calabrese Barton,
Rosebery, & Warren, 2017; Seiler, 2001; Tan, Calabrese
Barton, Varley Gutiérrez, & Turner, 2012). Teaching science
for equitable sense-making leverages students’ ideas, experi-
ences, and cultural resources while disrupting power struc-
tures. This kind of teaching requires pedagogical strategies,
800706JTEXXX10.1177/0022487118800706Haverly et al.Journal of Teacher Education
1Michigan State University, East Lansing, USA
2University of Colorado Boulder, USA
Corresponding Author:
Christa Haverly, Michigan State University, 620 Farm Lane, 313 Erickson
Hall, East Lansing, MI 48824, USA.
“Making Space”: How Novice Teachers
Create Opportunities for Equitable Sense-
Making in Elementary Science
Christa Haverly1, Angela Calabrese Barton1,
Christina V. Schwarz1, and Melissa Braaten2
Scholarly calls to reform science education for all students emphasize scientific sense-making. Despite the importance of
sense-making, few strategies exist to help novice teachers learn to notice and respond equitably to students’ scientific sense-
making in elementary science. In this article, we report on a qualitative case study in which we investigated sense-making
moments that occurred when novice teachers facilitated classroom discussions. Findings suggest that when novice teachers
made space in class discussions for sense-making—for example, by trying different responses to clarify student ideas or
waiting before responding to figure out next steps—this expanded opportunities for shared epistemic authority; however,
novices did not often recognize these moments as productive for sense-making. Findings also suggest that novice teachers
may benefit from support to help them develop their abilities to notice, interpret, and respond equitably to students’
scientific sense-making in class discussions.
elementary education, science education, science teacher education, equity
2 Journal of Teacher Education 00(0)
or practices, for noticing and responding to students’ contri-
butions (similar to Windschitl, Thompson, Braaten, &
Stroupe, 2012). Despite the importance of sense-making and
well-known challenges facing novices, few approaches exist
to help them learn to notice and respond equitably to stu-
dents’ sense-making.
This article investigates how novice teachers improvise
while facilitating classroom discourse. We look closely at
select moments where novice teachers notice and respond to
students in classroom discussions. How novice teachers
respond to students’ scientific sense-making—especially
when their sense-making deviates from the teacher’s planned
script—shapes students’ opportunities to learn (Rosebery &
Warren, 2008; Stroupe, 2014). We focus in particular on how
novices’ noticing and responding facilitates or constrains
opportunities for equitable sense-making.
This article reports on two cases in which participants
made space for students’ scientific sense-making during
class discussions and one case in which this did not occur.
Making space builds on Hand (2012) who conceptualizes
students taking up space as contributing to classroom dis-
course in ways that challenge normalized and hierarchical
systems of marginalization. Whereas Hand focuses on the
actions of students to take up space, in this article, we think
of making space as an action of teachers which has both ped-
agogical and epistemological dimensions. For example,
teachers make space pedagogically by inviting students’ con-
tributions to classroom discourse and epistemologically by
valuing multiple ways of making sense of science.
We argue that making space is potentially promising for
framing novice teacher practice to support students’ equita-
ble sense-making and shift epistemic authority in science
classrooms. Our analysis also indicates new questions for
teacher education. Novices who made space did not recog-
nize students’ contributions as sense-making; instead, teach-
ers saw confusion, misconceptions, and mistakes. This
dilemma is in line with research by Braaten and Sheth (2017)
and others, and it suggests that further support is needed for
novice teachers to learn to notice and respond to students in
equitable ways. Ongoing efforts to systematically design and
refine supports for novice teacher learning indicate that nov-
ices can learn to notice students’ sense-making and respond
in more equitable ways (e.g., Russ, 2018). Better understand-
ing sense-making moments may help teacher educators sup-
port novice teachers.
Conceptual Framework
Noticing and Responding
Noticing is a key component of teaching characterized by
recognizing, attending to, and reasoning about salient class-
room events and interactions (van Es & Sherin, 2002, 2008,
2010). Identifying noteworthy events is integral to noticing
(van Es & Sherin, 2002). After teachers notice such events,
they interpret student thinking, and then respond by making
pedagogical decisions for upcoming lessons or by interacting
in the moment. Teacher noticing differs from everyday
observations by prompting teachers to draw on their “profes-
sional vision in action”—or, their knowledge of pedagogy,
learning, and classroom practice (Benedict-Chambers, 2016;
Goodwin, 1994; Sherin, Russ, Sherin, & Colestock, 2008).
Professional vision in action is not well understood partly
because it is challenging to detect or measure and partly
because few studies examine teacher practice at this grain
size (Lampert, 2010; Sherin et al., 2008).
Noticing and responding to students’ sense-making is a
high-leverage teaching practice. High-leverage practices are
practices which are essential for novice teachers to under-
stand and enact for every student in the classroom to learn
(Ball & Forzani, 2009). As with other high-leverage prac-
tices, noticing and responding can appear invisible to an out-
side observer. Yet, enacting this practice with expertise
provides increased opportunities for students to engage in
equitable sense-making. In addition, this practice is a neces-
sary condition for the learning portrayed in the Next
Generation Science Standards (NGSS Lead States, 2013),
where teachers must recognize and leverage students’ knowl-
edge as part of the larger system of practices, norms, and
values of a science classroom. To achieve the vision set forth
by NGSS, teachers must pay particular attention to how and
why students engage in discourses and practices that make
up participation in science (Engle, 2012; Engle & Conant,
2002; Hogan, Nastasi, & Pressley, 1999).
Equitable Scientific Sense-Making
We are concerned, in particular, with finding ways to support
teachers in promoting equitable scientific sense-making in
the classroom. Similar to meaning-making (Wickman &
Östman, 2002), sense-making is a process in which students
co-construct their understanding of the world as they gener-
ate, use, and extend their ideas in the classroom (Maskiewicz
& Winters, 2012; Warren, Ballenger, Ogonowski, Rosebery,
& Hudicourt-Barnes, 2001). A primary way individuals learn
is through interactions among people, text, tools, and other
objects (Greeno, 2006; Kang, Windschitl, Stroupe, &
Thompson, 2016). Sense-making moments comprise such
interactions and can create more opportunities for individual
students to interact in ways that allow them to move collec-
tive sense-making forward. Sense-making, therefore, is inte-
gral to student learning (e.g., Hammer, 1995; Maskiewicz &
Winters, 2012; National Research Council, 2007, 2012).
We conceptualize equitable sense-making as a co-con-
struction of knowledge incorporating students’ epistemic
resources—including language practices, discursive forms,
and cultural practices (Nasir, Rosebery, Warren, & Lee,
2006)—not always traditionally legitimized in classroom
spaces. For students to have opportunities for equitable
sense-making, they need to be noticed and responded to in
Haverly et al. 3
ways that value and leverage their epistemic resources. Thus,
we see shared epistemic authority as a key piece of equitable
Epistemic Authority. Epistemic authority refers to whose
knowledge and ways of thinking are positioned as expert in
the science classroom (Engle, Langer-Osuna, & de Royston,
2014). Typically, epistemic authority rests in teachers and
science texts (Forman & Ford, 2014). Calabrese Barton and
Tan (2009) discuss how teachers and students can disrupt
“settled hierarchies” by sharing epistemic authority (Rose-
bery, Warren, & Tucker-Raymond, 2015). In equitable sci-
ence classrooms, peers and teachers view shared ideas as
important epistemic resources which afford students epis-
temic authority (Engle & Conant, 2002).
In many science classrooms, students contribute to class-
room discourse but do not shift epistemic authority. For
example, teachers maintain epistemic authority when stu-
dents’ contributions show the teacher that they know “the”
answer (Carlone, Haun-Frank, & Webb, 2011). In these
cases, epistemic authority “organizes, sorts, and alienates
students” (Carlone et al., 2011, p. 479), according to whose
contributions to the classroom discourse count for construct-
ing knowledge, rather than equitably sharing epistemic
authority. However, when students’ epistemic resources are
leveraged by both the teacher and their peers within the
classroom science community, students share epistemic
authority contributing to knowledge construction while
being accountable to peers and classroom scientific norms
(Carlone et al., 2011; Stroupe, 2014).
In this article, we describe how particular moves made by
novice teachers mediate equitable sense-making as teachers
notice and respond to students’ contributions while sharing
epistemic authority with students.
A Conceptual Model of Sense-Making
Sense-making moments occur in a larger context. We specu-
late that these moments, when taken both individually and
collectively over time, play a role in the larger context of
sense-making and equity in a classroom. Figure 1 is a model
of how we conceptualize noticing and responding to sense-
making within a broader context. This model emerged
throughout our analysis and has been useful for communicat-
ing our conceptual framing and findings.
