TERC Researchers Author Article on the Role of Heterogeneity in Learning and Meaning-Making in the Science Classroom

November 29, 2010



CAMBRIDGE, MA: Ann S. Rosebery and Beth Warren, co-directors of the Chèche Konnen Center at TERC, have authored “The Coat Traps All Your Body Heat”: Heterogeneity as Fundamental to Learning” with Mark Ogonowski (a former TERC researcher) and Mary DiSchino (a teacher in the Cambridge Public Schools, now retired), published in the Journal of the Learning Sciences.

Drawing on their research into students’ diverse ways of talking and knowing in the science classroom, the authors explore heteroglossia (varied ways of conceptualizing, representing, evaluating, and engaging the world through language) as a generative resource in science learning. Working in collaboration with a teacher of a combined grade 3-4 classroom with a diverse student body, they conducted design research on the use of inquiry-driven “science talk” to explore processes of heat transfer and the particulate nature of matter. Through both planned and unplanned encounters, official versions of the Second Law of Thermodynamics and the particulate nature of matter were juxtaposed with varied student experiences with cold, heat, and phase change in water. The researchers employed video records of students’ talk and activity, benchmark discussions, and a written assessment to assess students’ learning. They found that building instruction on students’ heterogeneous experiences and linguistic practices—including those of students from historically non-dominant communities—as an intellectual resource in learning deepened scientific understanding of all students.