Mark Enfield

bridging the natural world
and learning to teach about the natural world

Research Agenda

Emergent Science Literacy

I consider my research, teaching, and my scholarship to be about defining Emergent Science Literacy. I feel that science education research in elementary schools needs to systematically consider the development of science literacy as being similar to the development of language knowledge, skills, and abilities. Thus I draw on the notion of Emergent Literacy to articulate a related notion in Science Literacy. The notion of Emergent Science Literacy raises many questions for research and teaching in elementary science.

  • What are starting skills and abilities that will productively support students as they learn science?
  • What kinds of knowledge and experiences in science will build on students' intuitive sense-making and develop abilities to engage in more canonical kinds of sense-making?
  • How do we prepare future teachers to develop students' sense-making in science based on limited science subject matter knowledge?

I am most interested in the ways students make meaning of experiences and observations; individually and through collaboration with peers. My dissertation specifically considered the sense-making that supported collaboration of early elementary students in whole group discussions. My research continues to focus on students’ sense-making in science. Through the Center for Curriculum Materials in Science, my research considers this as part of students’ development of representational systems and sense-making strategies. I continued this research and scholarship at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.