The RepTaL project supports elementary teachers in using representations (drawings, pictures, graphs, and other forms) during their science lessons. Although representations are a foundation of science literacy, they can be challenging to use effectively and for students to interpret meaningfully. The project examines two key interrelated dimensions to teachers’ knowledge of representations in science: 1) an understanding of representations and their value in learning concepts, and 2) the ability to support productive use of representations within classroom conversations, and facilitate discussions which help students see representations as part of their scientific practices. To address these dimensions, the RepTaL project works with practicing teachers to identify their existing practices and challenges they face in incorporating representations in their science classrooms. We work iteratively with teachers to explore new ideas from the cognitive and learning sciences, introduce those ideas in their own classrooms, document their teaching practices, reflect upon their practices and those of their peers, and develop new practices.

The RepTaL team provides elementary teachers from rural southern Indiana and Nashville with professional learning around incorporating representations which addresses content, pedagogy, facilitation, and assessment. Teachers attenda summer professional development institute on representations and receive coaching during the school year. Video reflection tools also aid teachers in documenting and reflecting upon their learning process. As we work collaboratively with teachers, we will document the processes through which teachers engage with new ideas about representations to better understand their cognition around how to work with representations, and how to engage with students in productive classroom interactions that leverage representations within science inquiry.

This work is supported by the James S. McDonnell Foundation. JSMF Grant #: 220020521