The middle of the model depicts interactions comprising a
sense-making moment. This begins with an initial idea or
question—what the teacher or students do to set up the
moment. Next, responses—what students and teachers say or
do—happen as a result of the initiation. Finally, further inter-
actions about the idea or question—ideas elevated to shared
discourse, discussed privately, or tabled altogether—conclude
Figure 1. A model of sense-making moments.
4 Journal of Teacher Education 00(0)
the “moment.” Throughout these interactions, teachers notice,
interpret, and respond to students’ contributions.
We consider any given sense-making moment to be
bound by a particular idea anchoring students’ sense-mak-
ing. These interactions steer the science storyline. We con-
ceptualize a science storyline as the scientific explanation
for a given phenomenon that teachers want students to
develop and ultimately understand. Science storylines
could potentially be (a) teacher-constructed, where the
teacher maintains epistemic authority, (b) co-constructed,
where the teacher and students share epistemic authority,
or (c) student-constructed, where epistemic authority shifts
entirely to students.
On the right side of the model, we identify possible out-
comes of sense-making moments. Individual students may
develop deeper understandings of science as well as agency
and authority to develop science storylines. Collectively, stu-
dents’ ideas become public resources for making sense of
science, shifting collective agency and authority. Teachers,
with support, may develop or refine pedagogies for facilitat-
ing equitable sense-making, furthering agency as reflective
and equitable teachers.
On the left side of the model are contextual factors shap-
ing how a given sense-making moment transpires. These fac-
tors include student resources (e.g., funds of knowledge,
informal science experiences), teacher resources (e.g., con-
tent knowledge, beliefs, identity), and external factors (e.g.,
curriculum materials, school policies). Sense-making
moments have multiple, interconnected instantiations over
time resulting in a feedback loop that contributes back to the
classroom culture and available resources. The arrows at the
top and bottom represent how each moment fosters the next
sense-making moment.
Research Questions
In this article, we focus on sense-making moments that
occurred during science discussions and that highlighted
possible equitable sense-making moves. These discussions
took on various forms, but in each case, they served as the
context for participation which established opportunities for
sense-making. Our research questions focus on sense-mak-
ing moments in these discussions:
In what ways do novice teachers navigate sense-mak-
ing moments in science discussions that result in equi-
table sense-making opportunities for students?
What do novice teachers notice in these moments?
How do they respond to student sense-making?
Our exploratory study is grounded in qualitative case study
(Yin, 2014). A case study design allowed us to closely exam-
ine interactions in moments of uncertainty between the
novice teachers and their students while considering the
impact of the teaching context.
The cases described in this article derive from a larger proj-
ect examining noticing and responding practices from 15
teachers in the Midwestern United States, including eight
intern teachers, one first-year teacher, and six experienced
teachers (Schwarz, Braaten, Haverly, Calabrese Barton, & de
los Santos, 2018). Throughout the article, we use pseud-
onyms to identify the participants and their students. Our
intern participants were in their fifth year of a 5-year teacher
preparation program at a Midwestern university. In this pro-
gram, students take two science methods courses—one as a
senior-level undergraduate course with a weekly field place-
ment, and one master’s-level course during their fifth-year
full-time internship. Goals of these courses include learning
how to plan and teach science lessons and units, establishing
inclusive classroom communities that meet the needs of
English language learners and differently abled students,
developing an understanding of the nature of science, and
reflecting on one’s science teaching practice. At the time of
data collection, these courses did not address sense-making,
noticing, or epistemic authority. Instead, they addressed
related topics including conducting and analyzing science
talks with students and closely reflecting on students’ scien-
tific ideas. We recruited interns from their science methods
class in the Spring semester. Four interns participated each
year; we included all eight in the larger study.
This article features two interns (Paul and Melanie*) and
a first-year teacher (Kendra). We selected these two interns’
cases for this article as their practices illustrate two different
approaches resulting in similar outcomes for students. We
found the two cases not to be representative of the larger data
set, but rather illustrative examples we wanted to unpack for
further study and their potential implications for teacher
preparation. We selected the first-year teacher’s case as a
counter-example in which her practice approximated that of
the interns’ but with different student outcomes.
Data Generation: Sense-Making Portfolios
With each participant, we generated a “sense-making portfo-
lio” describing practices for noticing and responding to stu-
dents’ sense-making while teaching science. These portfolios
consisted of several artifacts, including classroom videos,
teacher interviews, and student work.
Classroom Videos. To characterize teaching practices, teach-
ers video-recorded four science lessons, preferably in the
same unit. Participating interns recorded lessons from their
required science units for their science methods course. Their
*All names in this paper are pseudonyms.
Haverly et al. 5
science methods instructors focused coursework on prepar-
ing interns to actively engage students in shared experiences
which supported their identification of patterns and construc-
tion of explanations (Sharma & Anderson, 2009).
Paul’s case draws from his unit on the solar system. Two
of the learning goals based on state standards were for stu-
dents to recognize that gravity affects tides on Earth and the
motion of planets and moons. In the excerpts used in this
article, his students work through their ideas about gravity.
Melanie’s case draws from her unit on the states of water
and the water cycle. One of Melanie’s learning goals drawn
from state standards was that students understand that
clouds are not gaseous but are small drops of water. In the
excerpts presented below, her students make sense of how a
cloud forms. Kendra’s case draws from her unit on evolu-
tion, and in the excerpt below, the class discusses the diges-
tive systems of animals.
Interviews. We conducted semi-structured interviews with
teachers after everyone—researchers and teachers—viewed
the video-recorded lessons. Interviews captured teachers’
reflections on noticing and responding to students’ sense-
making while viewing video clips together. Interview proto-
cols, based on work by Kang and Anderson (2015),
McLaughlin and Calabrese Barton (2013), and Thompson,
Windschitl, and Braaten (2013), included questions about
what teachers noticed about students’ sense-making, how
they interpreted students’ responses and actions, and why
teachers responded as they did.
Prior to the interviews, we asked participants to select 3 to
4 segments of video in which they felt like student sense-
making was visible and to identify times where something
interesting or surprising took place. Across the data set, we
found that teachers selected segments where students were
engaged in some form of discussion. While we also had vid-
eos of students engaged in investigations, writing in science
notebooks, and learning outdoors, classroom discussions
were highlighted during post-video teacher interviews pre-
sumably because teachers saw classroom discussions as
spaces for students to make their sense-making visible.
In some interviews, the participants noticed some of the
same moments that the researchers noticed when preview-
ing the video. In others, researchers shared an additional
moment they noticed to probe participants’ thinking about
what researchers were noticing. The cases presented in this
article represent a combination of participant-selected and
researcher-selected moments.
Researchers analyzed data through multiple stages and levels
of coding based on procedures for open coding and constant
comparison (Corbin & Strauss, 2014). Our first pass involved
watching the videos teachers shared in their portfolios and
reading through interview transcripts. The goal of this initial
read-through was to identify the following: (a) critical
moments in student sense-making, or those moments where
sense-making seemed to shift or disrupt the classroom dis-
course in a noticeable way (example codes: UNANTICIPATED,
STUCK, SURPRISING), (b) how teachers talked about those
sions and connections among teachers’ anticipated science
storylines and what actually happened during the episodes
of how we defined and refined these codes are included in
Table 1.
During this round of data analysis, we noted links between
coding categories such as times when teachers described
being “stuck” in-the-moment as students said or did some-
thing they did not anticipate. These links between codes
clarified meanings that teachers ascribed to these moments.
The authors held weekly conversations on these insights as a
way to work toward a consensus. Any differences in view
were debated until new or refined codes were generated.
Our second pass involved identifying what we, the
researchers, interpreted as the sense-making outcomes of
these moments. In particular, with the help of our conceptual
framework of equitable sense-making, we began to code for
when these moments EXPANDED, MAINTAINED, or
SHUT DOWN opportunities for students to advance sense-
making. We used this axial phase of coding to uncover rela-
tionships between the students’ sense-making, the teacher’s
actions and interpretations, and tensions emerging from the
data. In developing these coding schemes, we paid attention
to how and when epistemic authority for sense-making took
shape in the classroom, and we paid attention to what this
meant for the overall moment. As we began to make sense of
patterns observed across cases, we redesigned the sense-
making model (Figure 1). We used the sense-making model
to diagram over a dozen individual cases, and as we did so,
we continued revising and refining the model. The relation-
ships and connections identified in this second stage of anal-
ysis, in turn, guided our selective coding and became
categories and themes from which we selected our example
cases for a final round of analysis and presentation.
