THE TEACHING OF SCIENCE New insights into knowledge, language and pedagogy

Y. J. Doran, Karl Maton and J. R. Martin

Introduction

Science is significant. Faced with the climate emergency, global pandemics and proliferating threats to life on Earth, that significance should go without saying. However, science is under sustained attack by irrationalism in politics, the news and social media. The need for science education has never been more urgent. Yet, in many advanced societies, science is struggling to attract and retain students through school and university. One problem facing attempts at addressing these issues is a tendency for studies to obscure the knowledge and language that comprise science. The subfields of education research dedicated to science disciplines have contributed greatly to our understanding of scientific ways of knowing. Studies explore the cognitive resources, perceptions and judgements of students and the processes of learning. They are extensively examining the conceptions, motivations and dispositions that students bring to learning science and the ways of thinking exhibited by students when learning science. However, what students are learning when they study science, the nature of the scientific knowledge itself, receives far less attention. Moreover, this dominant focus on how students learn science has been accompanied by neglect of the teaching of science. Pedagogy is too often reduced to an afterthought of findings about how students think. Without understanding how scientific knowledge and language may help shape the best ways of teaching that knowledge, we have only part of the picture. This volume aims to help fill this gap by exploring the knowledge practices and multimodal discourses of science teaching.

The collection extends two approaches that make pedagogic discourse a central object of study in education: Legitimation Code Theory (LCT) and Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL). These approaches bring to light the meaning-making activities of social actors, in complementary ways. LCT is a sociological framework that foregrounds the knowledge practices of science education, revealing features such as their complexity, context-dependence, boundedness and specialized procedures. SFL explores the language and other semiotic resources, including mathematics, images and gesture, through which these knowledge practices are expressed. In recent years scholars and educators using these two frameworks have been closely working together, generating a fast-growing body of work that draws on both sides of this genuinely interdisciplinary dialogue (e.g. Martin and Maton 2013, Martin etal. 2020b).This book builds on this collaboration to offer cutting-edge developments in both approaches that will generate major advances in not only how science education is understood but also how knowledge, language and pedagogy are conceived more widely.

Teaching Science is organized into three parts. Part I draws on LCT to explore how science teaching can support knowledge-building. A series of innovative studies focus on the integration of mathematics into science (Chapter 2), the building of scientific explanations (Chapter 3) and the integration of multimedia such as animations into science teaching (Chapter 4).These studies introduce new concepts and new methods in LCT, including ‘autonomy tours’ (Chapter 2), ‘constellation analysis’ (Chapter 3) and ‘epistemic affordances’ (Chapter 4).

Part II greatly extends SFL to explore the multimodal discourses that underpin knowledge-building in science classrooms. These chapters articulate the expansive range of meanings involved in explaining complex scientific phenomena (Chapter

  • 5) , the ways in which deep scientific taxonomies are built (Chapter 6), and the essential interdependence of language, mathematics and images in scientific knowledge (Chapter 7). They advance the modelling of meaning-making in SFL into new areas and articulate extensions to concepts that will kickstart new forms of research into science discourse, including‘field’ (Chapter 5),‘ideational discourse semantics’ (Chapter
  • 6) and the multimodal analysis of language, mathematics and image (Chapter 7).

Part III explores the practical implications that LCT and SFL analyses can deliver

for teaching science. Chapters discuss how access to scientific knowledge can be widened to a greater diversity of students (Chapter 8), how knowledge is transformed to address real-world problems in engineering design (Chapter 9), the meanings communicated in live lectures that are rarely taken into account in debates over pedagogy (Chapter 10), and how mathematics can be taught effectively to all students through the influential pedagogic program ‘Reading to Learn’ (Chapter 11).

In this opening chapter we introduce the book by outlining the traditions of studies enacting the frameworks of LCT and SFL to examine science education. First, we locate this volume in the long-standing body of work using SFL to understand talking, writing and reading science. Second, we turn to the more recent but growing body of research and practice enacting LCT to examine and shape teaching and learning science. Finally, we introduce the chapters of this book, highlighting how they offer new ways of understanding, analyzing and shaping science teaching.

 
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