The Future of Education

Edition 14

Accepted Abstracts

How a Learning Community Model Can Improve Student Collaboration, Understanding of the Nature of Science, and Student STEM Identity Development in a High-School Biology Class

Elena Boldyreva, University of Toronto (Canada)

James D. Slotta, University of Toronto (Canada)


This paper reports on a study conducted with a Grade 12 Biology classroom, focused on supporting students’ development of scientific and 21st Century competencies, Nature of Science understanding, and STEM identity development. A scientific learning community approach was implemented to support inquiry-based learning and students’ collaboration, cooperation and thinking processes, improve student interactions and knowledge construction [1, 2]. K-12 students generally receive insufficient opportunities to engage in projects involving data collection, analysis and collaboration [3]. A learning community approach can improve students’ engagement in such activities, adding a layer of authenticity and participation in the practices of science [4]. We co-designed with a teacher a semester-long curriculum in which students co-constructed understandings of the Nature of Science, made connections across course topics, and connected to real-world issues. Working on a cross-cutting diet and nutrition theme, students examined interesting evidence cases, participated in inquiry activities and engaged around ideas, connections, data analysis, scientific argumentation, and critical thinking about resources. Our first findings of the study show that a learning community approach supports students’ development of scientific competencies, improves understanding of the Nature of Science, and helps students build their understanding of various STEM careers and interconnectedness of different curriculum units and topics. Considering the COVID-19 situation, most of the activities were carried out online or in a hybrid mode.

Keywords: learning community, scientific competencies, STEM identity, Nature of Science, scientific argumentation, collaboration.


  1. Bereiter, C. & Scardamalia, M. (2014). Knowledge building and knowledge creation: One concept, two hills to climb. In S. C. Tan, H. J. So, J. Yeo (Eds.), Knowledge creation in education (pp. 35-52). Singapore: Springer.
  2. Slotta, J. D., & Najafi, H. (2013). Supporting collaborative knowledge construction with Web 2.0 technologies, in Emerging Technologies for the Classroom: A Learning Sciences Perspective, eds C. Mouza and N. Lavigne (New York, NY: Springer), 93–112.
  3. Qi, Z. (2018). Research on scientific data literacy education system. Open Journal of Social Sciences, 6, 187-199
  4. Acosta, A., & Slotta, J. D. (2018). CKBiology: An Active Learning Curriculum Design for Secondary Biology. Frontiers in Science, 3(52), 1-19.

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