Among the most salient concerns of novice teachers were
moments when science lessons did not go as planned.
Novices readily noticed when their students went “off-script”
deviating from the teacher’s anticipated science storyline.
Responding to these off-script contributions presented a
challenge for novices because it required them to work more
flexibly with their science knowledge as well as with norms
for participation (e.g., who participates, how, who has author-
ity, why). When teachers made improvisational teaching
decisions, the allowable science storyline sometimes
6 Journal of Teacher Education 00(0)
expanded, fostering more robust opportunities for students to
engage in sense-making. These improvisational decisions
did not always appear to be intended as a means to share
epistemic authority. Yet, as a result of making space, we
noticed shifts in students’ epistemic authority in the class-
room allowing their ideas to become public resources for
collective sense-making.
In what follows, we present three cases that expand upon
these main claims. We selected the first two cases from Paul
and Melanie because they each illustrate a different variation
in the making space pattern we observed. A third case is
offered as a brief counter-example of a moment in which
Kendra made space for a student contribution, but it did not
result in an equitable sense-making outcome.
Case 1: Try and See
In this first case, we explore how Paul made space for stu-
dent sense-making by trying different strategies for hearing
student voices to see what would happen next in the science
classroom. Paul was a White male intern in a fifth-grade
classroom that was predominantly White (~60%) with sev-
eral English language learners in a college town in the
Midwest. Paul valued helping his students to learn how to
engage in a “positive discussion” by actively listening and
responding to one another respectfully. In his interview, he
If you can teach a kid to have a positive discussion and not like
point fingers and blame and yell and be able to have a discussion,
everything else is so much easier, and you have developed that,
the person, not the student but them as a person.
Paul was interested in developing the whole person, and he
saw teaching students to communicate respectfully with one
another as one way of doing this.
As an intern, Paul’s strategies seemed unpolished—at
times he lacked confidence in deciding his next move.
Allowing students to share their ideas and figuring out how
to respond can be difficult. Although Paul’s moves showed a
commitment to student voice, he was still figuring out how to
enact this vision. He tried several different moves throughout
his recorded lessons to make space for student voices. A
common thread through Paul’s science teaching is a try and
see approach as Paul tried different strategies to see what
might work to support his students’ sense-making.
Table 1. Analyzing Moments of Science Sense-Making in Novice Teaching.
of sense-
making model Example codes Definition Example from participating teachers
UNANTICIPATED Teacher indicates that they did not expect this
moment; moment appears novel to teacher.
Student suggests state of matter where
“particles are all together” before teacher
introduces particles.
STUCK Teacher indicates that they were not sure
what to do next; teacher appears unsure of
what to do next.
Students bring teacher’s attention to a
discrepancy on PowerPoint slide versus
students’ graphic organizer.
SURPRISING Teacher expresses surprise at a student’s
contribution; teacher appears to be
Students located the fulcrum on compound
levers that teacher did not know.
Cultural repertoires of practices and
experiences students bring to school to
make sense of science.
Student uses mom’s recent experiences in car
accidents to reason about what makes a car
Availability of materials, time, and institutional
support for teaching science.
Competing pressures to extend mentor’s
science lessons versus transitioning to intern’s
Teacher’s content knowledge, professional
orientations, identities, pedagogical skill set, etc.
Teacher’s confidence in her knowledge of
science teaching despite lack of experience.
Teacher and students construct science
storyline together sharing epistemic
Teacher prompts students to talk and respond
to one another as part of classroom routine.
Teacher maintains epistemic authority and
attempts to transmit knowledge to students.
Teacher tables a student’s idea by writing it to
the side on the board and not returning to it.
Students have full epistemic authority for
constructing science storyline.
Teacher, unsure of what to do next, allows
students to talk through their ideas.
FRACTURED A science storyline which is cut off
Teacher begins to entertain a student’s question,
but abruptly ends the discussion to move on.
Haverly et al. 7
Below, we present three vignettes to illustrate sets of moves
Paul tried which made space for student sense-making. In each
vignette, Paul made small moves that shifted some epistemic
authority from himself to his students. Although this likely did
not result in equitable sense-making to the fullest or most ideal
extent, it does point to small moves novices could learn to
move toward equitable sense-making as they refine their
Giving Students the Floor. On several occasions during science
teaching, Paul was responding to a student, and then he
stopped mid-sentence to call on another student. We see this
as an example of Paul making space in the lesson for students
to talk. For example, take this exchange:
Paul: But I wanna focus on mass. Cuz density is a little
bit different, uh, than mass. So, let’s go back to Sarah’s,
uh, definition of mass, which is?
Sarah: Mass is something that’s there.
Paul: Something that’s there. So, there is a difference-
Yes, Mark.
Mark: Uh, I think that maybe mass cuz you say mass is . . .
Paul was in the middle of processing what Sarah said; he
began by repeating her definition, “something that’s there,”
and he was about to do something with it: “so, there is a dif-
ference-.” However, it’s not clear if he was going to push
back on her idea, connect it to other ideas that students had
shared, clarify her idea, or something else because he inter-
rupted himself to call on Mark and to hear Mark’s ideas. He
gave Mark the floor.
From his interview, we have some insight into why Paul
sometimes used this strategy. He talked about it directly,
although in reference to Geraldo, an English language learner
student, who rarely participated: “I stop whatever’s in my
head and like ‘go ahead you have an idea.’” Paul reacted to
Mark’s contribution in the same way as Geraldo’s. He
stopped what was “in his head” to let Mark share his idea
(see Figure 2). This was a strategy that Paul used to elevate
students’ ideas in the class discussions and allow them to
claim voice.
Paul’s use of this strategy of giving students the floor pro-
vided opportunities for students to share ideas as Paul relin-
quished some epistemic authority. Paul interrupted his
planned science storyline to make space for students to par-
ticipate resulting in shared epistemic authority and a co-con-
structed science storyline. This was a risky move for Paul
given that he did not know what the student would say or
how that might shift the science storyline. The next two try-
and-see strategies are less risky allowing Paul to adhere to
his science storyline.
Highlighting Students’ Ideas. Paul sometimes highlighted stu-
dents’ answers that aligned with his science storyline. In
Figure 2. A model of Paul’s strategy of giving students the floor.
8 Journal of Teacher Education 00(0)
these moments, Paul elevated student voice in the lesson and
made space for student sense-making, but he did so while
maintaining more control over the science storyline. In the
following example, note how Paul highlights a student idea
aligned with the science storyline:
Ann: The, um, gravitational pull- or, the way you weigh
less is because the gravitational pull, it pulls you up, I
mean, like 28% less or something? On the Moon. And
if the gravitational pull is less than you weigh less?
Paul: Wooh! I love that last sentence. Could you repeat
that last sentence for me?
Ann: If the gravitational pull is less than you weigh less?
Paul: If the gravitational pull is less . . . thumbs up!
Sideways, down. If the gravitational pull is less, you
weigh less. I see a lot of thumbs up. All right. Um, but
why? Why is the gravitational pull less on the Moon?
Ann, would you like to call on somebody?
Ann: Um, Justin. [Justin was jumping up and down rais-
ing his hand.]
Paul’s use of this strategy supported his planned science
storyline. In this lesson, Paul wanted his students to under-
stand that people weigh less on the Moon than on Earth
because there is less gravitational pull (see Figure 3). Thus,
Ann’s answer that “if the gravitational pull is less than you
weigh less” aligned well to his learning goal, which explains
why he got so excited. Paul retained some epistemic author-
ity as he maintained his science storyline, but he also made
space for some equitable sense-making by sharing some
authority with Ann. Paul asked Ann to repeat her idea, and
his line of questioning thereafter about the gravitational
pull on the Moon built off her idea toward his learning goal.
In this moment, Paul made space pedagogically for Ann’s
voice in the classroom without needing to make space epis-
temologically because Ann’s way of thinking about gravity
in this case aligned with his own. Nevertheless, this strategy
may support some equitable sense-making because by mak-
ing space for student voice, Paul positioned Ann as knowl-
edgeable, rather than maintaining expertise within himself.
This resulted in a partial disruption of normalized structures
of power and position.
Paul tried the “highlighting” strategy when he noticed stu-
dent contributions that converged with his intended science
storyline, but he tried different responses when an idea
diverged from his science storyline including calling on stu-
dents who disagreed with the divergent idea, which we
describe next.
