Authentic Science Learning in Primary and Secondary Classrooms


Harris, C. J., & Salinas, I. (2009). Authentic science learning in primary and secondary classrooms. In Fostering Scientific Habits of Mind (pp. 125-144). Brill.


Authentic science learning has gained increasing attention among educators and researchers as a promising means for promoting student achievement, interest, and motivation in science. Authentic science provides opportunities for students to engage in science learning in a manner that reflects the practices of science. In the context of a science classroom, authenticity is generally understood to mean that students participate in scientific activity in ways similar to how scientists conduct their work, yet at a level appropriate and meaningful given students’ knowledge and skills. In this chapter, we examine authentic science learning in primary and secondary classrooms. We begin with a brief review of the literature on authenticity in science education, focusing on how and why authentic experiences are important for science learning. Then we describe key contextual, disciplinary, social, cognitive, and pedagogical features of authentic science classrooms that differentiate them from other science learning environments. Two promising innovative science programs that support authentic science learning are presented to illustrate how key features are intertwined with each other in instruction. We then consider challenges for teachers and students in enacting ambitious authentic science instruction, as well as impediments to achieving authenticity. We conclude by describing two new directions in research that promise to inform the design of future authentic science learning environments.

Read more from SRI