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Science Teachers' Learning: Chapters 2 and 3. NSTA Book Study August 1 - 8

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Patricia Paulson Patricia Paulson 1150 Points

Hi everyone! It's been fun getting acquainted, and now it is time to begin connecting the research to our practice. Ken Huff and I will be facilitating the discussion for chapters two and three of our book. We'd like you to reflect on three questions (based partially on the Harvard thinking routines):

What did you read that affirms something you already know and believe?
What did you see as a potential challenge/ opportunity? Why?
What is one thing that helped extend your own thinking?

Feel free to reply to the postings of others after your initial response. It will deepen the discourse. 

Patti Paulson and Ken Huff

Patricia Paulson Patricia Paulson 1150 Points

Following Eric's model, I'll begin by posting my own reflections on the questions. When I think of something that affirms my own beliefs, I am drawn to the statement, "science practices are not synonymous simply with "hands-on" activities" (p. 38). As Banilower et al. (2013) found, about 60% of science teachers in the NSSME survey reported using "hands-on" activities, yet few allowed sufficient time for sense making, and many had limited connections between scientific concepts and the activities. The good news is that science teachers saw the value of teaching concepts in more depth; the bad news is that few provided sufficient time for the discourse required to provide this opportunity. When I think about a challenge/ opportunity, I would have to say the limited time provided for science instruction at the elementary level, due to the continued emphasis on reading and mathematics. The research supports what most of us have seen to be true at the elementary level, yet the challenge is to enact change in a climate driven by standardized assessments. Providing more time for science instruction, as well as the integration of reading and mathematics skills into meaningful science concepts and practices, will not be accomplished quickly. Research supports the importance of PD over time and in collaboration with others. The vision for science education will not be accomplished without significant professional development and meaningful opportunities to interact within grade levels, across grade levels, and with a deep understanding of learning progressions. Change will require the support of NSTA, state science leads and administrators at all levels (not to mention legislators!). When I think about something that extends my thinking, I was drawn to the three patterns of "ambitious" science teaching, which aims to "support all students in engaging deeply with science" in a forthcoming publication by Windschiti and Barton (p. 38). Providing time for the three dimensional learning set forth by NGSS will require a deep understanding of integration and ample time for engaging in discourse, argumentation, supporting claims with evidence, and sense making. As the text affirms, "Leading a discussion is not a natural act, but instead takes considerable experience with hearing what students say, capitalizing on their emergent ideas, and selecting some comments for further discussion while being respectful of the broad array of student contributions" (p. 51). Leading science educators to an understanding of the complexity of such integration, as well as assisting in developing confidence in putting it to practice in their own classrooms, will extend my thinking!

Lynda Sanders Lynda Sanders 405 Points

Patricia, I was drawn to the same statement about science practices not being synonymous with “hands on” activities. Unfortunately some think doing activities is doing science but that is only part of it. We need to provide time for students to think through ideas and come up with explanations and unfortunately that is the aspect that often gets short-change. [color=#222222]I see a couple of challenges. The first is around the depth of knowledge required and guiding students in the practices. As stated in Chapter 3 about high quality instruction, “. . . this kind of instruction entails considerable knowledge and skill. Not only would the teacher . . . need to be deft at managing a classroom in which students were in engaged in laboratory activities, but she would need to be able to anticipate the likely predictions that students would generate and what those predictions would signify with respect to students’ understanding.” (page 51) This is can be a challenge because standards in the past have mostly emphasized content and so that is how we have taught. Now with NGSS, practices have more emphasis and so require the ability to guide students along that path. This will require additional professional development and practice.[/color] [color=#222222]I also agree that one of the big challenges is the elementary level. “At the elementary level, science is not taught much. With double periods of mathematics and language arts, there is simply not room in the school day for teaching science.” (Page 36) In fact I have heard from some colleagues they have been told to not teach science because there has been the emphasis on making sure we have good test scores in math and reading. This is unfortunate because science could be the conduit that is used to teach math and language arts. Many of the items in Common Core are integral in good science instruction.[/color] There was a pair of items that extended my own thinking. In chapter 3 a comment was made about more gains being made when teachers experienced “extended professional learning and other supports” and that “outcomes were strongest . . . where supports extended over more than one school year.” (page 61) The other item was the research drawn on by Windschitl and Calabrese Barton which involved “sustained opportunities for teachers and students to engage with scientific ideas and practices over periods on months and year . . .” (page 41) It takes time to readjust how we teach and for our students to learn by doing science. Quality instruction involves the support of others. We can’t just go in our room and close the door. We must work together and hone our craft to provide guidance to our students to be successful science thinkers in our classrooms and throughout a student's K-12 experience. Lynda Sanders