Repeating Misconceptions. In this vignette, a discussion about
Paul’s weight on the Moon was sidelined when a student,
Jess, suggested that the Moon has less gravity because it has
no atmosphere pushing down on it (see Figure 4). Paul
Figure 3. A model of Paul’s strategy of highlighting students’ ideas.
Haverly et al. 9
interpreted this as a misconception, and his response was to
have the idea repeated multiple times, believing that Jess
would realize that she was wrong. As he told us in his
If you force someone to repeat it, they start thinking about it and
when they, then, they will be able to say they agree or disagree
because they have heard it now three times. Because Jess
repeated it twice and someone else will. And so then making
sure everyone is on the same page. That’s my thinking at least in
my mind during this.
Paul’s strategy of having students repeat alternative ideas
made space for epistemic authority to shift from him to a
shared authority with his students as students worked through
their ideas and how they understood a given phenomenon in
the classroom.
Paul’s use of the making space strategy in this vignette
provided an opportunity for students to think about how to
respond to Jess’ alternative idea about atmosphere, which
later led to further discussion more in line with Paul’s
intended science storyline. In other words, Jess’ idea became
a public resource for collective sense-making (see outcomes,
Figure 4). Notice in the following transcript how Paul’s act
of making space by having Jess’ idea repeated allowed for
her idea to get picked up by her classmate Milo as he, and
later others, worked to make sense of these ideas:
Jess: OK, I disagree a little because, um, I, well, I agree on
the part that like there’s different gravities. But, like, um,
the um, the atmosphere is why we have more gravity is
because like the Moon doesn’t have an atmosphere. So
if we have stuff to pull us down, but the Moon doesn’t,
so that’s why astronauts are floating into space.
Paul: All right, so could you repeat that idea once again
for us?
Jess: Because of the atmosphere, like, that pulls every-
body down and keeps, well, not because of the atmo-
sphere (indecipherable), but sort of like cuz it has that
Paul: All right, so, could someone repeat Jess’ idea? So,
just all I’m asking for you to do is to repeat what Jess
said. So I can see that you were—and that’s all I want.
Repeat Jess’ idea. Milo.
Milo: Can I . . .
Paul: Repeat Jess’ idea.
Milo: Uh, uh, there’s—the atmosphere pulls us down
because the . . . yeah.
Paul: Okay, yeah, so Jess is saying that uh you weigh
more on Earth because the atmosphere pulls you down.
And you said you disagree with that?
Milo: Yeah
Paul: And tell me why you disagree with that in a big
voice so everyone can hear you.
Figure 4. A model of Paul’s strategy of repeating misconceptions.
10 Journal of Teacher Education 00(0)
Milo: Because if there’s no atmosphere on the Moon, how
would they keep the astronauts on the Moon?
Jess: Oh.
From here, Paul gave Jess an opportunity to respond, and
then other students chimed in as well, with one student ulti-
mately expressing ideas more in line with Paul’s intended
This episode was generative for many students. As stu-
dents listened to one another, considering the ideas of their
peers, they collectively engaged in scientific sense-mak-
ing. Jess equated having an atmosphere with having grav-
ity on Earth, and suggested that without an atmosphere on
the Moon, there is no gravity, and therefore astronauts
float in space. Milo challenged her idea by pointing out
that in fact, astronauts were able to stay on the Moon, so it
must have some gravity. After this exchange, students con-
tinued contributing ideas and challenging one another,
with at least one student ultimately moving away from a
notion of gravity being a result of the presence of an atmo-
sphere. Paul’s move in this moment made space because he
provided students with opportunities to talk with one
another, relinquishing some of his own epistemic authority
while students took up space with theirs. What makes this
move different from his others is that Paul’s intention was
for students to work through what he called misconcep-
tions by repeating them. Paul could have retained epis-
temic authority for himself and corrected Jess’ idea.
Instead, he facilitated dialogue among students in the
classroom trusting that they would work through it
Another interpretation of the above moment is that a boy
(Milo) took epistemic authority from a girl (Jess). This is
problematic considering the underrepresentation of girls in
science fields, including space science. While we share this
concern, other points of evidence shift our focus away from
this interpretation. In general, Paul’s set of moves seems to
neutralize any cisgender favoritism: he pulls sticks with
students’ names, alternates boy/girl, and has students call
on one another. In addition, as described in previous exam-
ples, Paul frequently positions girls as experts too. Finally,
Milo’s challenge to Jess’ idea was not the final point of the
entire discussion as more students, boys and girls, contrib-
uted ideas and challenges. Given additional experience,
preparation, and awareness, Paul could do more to bolster
girls’ contributions in class rather than simply remaining
neutral. However, we maintain that this moment provided
an opportunity for equitable sense-making due to a shift of
authority from Paul to his students, and through a collective
grappling with ideas.
Although this episode appears to have been generative for
many students in the class collectively, it may not have been
generative for Paul. When he asked students to write about
their understanding of gravity on an exit ticket, they
expressed some confusion. According to Paul,
A couple of kids found it confusing that there were all of these
ideas and they weren’t sure what was right and they found it
difficult to figure out what they are supposed to know.
Paul’s reflection focused on students’ exit tickets, and he
determined that repeating misconceptions ultimately caused
greater student confusion. Based on how much he valued
student voice, we might have expected Paul to notice and
value how students were grappling with ideas in the class
discussion. Instead, Paul likely needed support to (re)frame
the episode to see equitable sense-making (see outcomes,
Figure 4). In other words, his evaluation was focused on cor-
rect student responses on exit tickets preventing him from
noticing students’ science sense-making.
Paul is unique compared with other novice teachers in
our study. His vision for privileging student talk in the
classroom aligned well with reform-based ideas about sci-
ence instruction and led him to experiment in his practice
by trying multiple strategies for enacting his vision to see
what might happen. Even though he needed support to
notice student sense-making, and his moves were unpol-
ished, he repeatedly engaged students in sense-making.
Many novice teachers do not share Paul’s vision, including
Melanie, who we profile next.
Case 2: Wait and See
Melanie was a White female intern in a predominantly White
and Asian (~55% & 29%, respectively) fourth-grade class-
room located in a neighboring town to Paul’s. Melanie
enjoyed working with older elementary students and could
see herself working with this age group in her future career.
Although she had positive experiences learning science in
college, Melanie’s science experiences in K-12 were diffi-
cult. In her interview, Melanie told us that she was “afraid”
of science as a child and that “in high school I hated science
because I didn’t like the way I was learning it.”
When asked about her role as a teacher, Melanie had a
hard time answering; she felt too inexperienced. “But I think
it’s to get them to learn what they need to learn so far. But I
know that is going to change. It’s a very vague answer
because I don’t even know myself, almost.” Melanie was
more sure about her expectations of her students. She
expected her students to put effort into their learning: “half of
it is you, and half of it is me. You’ve got to learn too. You’ve
got to put in effort, I can’t just give it all to you.”
Melanie worried about struggling with classroom man-
agement. For example, when reflecting on why she did not
conduct a particular activity in small groups, Melanie stated,
“I didn’t have the skill level to manage.” She was worried
that students would “lose out on learning.” On the other
hand, Melanie’s mentor teacher appeared skillful with stu-
dents and had established a positive classroom community.
What the mentor teacher did to accomplish this remained
largely invisible to Melanie.
Haverly et al. 11
This case explores what happened when Melanie acciden-
tally used differently worded questions for initiating a posi-
tion-driven science discussion (Michaels, Shouse, &
Schweingruber, 2008). On the board she wrote, “What is a
cloud?” and in students’ handouts, she wrote, “How does a
cloud form?” Melanie highlighted this as a salient moment—
something she identified as a pedagogical mistake. She had
wanted to focus on what makes a cloud, but while editing her
lesson plan late the night before, she “messed up” in her
words. As she described,
Yeah it was the same powerpoint, this video, I put, I was doing
this late at night, I put “What makes a cloud” and then we did the
discussion and the kids were like it’s not “how does a cloud
form” it’s “what makes a cloud form.” And I was like, “oh my
goodness, this is not what I want them to be doing. I want them
to be doing, ‘how does a cloud form’” and I messed up in my
words. And I messed up in their thinking.
When students pointed out the difference to her, Melanie
reported that she did not know what to do. She, herself, was
confused and did not know how to bridge the two questions.
So, in the moment, Melanie waited while she tried to figure
out her next move. Meanwhile, students took up space while
they talked through the two different questions. This led stu-
dents to engage more deeply with both questions as they
struggled to point out the mistake to Melanie.
