Publications & Resources

An Analysis of Notebook Writing in Elementary Science Classrooms

Nov 2000

Gail P. Baxter, Kristin M. Bass, and Robert Glaser

Journal or notebook writing is viewed as a critical aspect of science teaching and learning because of its potential to inform the former and assess the latter (National Research Council, 1996; Shepardson & Britsch, 1997). Nevertheless, little is known about the relationship between the contents of student science notebooks and the classroom contexts in which they are used. This study examines the use of notebooks in three fifth grade classrooms during a unit on electric circuits. Our purpose is to ascertain the extent to which notebooks might serve as a tool for monitoring teaching and learning. Analyses of classroom contexts indicated that teachers promoted notebook writing through explicit instructions and prompts, provided frequent opportunities for students to write, and attended to student documentation of the procedural aspects of the investigations. Consistent with these classroom observations, students’ science notebooks contained records of teacher-dictated purposes and procedures and student-generated observations for each investigation. Other significant aspects of student performance and observed classroom practice were not documented in the notebooks; these included records of problem-solving strategies, discussions of task-related concepts, and references to variations in problem solutions across student groups. Implications of notebooks as a tool for monitoring science instruction and assessing student learning are discussed.

Baxter, G. P., Bass, K. M., & Glaser, R. (2000). An analysis of notebook writing in elementary science classrooms (CSE Report 533). Los Angeles: University of California, Los Angeles, National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing (CRESST).