The Role of the Knowledgeable Other in Student-Scientist-Teacher Partnerships: Examining Triads in Second Grade Classrooms

The Role of the Knowledgeable Other in Student-Scientist-Teacher Partnerships: Examining Triads in Second Grade Classrooms

Sarah L. McClusky (Ohio Northern University, USA) and Donna Farland-Smith (The Ohio State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-4966-7.ch003
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This chapter focuses on the language and interactions of a visiting scientist and a group of second-grade students (N=18). Guiding this study was the understanding that a student-scientist-teacher partnership supports a social cultural perspective that provides a zone of proximal development in a multifaceted and effective exchange of knowledge for all members of the partnership. The study examined how these interactions can be understood in terms of the zone of proximal development at different levels. It was determined that all three members of the triad can be the more knowledgeable other and move the knowledge between them.
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“Okay, friends,” teacher Ms. Smith said, clapping her hands in a rhythmic pattern to get the student's attention. “Dr. Z just informed me he is coming in the next thirty minutes!” So that means we have a change in our plans for today.” A one-eighty was never a problem for Ms. Smith; she was grateful when Dr. Z would visit her classroom. She never minded the interruption. Ms. Smith knew the benefit to her young students learning science from Dr. Z far outweighed the imposition and remained flexible. Upon her announcement, they instantly filled with excitement! As if rehearsing for a fire drill, they cleared their desks and cleaned up their workspaces with no further direction from their teacher. The students knew what a visit from Dr. Z meant; they wondered what he might bring today. Even though they had no idea what Dr. Z might bring today, and they were certain it was going to be exciting!

Today’s durable student-scientist-teacher partnerships have evolved from yesterday’s one-shot visiting-scientist programs. Lessons learned about the strengths and weaknesses in elementary classrooms have improved and refined the way educators think about these partnerships. Little research exists to document short-term scientists' effectiveness in classroom programs (Larson, Liston, Thiry, & Graf, 2007). The assumption is that a visit from a scientist will improve children’s perceptions of scientists. Bozdin and Gerhinger (2001) and Flick (1990) reported that visiting scientists decreased stereotypical beliefs about scientists. However, Buck, Leslie-Pelecky & Kirby (2002) reported no change in students’ stereotypical images of scientists when three female scientists visited an upper elementary classroom. Farland-Smith (2009) found that interactions with various scientists over a week-long period at a science camp demonstrated a positive impact on middle school girls’ perceptions of scientists. Grossman & Farland-Smith (2020) evaluated the impact of virtual, discussion-based interactions with five scientists on middle school students’ perceptions of scientists. They discovered through technology students’ perceptions of what scientists do, where scientists work, and what scientists look like could be broadened. Therefore, classroom technologies may have opened up new opportunities for disrupting scientists' problematic stereotypes and have supported students in developing more expansive perceptions of science and scientists. Therefore, the kinds of visits and relationships between students, scientists, and teachers can be multifaceted and effective in providing benefits for all involved and thus, worthy of investigation.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Elementary School: Formalized education between the ages of 5-10.

Knowledgeable Other: An individual who serves as “the teacher” and dispenses knowledge to others.

Zone of Proximal Development: The distance between the actual developmental level (determined by independent problem solving) and the level of potential development (determined through problem solving) under guidance from an adult/teacher or in collaboration with more capable peers.

Visiting Scientists: Individuals who may be professional scientists or non-professional scientists and visit classrooms to share their knowledge.

Science Vocabulary: Words and or language specific to the discipline of science.

Triad: Triads are systems of three parties in which each party interacts directly and reciprocally with another party and can also operate as an intermediary between the other two parties.

Student-Scientist-Teacher Partnership: Integrative partnerships in which students, teachers, and scientists are involved and benefit.

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