Waiting is different from wait time. We typically associ-
ate wait time with a silent pause after the teacher poses a
question to the class while she waits for students to think
about their responses. In this case, waiting is when Melanie
experienced a moment of uncertainty in the classroom, and
rather than figure out a quick way to fix it or make it tidier,
she waited a moment to consider her next move. In this
moment, similar to what may happen in the silent pause of
wait time, students may take up space and exercise epis-
temic authority.
Melanie’s mistake, and her in-the-moment decision to not
immediately correct her mistake, yielded a sense-making
exchange among students. Students argued about which
position was correct: “water vapor in the sky,” or “water
vapor collecting on a surface.” Joseph argued about the ques-
tion, “what is a cloud” while Jim and his group argued about
the question, “how does a cloud form.” The transcript below
begins with Jim attempting to point out the discrepancy
between the two questions:
Jim: Well, we chose number two because it’s how DOES
a cloud form, not what IS a cloud. [Some students say,
“Oh . . .”] So, it can’t form in the SKY [raises left arm].
Joseph and a couple students: Yeah it can.
Jim: It forms on the ground and goes to the sky [raises
left arm].
Joseph: It doesn’t float—it doesn’t float in the air, Jim, it
just [several other students are chiming in as well]
Melanie: Okay, so let’s let Jim and Ashley and David say
their opinion, okay? So no blurting; only these people
Jim: I didn’t say it starts in the air, I said it started, it starts
on the ground
Student: I’ve never seen a cloud on the ground.
Jim: [lays right hand flat on the table top] . . . when it
rains there’s puddles, and when it evaporates, it goes
up [raises right arm up]
Student: Yeah but it’s not a cloud!
Melanie: Let Jim talk
Student: That’s not a cloud, that’s a fog.
David: Like Jim said, it’s, um, how does a cloud FORM,
not what IS a cloud? And so a cloud is water vapor in
the sky, and when it rains, um, there’s puddles and then
when it gets warm outside the puddles will, um, evapo-
rate and then it will turn into water vapor. And then the
water vapor goes up in the sky and then it turns into a
cloud. It doesn’t start out as a cloud in the sky.
Melanie’s lack of confidence in her science content
knowledge (inputs, Figure 5) made it difficult for her to
figure out how to correct her mistake with the wording of
the questions. We contend that the mentor teacher’s rapport
with students created an environment in which students
could disagree with one another respectfully (inputs, Figure
5). This allowed Melanie to improvise by letting students
talk through the different questions as she waited to figure
out what to do (response, Figure 5). This improvisation pro-
vided space for students to engage more deeply in sense-
making, sharing ideas with one another and arguing
multiple perspectives (outputs, Figure 5). Students decided
which question should be answered and why; Melanie sup-
ported this by allowing students space to talk. In doing so,
she shared epistemic authority with them. Students contrib-
uted ideas about the composition of clouds (“water vapor”),
how clouds end up in the sky (“floating,” “evaporating”),
and at what point we can call it a cloud (“that’s a fog”). This
was an equitable sense-making moment for students
because they leveraged the shift in epistemic authority to
construct the storyline while Melanie waited and reconsid-
ered her next moves.
We end Melanie’s case with a somewhat troubling ques-
tion. In talking with Melanie about this moment, she dis-
cussed how her students were confused. She characterized
this moment as “messed up”—blaming herself. Here, we
noted that without support to (re)frame this episode, Melanie
was unable to notice how her wait-and-see approach allowed
students space to talk through the difference in questions
which led to equitable scientific sense-making. Like Paul’s
interpretation of students’ conversations about gravity,
Melanie’s interpretation of students’ cloud conversations
suggests that novice teachers need more support to be able to
see and intentionally work toward equitable sense-making
12 Journal of Teacher Education 00(0)
even when they are making pedagogical moves that make
space for students’ contributions.
Case 3: Limited Space
We end our findings section by briefly presenting a counter-
example to present a limitation of making space. As we stated
earlier, making space has pedagogical and epistemological
dimensions. Pedagogically, teachers make space for students
to contribute to the science storyline. Epistemologically,
teachers make space for students’ ways of knowing and think-
ing about science and position students as experts with
authority. In the cases presented above, both Paul and Melanie
made some space for equitable sense-making. Paul’s students
often shared ideas aligned with his own, yet he repeatedly
positioned his students as experts and made space for them to
share epistemic authority rather than maintaining that author-
ity for himself. Melanie’s students took up space when
Melanie was unsure of what to do. Melanie pedagogically
made space for students to do this, and her students con-
structed their own storyline as they exercised their epistemic
authority in the absence of Melanie’s.
In this case, we briefly introduce a third participant,
Kendra, a first-year fifth-grade teacher in a nearby, predomi-
nantly White (72%) school district. Kendra is White, and she
graduated from the same teacher preparation program as
Paul and Melanie a few years before her participation in this
study. Kendra prided herself in her science content knowl-
edge, was pursuing her master’s degree in teaching with a
math and science concentration, and happily taught science
and social studies to fifth graders. In a unit on evolution,
Kendra’s students completed a worksheet in which they
labeled the parts of the digestive systems of three different
animals. As they discussed this work, Kendra connected it to
previous examples of single-celled organisms and how they
get their food. She then contrasted this with the worm. In the
following interaction, one of Kendra’s students, Iris,
attempted to take up space. Although Kendra pedagogically
made space for Iris’ contribution, Iris was not positioned as
having expertise, sharing epistemic authority, or co-con-
structing the storyline:
Kendra: The worm was a one way out system because it
had a definite in the mouth and a definite out in the
anus. And it has specific organs to help it: it has a phar-
ynx, it has an esophagus, it has a crop, it has a gizzard.
Do you know what other animals have gizzards?
Students: Chicken! Birds!
Kendra: Birds! Birds, if you ever see some of them peck-
ing at pebbles, sometimes they’re actually eating those
little, little pieces rock. And what they do is it goes to
their gizzard and it helps them ground down food. Just
like in the gizzard of a, um, of a worm, has like sand
almost in there helping it grind it down.
Figure 5. A model of Melanie’s pedagogical mistake.
Haverly et al. 13
Iris: Yeah, when my mom was little, and like, um, she
would have to get the chickens, and like butcher them
at home, like, she would have to, like, take out the
Kendra: Yup.
Iris: She said it’s really nasty.
Kendra: Yeah, all right, so now let’s look at the guts of
mammals. Do any of these have a two-way or a multi-
ple-way digestive system?
Kendra noted that connections between what students were
learning in school and their experiences outside of school
were common: “This is a very common way for my students
to make sense of the science content that I teach them; they
are always sharing their connection building a deeper under-
standing.” Making space is a common teacher move that
Kendra uses, and her students are accustomed to taking
advantage of it. After all, Iris contributed her connection
without waiting to be called on, and Kendra’s tone in
response showed a genuine interest in Iris’ story. However,
Kendra did not relinquish epistemic authority to Iris, nor
position Iris as an expert on gizzards for the class, nor pro-
vide space for students to co-construct a science storyline by
following up on Iris’ contribution. We use this as a counter-
example to illustrate a limitation of making space which
occurs when students contribute to classroom discourse (the
pedagogical dimension of space) without resulting in equi-
table sense-making (the intersection of pedagogical and epis-
temological dimensions of space).
Based on a close analysis of novice teachers teaching science
lessons and their subsequent interviews about particular
sense-making moments, we argue that one generative move
novice teachers make when navigating uncertain sense-mak-
ing moments in science discussions is to make space. The
braiding of pedagogical and epistemological dimensions of
making space is critical to move toward equitable sense-
making because opportunities for meaningful student talk
combined with shifts in epistemic authority allow this to hap-
pen. Our descriptions of the pedagogical and epistemological
dimensions of teachers making space builds on the work of
Hand (2012) by operationalizing what it may look like for a
novice elementary teacher to provide opportunities for stu-
dents to “take up space.”
Our work also advances noticing and responding litera-
ture by considering whether teacher moves can actually fos-
ter equitable sense-making without first refining their
noticing skills. Scholars often focus first on improving
teacher noticing before considering responsiveness (e.g.,
Benedict-Chambers, 2016; Kang & Anderson, 2009; Levin
et al., 2009; van Es, 2011). This prioritizing of improving
teacher noticing makes sense for many reasons. Noticing
logically happens before responding (Barnhart & van Es,
2015). If teacher educators can improve a novice teacher’s
skills at noticing, it seems logical that responsiveness will
likewise improve. To better understand this succession of
events, our study set out to explore what novice teachers
noticed in their students’ sense-making—without specially
preparing the teachers to do so—and then determine how
they interpreted and responded to it.
