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Reading Apprenticeship Goals in Science

Reading Apprenticeship Goals in Science

Michael Kelcher, who teaches chemistry in community college, considered his instructional approach typical: to lecture. And he wasn’t happy about it. Not only were his students missing out on the inquiry stance that defines the discipline of science, but they also weren’t learning the core content in their textbook:

I had been teaching for a long time doing what most of us do—stand and lecture. I was getting the same results over and over. Really strong students can survive, but many students were not learning. I told my students, “You guys are going to need to read the textbook. We’re not doing lecture anymore.”

Students look at us as wizards who are able to digest information and spit it back to them in an easily digestible way. I try to tell them that nobody can do that—it requires significant effort on their part.

So I started modeling Think Aloud, Talking to the Text, various things to get students to be more active readers, to think about what they’re thinking about when they’re reading, or why they aren’t understanding. Are they asking questions? Developing expectations? Are they giving themselves enough time? I want them to become better aware of what it is that they are reading—you don’t read a chemistry text the way you read a novel.

Michael’s new self-defined job description is to apprentice his students to the discipline of science, not lecture to them about science. Ideally, Michael’s chemistry students learn the role of inquiry and monitoring conceptual change in testing and advancing science ideas. They encounter multiple and varied print and electronic texts ranging from traditional, encyclopedic textbooks to trade journals and science reports, numerical equations, visual and physical models of atoms and molecules, and conventional systems for denoting chemical bonding such as Lewis dot structures, chemical equations, and drawings of atomic structures. Even laboratory equipment and the phenomena explored in the lab require reading and interpretation. In such a classroom environment, inexperienced academic readers are apprenticed, over time and in multiple ways, to the literacy practices of science and to the reasoning processes that support and sustain science inquiry.

These experiences and processes can be stated in terms of student goals for building knowledge about science (see Box 8.19).

In a science classroom, students learn about the discipline of science and themselves as readers, users, and consumers of science by way of the following discipline-specific goals.


I know how to read and/or represent scientific content and ideas in diverse scientific documents: reports, data tables and graphs, illustrations and other visuals, equations, textbooks, and models.


I know to look for the predictable ways science text is structured: classification and definition, structure and function, process and interaction, claim and evidence, and procedure.

I know that visuals and numerical representations are particularly powerful ways to convey complex scientific text and ideas.

Because I know that science text is often tightly packed with new terms and ideas, I preview and reread it, and I chunk and restate the chunks in familiar language to keep track of the gist as I read.

Because science textbooks often use passive voice, I know to restate sentences in active voice to keep track of the subject and action.

Because science textbooks often use complex sentence constructions, I know to find the logical connecting words between ideas.


I know that when familiar terms are used in unfamiliar ways, I can redefine them in context to clear up confusion.

I know that using scientific names and labels is a shortcut for communicating precisely about scientific processes and structures.


I source a science document, set of data, or piece of evidence as a step in evaluating its authority or reliability.


Knowing that scientific inquiry involves cycles of questioning, making observations, and explaining and evaluating observations helps me read science investigations and describe my own.


I know that scientific claims must be supported by evidence that is carefully collected, evaluated, and reported so that others can judge its value.


I can write a scientific explanation that makes a claim about observations of the natural world and convincingly defends the claim with evidence.


I know that corroborating findings in science is a way to find out how likely they are to be true.


I know that for scientific understanding to evolve, science moves forward using best evidence and information, even though these may be proved incomplete or wrong in the future.


I monitor my schema to decide whether compelling evidence about scientific claims changes my personal understanding of the natural world.


I am aware of my evolving identity as a reader, user, and consumer of science.

From Reading for Understanding, pp 274-276

DMU Timestamp: February 06, 2019 23:03

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