Kenneth Huff Kenneth Huff 2290 Points

Dear Colleagues,

In working with Patti to facilitate this week's discussion, I offer the following for your consideration. On pages 30-31 under Disciplinary Core Ideas it reads, " coverage has marginalized exploration and discovery; the goal is to avoid superficial coverage of multiple disconnected topics".

Since some have stated there is a lack of content in the NGSS, how do you interpret the above quotes?

Thank you,

Kenneth Huff

Kenneth Huff Kenneth Huff 2290 Points

Patti and Lynda have both raised excellent points about the idea of practices not being synonymous with hands on activity. In thinking about this further, I was drawn to page 60 and the reference to Corcoran and Gerry which asserts there is an American tendency to teach science through activity without understanding. This challenge pervades in many classrooms despite research from other NRC consensus reports including Taking Science to School and Ready, Set, Science! emphasizing the importance of talk and discourse in the science classroom. The point of "hands on" is also addressed later in chapter 3 (pg. 63) bullet point #1. I especially concur with this statement because too often active work or hands on does not involve reasoning or problem solving. The Framework also does an excellent job in emphasizing reasoning as opposed to students being told about science and being asked to remember facts. I remain optimistic that if the conceptual changes as called for in the Framework and Appendix A of the NGSS are implemented with fidelity and embraced by the science community, we can heighten the importance of science in our schools. Thank you, Kenneth Huff

Brian Terry Brian Terry 175 Points

Dear All, What did you read that affirms something you already know and believe? The best way to learn science is by doing science. What did you see as a potential challenge/ opportunity? Why? [color=#222222]Teachers are concerned about the standardized tests that "measure" the students' ability to "understand" scientific concepts.  We do have limited time to "cover" the topics.  In-depth investigations require more time with peers.  We have the luxury of having a double period for science every other day at the high school but not at the middle school. [/color] What is one thing that helped extend your own thinking? How can we make this transition efficiently and effectively?

James Blake James Blake 440 Points

What did you read that affirms something you already know and believe? (sadly) “local curricular guidance takes the form of long lists of detailed and disconnected facts.” (p.28) After spending 2 years immersed in NGSS and then returning as the science specialist for a nonNGSS state, I was hit with how one dimensional our standards were. I realize assessment at the local level in our state lead to these low reciprocity standards (understand, know, etc.) and I have been excited to change them to be 3D. I am working now on a 4 year plan to shift our district to 3D teaching and learning after 2 years of tinkering..we are taking the leap. What did you see as a potential challenge/ opportunity? Why? “Designing instruction that uses the diversity of students’ ideas and everyday experiences as resources to further all students’ understanding. “ (p.41) I see this as both a challenge and opportunity. If we can get teachers reflecting on student engagement and willing to “change out” the context/phenomena they used for a topic to match the context the student is interested in I think we will come a long way in improving learning opportunities. To do this, teachers at times must be willing to let go of some of their favorite lessons and contexts and consider learning some new ones. What is one thing that helped extend your own thinking? I was drawn to Table 2-1 describing the shift called for by the Framework and NGSS in simple terms, "Science instruction will involve less… Science instruction will involve more.." (p.39) I am going to share this verbatim with 140 secondary science teachers on Wednesday when I welcome them back for another year, I think it will motivate them to continue to push for this new vision in our district.