We found that Paul and Melanie each made improvisa-
tional moves fostering sense-making for students without
first engaging in sophisticated noticing and interpreting.
Other studies show that responding is among the hardest of
the noticing components for novice teachers to learn
(Barnhart & van Es, 2015; Jacobs, Lamb, & Philipp, 2010),
yet our results suggest that novices may enact an equitable
response without refined skills for noticing. This suggests
that in response to well-documented challenges faced by sci-
ence teachers (Braaten & Sheth, 2017; Windschitl, 2002),
perhaps teacher educators could support novice teachers by
working in reverse—starting with novices’ teaching moves,
such as making space, and using those moves as opportuni-
ties to refine novices’ noticing of epistemic authority and
sense-making. Once refined, more sophisticated levels of
responsiveness may be easier to attain.
Making space required a shift of epistemic authority from
the teacher to the students. Stroupe (2014) described students
as “epistemic agents” when doing science is made public and
the class is collectively responsible for knowing and doing.
Cornelius and Herrenkohl (2004) identified a shift in power
from the teacher to the students in their study when students
had “ownership of ideas.” In both studies, the shift in epis-
temic authority from the teacher—wherein power and
authority traditionally lie—to the students was critical.
Similarly, we found that the epistemological dimension of
making space was essential to move toward equitable sense-
making. Both Paul and Melanie shifted epistemic authority
to students, for them to be “epistemic agents” and collec-
tively work through their ideas (Ballenger, 2009). For exam-
ple, instead of Paul telling Jess she was wrong about the
atmosphere pressing down and causing increased gravity on
Earth, he tried a strategy of having another student repeat her
idea and then respond to it. Melanie waited instead of imme-
diately fixing her mistake when she realized that she posed
two different questions and allowed students to deliberate
among themselves. In both cases, Paul and Melanie made
pedagogical moves that allowed students to take up space
and which epistemologically shifted authority from the
teacher to the students. However, when Iris shared her moth-
er’s experience with chickens, though Kendra pedagogically
made space for her to do so, she did not epistemologically
share authority with Iris. Because Iris was not positioned as
an epistemic agent, we claim that this was not an equitable
sense-making moment.
Equitable sense-making is a long-term goal describing
what we would like to see in science classrooms. We would
like to see youth and their teachers share epistemic
14 Journal of Teacher Education 00(0)
authority, co-construct science storylines, and disrupt
norms and hierarchies of power and position in science
(Calabrese Barton & Tan, 2009; Hand, 2012; Rosebery
et al., 2015). This kind of teaching requires teacher notic-
ing of students’ “status and positioning” in groups as well
as their “individual student histories” inside and outside of
class (van Es, Hand, & Mercado, 2017, p. 266), and teach-
ers must be first disposed to notice such things (Hand,
2012). For example, care must be taken to consider when
teachers shift authority. If instances of epistemological
shifts only occur when students’ epistemological stances
align with the teacher, then this practice will be limited and
not necessarily promote equitable sense-making. The cases
we offer in this article are not ideal examples of equitable
sense-making. Paul did not cede epistemic authority
entirely to his students, but rather steered the science stor-
yline toward his goals. However, he did position youth as
people whose ideas were worthy of being heard and chal-
lenged by their peers, instead of simply by him, which is a
movement toward students having epistemic agency
(Stroupe, 2014). Melanie’s students took up space in the
classroom to construct their own science storyline, and
Melanie made space for them to do so while considering
her next moves. However, vocal participants were White
and male, thus maintaining established power hierarchies
(Rosebery et al., 2015).
For the reasons described above, we consider one limita-
tion of our study, that is, neither case provides an optimal
example of equitable sense-making for traditionally margin-
alized groups in science. Nonetheless, we believe these
moments, however imperfect, can serve as powerful learning
opportunities for novice teachers to reflect on as they develop
their teaching practices toward equitable sense-making.
Another limitation of our study is that we do not have
data from students about their experiences sharing epis-
temic authority, or engaging in equitable sense-making. As
Russ (2018) describes, the ways in which science teachers
notice students’ sense-making sends epistemological mes-
sages to students about learning. Our study design focused
intentionally on teachers’ noticing and students’ classroom
engagement. Future studies of this nature could benefit
from collecting data about students’ experiences in sense-
making moments to better understand their interpretations
of epistemological messaging and what learning looks like
in science.
Conclusion and Recommendations
As a community, science educators continue to investigate
strategies teachers may use to facilitate moments of sense-
making with students, or what may make these moments
equitable. Examples from Paul, Melanie, and Kendra’s
classrooms help us identify and unpack sense-making
moments. Their cases highlight how making space for
equitable sense-making shares epistemic authority with
students. However, both Paul and Melanie interpreted
aspects of these moments as instances of students’ confu-
sion rather than sense-making. This aligns with findings in
other sense-making studies (i.e., Rosebery et al., 2015).
One reason why sense-making is so difficult for novice
teachers to facilitate may be that many novices interpret
these moments differently, not as productive sense-making
moments, but as pedagogical mistakes or student confu-
sion. Therefore, we suggest that teacher educators may
address this issue by sharing video of classroom talk
with novice teachers that may appear messy and practic-
ing noticing sense-making moments. For example, we
can imagine that teacher educators might create support-
ive tools for novice teachers to use when viewing these
videos which might help direct their attention to the sub-
stance of students’ thinking in the sense-making moments
In addition, we propose that teacher educators may take
up the framing of “making space” with novice teachers as a
way of introducing them to the notion of taking their time
to respond, centering students’ voices, and not feeling
rushed to maintain epistemic control. Paul and Melanie
were unlikely to have learned about noticing and respond-
ing, sense-making, or epistemic authority in their science
methods courses, and they were not taught to “make space.”
However, they each employed this strategy under different
circumstances. Equitably noticing students’ sense-making
and responding in equitable ways are practices teacher can-
didates can learn and refine over time (Benedict-Chambers,
2016; Kang & Anderson, 2015; Levin et al., 2009; van Es &
Sherin, 2002). In the meantime, our study suggests that
novice teachers may benefit from learning pedagogical and
epistemological moves like making space to practice shar-
ing epistemic authority with students, a move profoundly
shaped by power dynamics regarding whose and what
knowledge matters most in classrooms. Practicing moves
such as making space gives novices opportunities to facili-
tate more equitable classroom discourse, especially with
respect to racial and gender equity.
Finally, although data presented in this article do not fully
show novice teachers facilitating our vision of equitable
sense-making in classrooms, we believe they have remark-
able elements, and as such, we remain optimistic about nov-
ices’ abilities to foster equitable sense-making in classrooms.
To this end, we believe our data points to the need for teacher
educators to more explicitly teach about issues of race, gen-
der, and power in science education in addition to equitable
and disciplinary forms of sense-making. Leveraging work by
Bang et al. (2017), Rosebery et al. (2015) and others, we are
currently incorporating these themes explicitly across all
sections of our elementary science methods courses. We
view making space as a critical tool novices can strategically
call upon to share epistemic authority and work towards dis-
rupting settled hierarchies of power as they help their stu-
dents make sense of science.
Haverly et al. 15
Declaration of Conflicting Interests
The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect
to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.
The author(s) disclosed the following financial support for the
research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: We would
like to thank the National Science Foundation for its support on
grant RC103139 for funding to conduct this study.
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Author Biographies
Christa Haverly is a doctoral candidate in curriculum, instruction,
and teacher education at Michigan State University. Her research
focuses on exploring supports inservice elementary school teachers
benefit from to be more responsive to students’ scientific sense-mak-
ing in both disciplinary and equitable ways—that is, a merging of
attending to equity issues at the macro and meso levels with attending
to disciplinary science ideas at the micro level. She is particularly
interested in leveraging teachers’ expertise as practitioners in her
Angela Calabrese Barton is a professor in the Department of
Teacher Education at Michigan State University. Her research,
which is grounded in critical sociocultural frameworks and par-
ticipatory methodologies, focuses on understanding and design-
ing new possibilities for equitably consequential teaching and
teacher learning, and its support of more expansive learning
Haverly et al. 17
outcomes for youth, including critical agency, identity work, and
social transformation. She also focuses on designing and leverag-
ing new methodologies for embracing authentic research + prac-
tice partnerships that attend to practitioner and youth voice, and
critically engages the goals of equity and justice.
Christina V. Schwarz is an associate professor in teacher edu-
cation at Michigan State University. Her research focuses on
enabling students and teachers (PK-16) to understand and
engage in scientific practices. She also works with beginning
teachers to support and enhance their pedagogical practices
including noticing and responding to scientific sense-making
from disciplinary and equitable perspectives.
