Supporting the Development of Models and Modeling

Presenters: Richard Lehrer and Liz Penner
In this session, the presenters describe and exemplify how involving children (including grades K–3) in the production of representations and models of local ecosystems bootstraps their emerging understandings about ecosystem composition and function. The presenters illustrate how model construction and revision are ways of binding related practices of posing questions, constructing and analyzing data, communicating, and planning and conducting investigations. They also describe how this work is sustained and elaborated in a community of teachers.

Richard Lehrer, Professor, Vanderbilt University
Richard Lehrer is a Frank W. Mayborn Professor of Education at Vanderbilt University. Working in concert with teachers, he focuses on the design of classroom learning environments that support the growth and development of learning about foundational concepts and epistemic practices in science and in mathematics. In mathematics education, he investigates development of children’s (K–6) reasoning about space, measure, data, and chance when instruction is guided by teacher knowledge of student reasoning. Closely related research conducted with Leona Schauble and with teacher-partners investigates fruitful ways of inducting children into the signature practice of science—invention and revision of models of natural systems. Most recently, this research has examined how children use invented and conventional representations and tools to inquire about and articulate the building blocks of evolution: variation, change, and ecosystem function. Other interests include the development of measures of learning consistent with the ambitions of the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics and the Next Generation Science Standards. He has served as co-editor of Cognition and Instruction and has contributed to several NRC committees, including one presently evaluating integrated STEM education and another examining science assessment in light of the new NRC framework for science education. Lehrer is a Fellow of the American Educational Research Association and the 2009 recipient of the American Psychological Association’s Award for Distinguished Contributions in Applications of Psychology to Education. A former science teacher, he received a PhD in Educational Psychology and Statistics from the State University of New York, Albany, and a BS in Biology from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Liz Penner, Primary Teacher, Verona Area School District, Verona, WI
Liz Penner is in her 20th year of teaching in the Verona Area School District in Wisconsin. She has taught grades 1–2 in a multiage classroom for her entire career. Penner has participated in university research collaborations focused on student thinking in mathematics and science throughout her career. Currently, she is partnering with Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) faculty at the University of Wisconsin (UW), Madison, and the City of Verona Department of Public Works to develop a local detention pond as a research site for students in the Verona Area School District, researchers at the University of Wisconsin, and city workers. Penner is also co-facilitating a year-long course with a Verona Area high school ecology teacher; staff from UW, Madison, Arboretum’s Earth Partnership for Schools (EPS); and LTER faculty to offer professional development to K–12 teachers around ecology and the Next Generation Science Standards. Penner began her partnership with UW, Madison, faculty Rich Lehrer and Leona Schauble in 1995 on their Modeling and Mathematics and Science project. She became a teacher facilitator on this project, leading staff in both summer and school-year curriculum development sessions. Penner was a site coordinator on an NSF-funded grant focused on the development of student learning constructs in ecology. She also participated in Earth Partnerships for Schools and contributed to its teacher curriculum publications on watershed ecology. Penner received her BS in Education and her MS in Cognitive Psychology from the University of Wisconsin, Madison.