Christine Herald chris herald 1825 Points

I'll just answer the questions 1. Sadly this affirms that we do not teach science very well in this country. Between lack of time in the classroom and useful science focused professional development, teachers do not have the tools to do their job well. Without a strong background in science, teachers cannot make the connections to the real world or know how scientists might be conducting research in that area of study. I'm am hopeful that adopting NGSS, that will change. I have witnessed this in our elementary schools (science is taught opposite of SS). Good PD has allowed our elementary teachers to spend 3 years unwrapping the new standards and even meeting off campus at science focus sites (Zoo, museum, airport). Secondary teachers have not had that opportunity. Many do not belong to professional organizations and haven't changed the way they teach. Change will be slower at this level! 2. The potential challenge is changing the mind set of our experienced teachers. Some still feel the best way for students to learn is through a lecture. The meaning of Hands-on experiments is not the same as it was 5 years ago 3. As a former math teacher, I knew when I was given a low level math class, I could not teach the same way I was taught and be effective. I think reading these chapters extend my thinking in this area. So true to science as well. Teachers must embrace the Standards,but will need coaching. I kept thinking how whiteboards would be a great tool as I read several sections. I never used them like many do in modeling instruction.

John Olson John Olson 2635 Points

I am intrigued by the Weiss study (p 59) that observed that middle school lessons were weaker than elementary and high school lessons. There are many factors mentioned in the chapter that give middle school teachers and advantage over elementary teachers (e.g. content knowledge, equipment, time). There is less emphasis on content coverage than high school. It will be interesting to see if work force factors such as years of experience are factors since many teachers start in middle school and move to high school. What other factors could be involved, such as the nature of students at these age?

Patricia Paulson Patricia Paulson 1150 Points

Great question, John. I wonder if it has to do with the nature of the student AND pedagogical content knowledge. The research on middle level students clearly points to active, authentic experiences in collaboration with others. If they are being taught as a "mini high school" with lecture and traditional tests, it would make sense that little is retained. Sadly, as I visit middle school science classrooms for practicum and student teaching, one lab a week is the "norm" and it is completed in 45 minutes or less. On the other hand, TIMSS results show a more optimistic picture.

Brian Terry Brian Terry 175 Points

[color=#575655]On pages 30-31 under Disciplinary Core Ideas it reads, " coverage has marginalized exploration and discovery; the goal is to avoid superficial coverage of multiple disconnected topics". [/color]Since some have stated there is a lack of content in the NGSS, how do you interpret the above quotes? I had mentioned that the NGSS puts more emphasis on science as a process and not on science knowledge. What are the students able to do AND what should they know at the end of the year/grade?

Christine Herald Chris Herald 1825 Points

Are there discussion questions for chapters 4 & 5 ?

Brian Terry Brian Terry 175 Points

Some one was assigned to lead the next two chapter discussions, but you may start thinking about To start discussion, it works best to provide the group with an open-ended question or prompt. Here are some general ideas to help- 1. Identify a key phrase in the reading that stood out to you. Include your thoughts about why it is important and follow with a question- 2. Describe a problem of "practice" related to the reading and ask others their thoughts about how to apply the reading (and their expertise) to the problem. 3. Ask about how the reading is connected to participants experiences or current job. 4. Questions / prompts to get at how this reading may impact NSTA's efforts

Kenneth Huff Kenneth Huff 2290 Points


Brian has posed some good questions to consider in reading our next two chapters.
As a middle school teacher, the information on pg. 72 which states elementary and middle school teachers have likely had limited opportunity to engage in scientific investigations has resonated with me. For most of my fellow teachers at school, this is absolutely the case. Dr. Bruce Alberts has highlighted this point in many of his editorials in Science through the years (see 2 January 2009, 22 October 2010, 27 January 2012).
I found it meaningful to go back to chapter 2 as directed at the end of the second paragraph on pg.72 to re-visit the ideas in this section. I was drawn back to the information on the top of pg. 28. To me, this point also ties into earlier posts here regarding coverage. Some reviewers of the NGSS drafts voiced concerns to the writing team about lack of content. This report, along with other NRC reports, does an excellent job in emphasizing the importance of three dimensional learning. If this is actually occurring in the classroom, we know the focus is not solely on content. One could also argue that if students are engaged in genuine scientific investigations teachers are also engaged in the same investigations.
What thoughts do you have regarding how teachers can cultivate genuine scientific investigations in the classroom?

Thank you,
Kenneth Huff

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