Melissa Braaten is an assistant professor in the School of Education
at the University of Colorado Boulder. Her research focuses on the
complexities of teaching science in culturally sustaining and
responsive ways that disrupt injustices and advocate for justice. In
research partnerships with teachers, Melissa draws upon teachers’
expertise and insights to refine professional learning experiences
across the career trajectory and build stronger explanations of how
teachers learn.
... This highlights a potentially powerful connection between Bayesian methods and the priorities of science educators. Developmental and psychological research into Bayesian models of cognition supports and bolsters these educational efforts-especially science education efforts-to design instruction based on eliciting and understanding students' ideas (Gotwals & Birmingham, 2016;Haverly et al., 2020;Windschitl et al. 2012). ...
... We acknowledge these potential criticisms and point to how ideas that could be considered Bayesian are commonly deployed in most if not all science education contexts. For instance, many science educators consider it essential to understand students' initial ideas before planning instruction (Haverly et al., 2020;Windschitl et al., 2012Windschitl et al., , 2018. There are also other examples of Bayesian ideas "hiding in plain sight" in science education. ...
Full-text available
Uncertainty is ubiquitous in science, but scientific knowledge is often represented to the public and in educational contexts as certain and immutable. This contrast can foster distrust when scientific knowledge develops in a way that people perceive as a reversals, as we have observed during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Drawing on research in statistics, child development, and several studies in science education, we argue that a Bayesian approach can support science learners to make sense of uncertainty. We provide a brief primer on Bayes' theorem and then describe three ways to make Bayesian reasoning practical in K-12 science education contexts. There are a) using principles informed by Bayes' theorem that relate to the nature of knowing and knowledge, b) interacting with a web-based application (or widget-Confidence Updater) that makes the calculations needed to apply Bayes' theorem more practical, and c) adopting strategies for supporting even young learners to engage in Bayesian reasoning. We conclude with directions for future research and sum up how viewing science and scientific knowledge from a Bayesian perspective can build trust in science. Supplementary information: The online version contains supplementary material available at 10.1007/s11191-022-00341-3.
... These include the ability to determine the veracity of claims based on fit with evidence and deciding which kinds of data are needed to construct accurate decisions in situated contexts. Scholars suggest that an education in epistemic practices requires expanded notions of disciplinary work (Brown, 2017) and highlight challenges in engaging teacher beliefs, improving skills and confidence in content enactments, and implementing pedagogies that afford student epistemic engagement (Buehl & Fives, 2016;Haverly et al., 2020). ...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
What are pathways toward critical and just data literacies? Achieving critical and just data literacies is especially challenging in an ideologically polarizing "post-truth" world in which we confront a rising tide of misinformation and fake news, alongside discourse that denigrates politically conservative perspectives. Although reasoning with data is rooted in epistemic processes, the stances people take are-and should be-influenced by values, concerns about maintaining cultural group membership, and concerns about equity and justice.
... Moving beyond the communication of facts [25], ambitious teaching involves eliciting student thinking and adapting instruction accordingly. Ambitious teaching fosters the participation of all students by creating space for students to problem solve and create explanations together [26]. Consequently, "ambitious teaching is a more complex view of teaching and teacher and, thus, involves a fundamental shift in mindset and practice" [9]. ...
Ambitious teaching is an instructional approach enacted through central tasks of teaching that involves a fundamental shift in mindset and practice. In this approach, the teacher facilitates student learning in the context of authentic, interactive experiences by eliciting student thinking and adapting instruction accordingly. We designed the Medical Educator—Excellence in Teaching (MEET) program to promote ambitious teaching in medical education. Here, we describe the structure of MEET, the framework that informed our work, and program evaluation data. We propose MEET as a model of educator development that promotes ambitious teaching through development of educator community, focused coaching, and inquiry into practice.
... One way researchers have sought ways to "get a handle" on classroom sense-making conversations is by identifying key practices or routines that can help parse the pedagogical work involved in facilitating and responding to student thinking (Michaels & O'Connor, 2012;Stein et al., 2008;Windschitl, Thompson, & Braaten, 2018). For example, researchers have documented discourse moves such as "making space" (Haverly, Calabrese Barton, Schwarz, & Braaten, 2020) as tools that teachers can draw on to respond to students' reasoning or introduction of new ideas for the class to consider. These efforts focus attention on the pedagogical actions (moves, discourse strategies, routines) that teachers can take in facilitating whole-class conversations. ...
Full-text available
Science education researchers have highlighted how uncertainty can foster meaningful scientific sense‐making, supporting students to re‐evaluate their understandings of scientific phenomena and pursue deeper causal accounts. However, facilitating whole‐class conversations motivated by uncertainty is complex and challenging, calling for further descriptions of the pedagogical work involved for teachers. In this study, we consider recurring pedagogical decision points as a way to get a handle on how teachers orchestrate classroom conversations and improvise to respond to students' reasoning. To examine these decision points, we analyzed five classroom episodes where classroom communities transformed a student's expression of uncertainty into an episode of collective, scientific sense‐making. Across these episodes, we found that teachers needed to make decisions around (1) whether to make space for an uncertainty, (2) how to transform an uncertainty into a collective problem, (3) which elements to fix and which to leave open, (4) when and how to support the class evaluate their accounts, (5) whether to make space for and/or mark new goals. Using detailed analyses of two episodes, along with short descriptions of the others, we illustrate how these decision points emerged, the different choices teachers made, and how these decisions shaped the trajectories of the classroom conversations.
... With a better understanding of these features, it would be possible to evaluate LPs in comparison to other representations of students' thinking and learning and/or tools for PD. There are certainly other ways of supporting teachers to center students' ideas and reasoning (e.g., Haverly et al., 2020). Further studies could compare the relative merits of various approaches to supporting teachers' engagement with and support for students' developing ideas. ...
As models of how students' thinking may change over time, learning progressions (LPs) have been considered as supports for teachers' classroom assessment practices. However, like all models, LPs provide simplified representations of complex phenomena. One key simplification is the characterization of student thinking using levels—that is, the twin assumptions that student thinking is both coherent and consistent. While useful for the design of standards and curricula, the LP level simplification may threaten the basic premise that LPs could be used to diagnose a student's level and then provide tailored instruction in response. At the same time, our work with teachers suggests that, even with their simplifications, LPs may be useful in the classroom. Thus, rather than abandoning LPs, we sought to understand their potential affordances by exploring how teachers learn from LPs (knowledge‐for‐practice) and contribute to deeper understanding of LP use (knowledge‐of‐practice) as they identify and enact uses of these tools. To do so, we engaged high school physics teachers in a 2‐year, LP‐based professional development program. Based on qualitative analyses of planning meetings and interviews with the teachers, we describe how teachers used LPs to support classroom assessment with varying reliance on the LP level simplification. Although teachers used LPs in ways that relied on the coherence and consistency assumptions of the LP level simplification, uses of LPs that did not require these assumptions were more prevalent both within and across teachers. This study's findings have implications for research, teacher professional development, and the design of LPs.
... Within the field of science education, sense-making is more often invoked when describing children's sense-making of scientific phenomena (Odden & Russ, 2018; see also, e.g., Haverly et al., 2018;Warren et al., 2001). More recently, some science education researchers are beginning to consider the role of sense-making in teachers' and leaders' learning (Allen & Heredia, 2021;Allen & Penuel, 2015;Davis et al., 2020;Heredia, 2020;Marshall et al., 2021;see Spillane & Callahan, 2000, for an early example). ...
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The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), a reform effort “for states, by states,” advances ambitious ideals for elementary science teaching, but the fate of these ideals will depend in part on the engagement of state science coordinators (SSCs). This article explores the responses of SSCs to NGSS in a purposeful sample of 18 US states. Based on analysis of 19 interviews with 22 SSCs, we develop two arguments. First, SSCs' ideas about improving elementary science education converged around three themes: the introduction of three‐dimensional science teaching and learning, the integration of engineering with science teaching, and the integration of science with ELA and mathematics. Second, SSCs' sense‐making about reforming elementary science education was situated in and shaped by (a) their knowledge of how elementary science instruction has been and continues to be de‐prioritized, as well as their experiences (b) facilitating work groups in developing science standards using the Framework for K‐12 Science Education, and (c) participating in professional networks.
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.
