September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

A Year in the Life of Two First Year Teachers: Part Seven

Posted: Friday, April 1st, 2011

by Rick Pomeroy, with Sara and Ellen

It has been a busy few months for Sara and Ellen. Both have been enrolled in a masters of arts in education program as a continuation of their teaching credential programs.  That program wrapped up on the first weekend in March with Sara and Ellen presenting their research along with nine other first or second year science teachers. Listening to their presentation was inspiring and provided me with lots of ideas for my State of Science Education in California presentation at NSTA in San Francisco.  All of the students investigated ways to improve student learning by looking at their own teaching techniques.  The overwhelming finding, regardless of subject matter or grade level, was that students have become skilled at answering simple, formulaic problems but almost totally incapable of applying that same knowledge to the same questions when it was asked as part of a word problem or a scenario questions. Whether calculating density, speed, or molar masses, or connecting chemistry concepts to real life examples, the students in their studies struggled tremendously with applying their rote knowledge to problem solving situations.  As a way of honoring the effort that Sara and Ellen put into their projects and to give them a little breathing room at the end of their M.A. program, I have included their research questions and a summary of their findings, conclusions, or implications here for you to enjoy.

Ellen’s Research Question: Does the use of chemistry model kits help bridge students’ knowledge of balancing equations to the law of conservation of mass?

Conclusion: Research has shown repeatedly that many students have a hard time understanding scientific concepts well enough so that they are able to make connections across concepts, such as balancing equations and the law of conservation of mass (Bruxvoort et al., 2007, Gamble et al., 2008). Bruxvoort et al. showed that students were able to bridge concepts in chemistry more frequently when they were able to write down their understanding using their own language rather than repeating the academic language taught.

The findings of this research supports both the use of manipulatives to help students visualize chemistry concepts that are otherwise abstract, and the use of quick writes to allow students to use their own language to explain chemistry concepts. I will continue to apply this new information to my teaching by using more manipulatives and increasing the amount of writing that I assign to students. Future inquiry studies should include which writing-prompt questions will elicit deeper student understanding, and which units of instruction in chemistry will benefit from the students’ use of manipulatives.

Sara’s Research Question: How does using real-life examples during chemistry instruction change student perceptions of the importance and relevance of chemistry in their lives?

Conclusion: I was extremely pleased with my research and found it very helpful. I was able to gain a lot of insight into my students’ perspectives of chemistry, which, then influenced my teaching. One of my main goals as a teacher is to get students interested in chemistry and to break down any negative feelings that students bring with them to the classroom. I truly believe that relating chemistry topics to real-world situations is a way to do that, and my research suggested it as well. My findings also corroborated well with the literature, as my students had similar initial perceptions as other researchers have found, and using real-life examples in multiple ways seemed to improve those perceptions.

I was inspired by all of the students who presented their research.  Their dedication to their teaching and their commitment to their students encouraged me to think that all is not lost in the battle of science education vs. the world.  There are many ways that teachers can impact their students’ learning and careful attention to the needs of their students is the first step to promoting student success.

You can send comments and messages to Sara and Ellen at SaraandEllen@gmail.com

Rick Pomeroy is science education lecturer/supervisor in the School of Education, University of California Davis, and is CSTA’s president-elect.

Powered By DT Author Box

Written by Rick Pomeroy

Rick Pomeroy

Rick Pomeroy is science education lecturer/supervisor in the School of Education, University of California Davis and is a past-president of CSTA.

Leave a Reply

LATEST POST

CSTA Is Now Accepting Nominations for Board Members

Posted: Friday, November 17th, 2017

Current, incoming, and outgoing CSTA Board of Directors at June 3, 2017 meeting.

