Which ideas, when, and why? An experienced teacher's in-the-moment pedagogical reasoning about facilitating student sense-making discussions

Christina Krist, Soo Yean Shim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Teaching to support students' sense-making is challenging. It requires continuous, context-dependent decision-making about which student ideas to pursue, when, how, and why. This paper presents a single case study of an experienced teacher, Nadine, as an illustrative case in order to provide a rich description of this teacher's decisional episodes. Specifically, we characterize Nadine's pedagogical reasoning for decisions to make space for or close down student sense-making while facilitating whole-class discussions. We analyzed video recordings of (1) Nadine's classroom teaching over the course of two instructional units, (2) classroom moments tagged by Nadine or researchers in the midst of her teaching capturing her rationales for instructional decisions, and (3) interviews about those tagged moments. Using constant-comparative analytic methods, we identified three dimensions of criteria that Nadine considered in her decisions about whether to pursue student ideas: (1) disciplinary potential, (2) potential for fostering the classroom community, and (3) curricular considerations. We present four episodes that feature Nadine's reasoning, two in which she intentionally made space for student sense-making and two in which she intentionally closed down lines of student reasoning. Regardless of the decision, the criteria Nadine considered were sometimes aligned, supporting a straightforward decision, and other times created tensions. Across four episodes, we show how Nadine navigated multidimensional criteria; considered students' long-term trajectories; and considered for whom pursuing sense-making would be beneficial. We argue that these navigational considerations might serve as focal points as teachers, researchers, and professional learning facilitators make sense of teachers' instructional decisions as they occur during instruction and that leveraging them to open opportunities for discourse with teachers can support complex teaching practices.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)255-288
Number of pages34
JournalJournal of Research in Science Teaching
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2024


  • pedagogical reasoning
  • pedagogy
  • science education
  • sense-making
  • teacher cognition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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