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Tool: Building a science learning community

Typically, when people think about science and scientists, they picture the lone scientist working away in the laboratory making new discoveries. When people think about students learning science, they picture the individual child studying a textbook alone. Yet, neither image reflects how science and science learning really happen. Scientists work together. They collaborate, discuss, challenge and eventually come to a consensus about new science explanations. They construct new science knowledge as a community. Similarly, learning science should involve students working together, discussing ideas, challenging each other and socially constructing their understanding of the world.

Building a classroom community where this type of interaction takes place requires special attention. It does not happen by itself. Teachers must plan for and nurture successful learning communities. First, consider the values, attitudes and habits of mind that are reflective of science practices. Then, consider what type of community you would like to have in your science classroom. What values, attitudes and habits of mind are necessary to support the type of community you envision? How will you support your students in developing them?

Use the table below to help you think about what type of community you would like your class to become and how you will nurture that community. While all of the features listed in the left column are characteristic of science, you cannot expect your classroom community to reflect all of these characteristics, at least not all at once and not right away. Choose 3 – 5 values, attitudes or habits of mind that are appropriate for your students and your grade level and carefully consider how you will develop those in your classroom. Are there certain students you need to pay careful attention to (quiet or shy students, out-spoken or dominant ones)? Are there family or larger community values you need to pay attention to? What characteristics of your current classroom environment and community can you draw upon? What characteristics will you need to change?

Value, attitudes, habits of mind of science

Is this important in my classroom community?

How will I nurture this in my classroom?

Questioning the world around you



Desire to solve problems



Wonder and curiosity









Willingness and desire to use evidence to support claims



Shared respect/appreciation for data and evidence






Respect for others’ learning and others’ ideas



Willingness to consider multiple perspectives



Openness to new ideas



Willingness to listen to and learn from others



A sense of consensus building and agreement






Creativity and imagination



Independent thinking



Willingness to challenge others’ ideas



Consideration of many experiences



Willingness to share ideas









Carefulness and attention to detail



Recognizing the importance of recording observations



Recognizing the tentativeness of scientific claims



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