In this mixed methods study, we applied both engagement and sociocultural (hybridity) frameworks to understand the dynamic nature of student engagement in science discourse. We qualitatively examined features of hybrid discourse spaces (where students’ everyday and academic discourses are integrated) as students engaged in science talk activities by analyzing seven middle school science classrooms. We also quantitatively examined the relationships among instructional practices and science engagement (N = 101 students) using bifactor exploratory structural equation modeling (bESEM). Findings showed that science discourse occurred primarily in traditional spaces and was largely directed by the teacher. However, within the smaller subset of hybrid spaces, small group discourse formats and shared or student-directed agency were more prevalent compared to traditional and everyday spaces. Qualitative themes showed how students’ agency, identities, and knowledge bases across lived worlds co-exist in hybrid discourse spaces. The bESEM showed that instructional practices associated with high quality and equity-focused instruction relate differentially to specific dimensions of engagement, demonstrating most consistent relationships with affective engagement. The variable representing funds of knowledge connections was only related to cognitive engagement. The integrated findings demonstrate the potential of hybrid discourse spaces and point to practices for supporting equitable student engagement in science discourse. Implications for practice and lines for future research are discussed.
Full-text available
This study examines mathematics teachers’ noticing for equity. Noticing for equity is a critically important practice given research that documents how particular groups of students feel more or less empowered to take up ambitious mathematics practices. We conducted classroom observations and a series of noticing interviews with four secondary mathematics teachers nominated as exceptional equitable mathematics teachers. Using qualitative methods, we conducted a cross-case analysis to identify common instructional practices these teachers enacted to close participation gaps in their classrooms, as well as the associated ways of noticing during instruction. These findings document the intricate relationship between what teachers committed to equitable mathematics instruction attend to, how they reason about observed phenomena, and how they use this information to make instructional decisions.
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Instructional tasks are key features of classroom practice, but little is known about how different components of tasks—such as selecting or designing tasks for a lesson, launching, and implementing them with students—shape the conditions for students’ intellectual engagement in science classrooms. Employing a qualitative multiple case study approach, we analyzed 57 science lessons taught by 19 first-year teachers. We examined the potential for students’ intellectual work built into the tasks across the phases of instruction, and how the demand of the unfolding task deepened (or failed to deepen) students’ engagement in science. The findings suggest the importance of beginning a lesson with high quality instructional tasks—complex tasks that bear appropriate levels of epistemic uncertainty for a particular group of students in a particular moment. Beginning a lesson with high quality tasks; however, was insufficient by itself to ensure rigorous learning opportunities. With the use of complex tasks, higher quality opportunities to learn were observed in lessons in which: (i) the tasks were framed as a process of understanding contextualized phenomena; (ii) the specific disciplinary concepts in the task were related to big science ideas that transcended the activities themselves; and (iii) students’ implementation of these tasks were structured using tools that supported changes in thinking. © 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Res Sci Teach 53: 1316–1340, 2016.
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Early career teachers rarely receive sustained support for addressing issues of diversity and equity in their science teaching. This paper reports on design research to create a 30 hour professional development seminar focused on cultivating the interpretive power of early career teachers who teach science to students from historically non-dominant communities. Interpretive power refers to teachers’ attunement to (a) students’ diverse sense-making repertoires as intellectually generative in science and (b) expansive pedagogical practices that encourage, make visible, and intentionally build on students’ ideas, experiences, and perspectives on scientific phenomena. The seminar sought to integrate student sense-making, scientific subject matter, teaching practice, and matters of equity and diversity on the same plane of professional inquiry by engaging participants in: (a) learning plant science; (b) analyzing classroom cases; (c) experimenting with expansive discourse practices in their classrooms; and (d) analyzing their classroom experiments in relation to student sense-making and expansive pedagogy. Twenty-eight teachers participated in two cycles of design research. An interview-based transcript analysis task captured shifts in teachers’ interpretive power through their participation in the seminar. Findings showed that the teachers developed greater attunement to: complexity in students’ scientific ideas; the intellectual generativity of students’ sense-making; student talk as evidence of in-process, emergent thinking; and co-construction of meaning in classroom discussions. Findings also showed that participants developed deeper understanding of the functions of expansive teaching practices in fostering student sense-making in science and greater commitment to engaging in expansive practices in their classroom science discussions. © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Res Sci Teach XX:XX-XX, 2015.
Although research and policy suggest science and mathematics teachers should attend to their student's thinking during instruction, our field has inadequately defined what that means in relation to our ultimate goals for the practice. Here I present a theoretical argument that, in making their definitions, researchers should leverage the ways students understand such attention by characterizing teacher attention based on the epistemological messages it sends students about the nature of knowledge and learning in the classroom. Using data collected from high school science and mathematics teachers with a new video-capture methodology, I present an analysis of variability in epistemological messages of teacher attention to illustrate work could unfold if we as researchers took up the theoretical claims made in this work. In doing so, I endeavor to draw the construct of epistemological messages into our collective conversations about teacher attention, and provide a starting point for our field to begin debating the most productive ways to study and unpack the epistemological messages we value in that teacher attention. I conclude by demonstrating the feasibility of using these messages to distinguish the types of teacher attention our field wants to develop and encourage in teacher education. © 2017 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Res Sci Teach 9999:XX–XX, 2017
When teachers engage in forms of science teaching that disrupt the status quo of typical school science practices, they often experience dilemmas as problems of practice that are difficult—or even impossible—to solve. This instrumental case study examines one teacher's efforts to teach science for equity across two contexts: a public middle school and a summer program for low-income students of color. By tracing intersecting tensions experienced when trying to teach science more equitably, we describe how systems of tensions can serve multiple functions: (1) as roadblocks for teachers when knowledge-production predicaments arise, (2) as dilemmas to be managed by teachers when there is difficulty defining educational disparities, and (3) as potentially productive as teachers and educational researchers wrestle with inherent tensions between models for teaching. Findings afford insight into why teachers experience uneven progress as they work to teach science for equity. Further examination of tensions teaching science for equity reveals deep paradoxes extending beyond the case of a single teacher into pedagogical frameworks underlying expectations for teaching science more equitably in schools.
This study explores the potential of tool-supported post-rehearsal discussions in helping novice teachers learn to notice and interpret critical features of science teaching. Three tools are examined: a framework of science teaching practices, information about student misconceptions and scientific practice challenges, and a feedback form. Data were collected from 48 post-rehearsal discussions with 16 novices in four teams in a science methods course. The findings suggest the tools guided novices to collectively identify, interpret, and share insights to respond to critical issues of science teaching and learning related to using the science teaching practices to support student learning.
In this chapter, we argue that learning and teaching are fundamentally cultural processes (Cole, 1996; Lee, 2008; Lee, Spencer, & Harpalani, 2003; Nasir & Bang, 2012; Rogoff, 2003). The learning sciences have not yet adequately addressed the ways that culture is integral to learning. By culture, we mean the constellations of practices communities have historically developed and dynamically shaped in order to accomplish the purposes they value, including tools they use, social networks with which they are connected, ways they organize joint activity, and their ways of conceptualizing and engaging with the world. In this view, learning and development can be seen as the acquisition throughout the life course of diverse repertoires of overlapping, complementary, or even conflicting cultural practices. Diversity along multiple dimensions is a mainstay of human communities. National boundaries evolve and change, bringing together people from different groups that have different ethnicities, languages, worldviews, and cultural practices. Migration and transmigration are not new phenomena. However, technological advances have accelerated cross-national movement. In 2010, international migrants constituted 3.1 percent of the world population. The greatest concentrations of international migrants relative to the national populations are in the United States, Saudi Arabia, Canada, across Europe, and Oceania (largely New Zealand and Australia).
A teacher's ability to attend and respond to student thinking is a key instructional capacity for promoting complex and deeper learning in science classrooms. This qualitative multiple case study examines 14 preservice science teachers' (PSTs) responses to learning opportunities created to develop this capacity, as provided by a teacher preparation program. The PSTs engaged in multiple cycles of designing assessments and analyzing student work in coordination with clinical experiences in the field. Drawing upon the notions of responsiveness and noticing, we analyze teaching episodes for whether and how the PSTs in this study attended and responded to student thinking in instructional contexts. Several teaching episodes provide evidence of PSTs' productive responsiveness—suggesting modification in specific elements of instructional design to create better conditions for advancing students' scientific thinking. In general, however, the episodes suggest uneven success in PSTs' responses to student thinking. The findings point to two considerations in designing learning opportunities to enhance PSTs' responsiveness: (a) the use of high-quality assessment tasks that make student thinking visible and (b) helping PSTs to reframe the problems by deprivatizing PSTs' interpretations of student responses.