Modeling for Understanding in Science Education

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What does a MUSE classroom look like?

The Modeling for Understanding in Science (MUSE) project is a collaboration among high school science teachers and educational researchers. Our team has participated in years of professional development and classroom research efforts that focus on creating classrooms in which students can learn both science and scientific practice through modeling.

Important aspects of such classrooms include:

1. Teaching Strategies

  • The teacher assumes the role of co-inquirer in the classroom, engaging the students in scientific inquiry and invigorating their investigations through questions and class discussions.

  • Instruction emphasizes students’ use of scientific models to understand, illustrate, and explain key scientific ideas and data.

  • The teacher continuously assesses students’ understanding to determine the direction of instruction. Through iterative, ongoing assessment of individuals and groups, the teacher gives students constructive feedback to direct their learning.

  • Assessment is authentic. Teachers apply proven assessment tools (check lists and rubrics) to evaluate student learning through a variety of tasks: student journals, homework assignments, written exams or quizzes, oral exams, and group posters and presentations.

2. Tasks & Curricular Materials

  • Materials include rich data sets or opportunities for students to generate their own data through observations of natural phenomena.

  • Students are engaged in interpreting real data: organizing, seeking patterns, and attempting to explain those patterns using a scientific or explanatory model.

  • Students apply and sometimes revise their models when attempting to explain unfamiliar phenomena.

  • Individuals or groups regularly share their models—and evidence to support those models—with peers through poster sessions, presentations, or paper writing.

3. Norms of Behavior & Participation

  • Students form a scientific community to learn about, present, and discuss explanatory models (and the empirical justification for those models) with their peers. Students collaboratively gather data, discuss, observe, and present scientific arguments for critique.
  • Students hone their reasoning skills through judging their own and other students’ explanatory models. Students assess models to determine whether they fit with data, have predictive power, and are consistent with other scientific models or concepts.

This site was developed by the National Center for Mathematics and Science in the Wisconsin Center for Education Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Copyright 2002 The Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System