Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Engaging Science ~ Arthur Beauchamp

What does a diet of tapeworms or designing your own roller coaster have to do with engaging students in successful science? Actually, these may have a whole lot to do with keeping their interest, as researcher, educator and author Arthur Beauchamp has found. Using what he learned from his preliminary research in classroom science curriculum, Beauchamp has developed a science literacy framework to help teachers engage the previously unengaged student, as well as those who already love science – by challenging their critical thinking skills to develop an ability to analyze data like a real scientist.

 “When students get to talk about their own understanding, the nature of the classroom changes. It becomes a far more engaged setting for students.” – Arthur Beauchamp

Photos provided by Arthur Beauchamp


Beauchamp, along with co-writers Judi Kusnick and Richard McCallum, have just published Success in Science through Dialogue, Reading and Writing, with a grant from the California Postsecondary Education Commission and the Improving Teacher Quality program. In their book, they help teachers to help students work from data, focus on phenomena, make student thinking visible and audible, utilize stance and argumentation, and strategically use dialogue, reading and writing. By structuring their curriculum, teachers learn how to create a more engaging science experience for students and guide student intellectual development through purposeful reading, productive dialogue and meaningful writing.

SHAN: Why is a book like yours needed?

ARTHUR: A book like this is needed because as we looked around at secondary science classrooms there was something lacking in the learning and understanding of science. It seemed there were some good tools in the English Language Arts that could be used to help students understand science better.

This book addresses two challenges science teachers face. The first challenge is how to use a framework to put Language Arts tools into use with science instruction. Second, is how teachers can select the most appropriate techniques for their particular science instruction.

So the book provides a framework and provides tools within that framework.  Also, when we took a look at who was doing the talking in science classrooms, a great deal of teacher talk was occurring and not nearly as much enough student dialogue or student thinking was taking place.

This book also helps teachers with techniques to manage student talk. For example, when we look at student writing in science, we find very few instances where student thinking is prevalent in the writing. And this book gives techniques in the context of science to help teachers design writing tasks for students. So overall it fills the need of helping science teachers to use English Language Arts techniques to teach their subject.

SHAN: How would you suggest teachers use your book?

ARTHUR:  I’d suggest teachers use it as a lens to look at lessons and a design framework as they construct those lessons. It gives teachers two things. First it gives them a road map they can keep in mind in the design of different aspects of the lesson – and then it gives tools to use within that framework.

For example, by using this book a teacher would be assisted in how they could move through a lesson – drawing on dialogue, reading, and writing as very robust ways of helping students understand science.

There are other payoffs – in addition to greater science understanding – student reading improves and student writing improves.

For more information about Success in Science through Dialogue, Reading and Writing, and associated professional development please visit:

Shän Boggs is a writer and editor living in Los Angeles. Her interests include science, technology, the environment, health, education, multimedia, art, and gourmet cooking.

October 8, 2013
National Science Teachers Association recommends "Success in Science through Dialogue, Reading and Writing."

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