Updated 7:25 pm, Nov. 17, 2017

It’s that time of year when CSTA is looking for dedicated and qualified persons to fill the upcoming vacancies on its Board of Directors. This opportunity allows you to help shape the policy and determine the path that the Board will take in the new year. There are time and energy commitments, but that is far outweighed by the personal satisfaction of knowing that you are an integral part of an outstanding professional educational organization, dedicated to the support and guidance of California’s science teachers. You will also have the opportunity to help CSTA review and support legislation that benefits good science teaching and teachers.

Right now is an exciting time to be involved at the state level in the California Science Teachers Association. The CSTA Board of Directors is currently involved in implementing the Next Generations Science Standards and its strategic plan. If you are interested in serving on the CSTA Board of Directors, now is the time to submit your name for consideration. Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Announces 2017 Finalists for Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching

Posted: Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today nominated eight exceptional secondary mathematics and science teachers as California finalists for the 2017 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST).

“These teachers are dedicated and accomplished individuals whose innovative teaching styles prepare our students for 21st century careers and college and develop them into the designers and inventors of the future,” Torlakson said. “They rank among the finest in their profession and also serve as wonderful mentors and role models.”

The California Department of Education (CDE) partners annually with the California Science Teachers Association and the California Mathematics Council to recruit and select nominees for the PAEMST program—the highest recognition in the nation for a mathematics or science teacher. The Science Finalists will be recognized at the CSTA Awards Luncheon on Saturday, October 14, 2017. Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

Thriving in a Time of Change

Posted: Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

by Jill Grace

By the time this message is posted online, most schools across California will have been in session for at least a month (if not longer, and hat tip to that bunch!). Long enough to get a good sense of who the kids in your classroom are and to get into that groove and momentum of the daily flow of teaching. It’s also very likely that for many of you who weren’t a part of a large grant initiative or in a district that set wheels in motion sooner, this is the first year you will really try to shift instruction to align to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). I’m not going to lie to you, it’s a challenging year – change is hard. Change is even harder when there’s not a playbook to go by.  But as someone who has had the very great privilege of walking alongside teachers going through that change for the past two years and being able to glimpse at what this looks like for different demographics across that state, there are three things I hope you will hold on to. These are things I have come to learn will overshadow the challenge: a growth mindset will get you far, one is a very powerful number, and it’s about the kids. Learn More…

Powered By DT Author Box

Written by Jill Grace

Jill Grace

Jill Grace is a Regional Director for the K-12 Alliance and is President of CSTA.

If You Are Not Teaching Science Then You Are Not Teaching Common Core

Posted: Thursday, August 31st, 2017

by Peter A’Hearn 

“Science and Social Studies can be taught for the last half hour of the day on Fridays”

– Elementary school principal

Anyone concerned with the teaching of science in elementary school is keenly aware of the problem of time. Kids need to learn to read, and learning to read takes time, nobody disputes that. So Common Core ELA can seem like the enemy of science. This was a big concern to me as I started looking at the curriculum that my district had adopted for Common Core ELA. I’ve been through those years where teachers are learning a new curriculum, and know first-hand how a new curriculum can become the focus of attention- sucking all the air out of the room. Learn More…

Powered By DT Author Box

Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the Region 4 Director for CSTA.

Tools for Creating NGSS Standards Based Lessons

Posted: Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

by Elizabeth Cooke

Think back on your own experiences with learning science in school. Were you required to memorize disjointed facts without understanding the concepts?

Science Education Background

In the past, science education focused on rote memorization and learning disjointed ideas. Elementary and secondary students in today’s science classes are fortunate now that science instruction has shifted from students demonstrating what they know to students demonstrating how they are able to apply their knowledge. Science education that reflects the Next Generation Science Standards challenges students to conduct investigations. As students explore phenomena and discrepant events they engage in academic discourse guided by focus questions from their teachers or student generated questions of that arise from analyzing data and creating and revising models that explain natural phenomena. Learn More…

Written by Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke teaches TK-5 science at Markham Elementary in the Oakland Unified School District, is an NGSS Early Implementer, and is CSTA’s Secretary.