May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

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.

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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.

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CSTA Annual Conference Early Bird Rates End July 14

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Jessica Sawko

Teachers engaged in workshop activity

Teachers engaging in hands-on learning during a workshop at the 2016 CSTA conference.

Don’t miss your chance to register at the early bird rate for the 2017 CSTA Conference – the early-bird rate closes July 14. Need ideas on how to secure funding for your participation? Visit our website for suggestions, a budget planning tool, and downloadable justification letter to share with your admin. Want to take advantage of the early rate – but know your district will pay eventually? Register online today and CSTA will reimburse you when we receive payment from your district/employer. (For more information on how that works contact Zi Stair in the office for details – 916-979-7004 or zi@cascience.org.)

New Information Now Available On-line:

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.

Goodbye Outgoing and Welcome Incoming CSTA Board Members

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

Jill Grace

Jill Grace, CSTA President, 2017-2019

On July 1, 2017 five CSTA members concluded their service and four new board members joined the ranks of the CSTA Board of Directors. CSTA is so grateful for all the volunteer board of directors who contribute hours upon hours of time and energy to advance the work of the association. At the June 3 board meeting, CSTA was able to say goodbye to the outgoing board members and welcome the incoming members.

This new year also brings with it a new president for CSTA. As of July 1, 2017 Jill Grace is the president of the California Science Teachers Association. Jill is a graduate of California State University, Long Beach, a former middle school science teacher, and is currently a Regional Director with the K-12 Alliance @ WestEd where she works with California NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative districts and charter networks in the San Diego area.

Outgoing Board Members

  • Laura Henriques (President-Elect: 2011 – 2013, President: 2013 – 2015, Past President: 2015 – 2017)
  • Valerie Joyner (Region 1 Director: 2009 – 2013, Primary Director: 2013 – 2017)
  • Mary Whaley (Informal Science Education Director: 2013 – 2017)
  • Sue Campbell (Middle School/Jr. High Director: 2015 – 2017)
  • Marcus Tessier (2-Year College Director: 2015 – 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.

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Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

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Written by NGSS Early Implementer

NGSS Early Implementer

In 2015 CSTA began to publish a series of articles written by teachers participating in the California NGSS k-8 Early Implementation Initiative. This article was written by an educator(s) participating in the initiative. CSTA thanks them for their contributions and for sharing their experience with the science teaching community.

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Unveils Updated Recommended Literature List

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson unveiled an addition of 285 award-winning titles to the Recommended Literature: Prekindergarten Through Grade Twelve list.

“The books our students read help broaden their perspectives, enhance their knowledge, and fire their imaginations,” Torlakson said. “The addition of these award-winning titles represents the state’s continued commitment to the interests and engagement of California’s young readers.”

The Recommended Literature: Prekindergarten Through Grade Twelve list is a collection of more than 8,000 titles of recommended reading for children and adolescents. Reflecting contemporary and classic titles, including California authors, this online list provides an exciting range of literature that students should be reading at school and for pleasure. Works include fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama to provide for a variety of tastes, interests, and abilities. Learn More…

Written by Guest Contributor

From time to time CSTA receives contributions from guest contributors. The opinions and views expressed by these contributors are not necessarily those of CSTA. By publishing these articles CSTA does not make any endorsements or statements of support of the author or their contribution, either explicit or implicit. All links to outside sources are subject to CSTA’s Disclaimer Policy: http://www.classroomscience.org/disclaimer.

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Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Peter A’Hearn

The father of one of my students gave me a book: In the Beginning: Compelling Evidence for Creation and the Flood by Walt Brown, Ph. D. He had heard that I was teaching Plate Tectonics and wanted me to consider another perspective. The book offered the idea that the evidence for plate tectonics could be better understood if we considered the idea that beneath the continent of Pangaea was a huge underground layer of water that suddenly burst forth from a rift between the now continents of Africa and South America. The waters shot up and the continents hydroplaned apart on the water layer to their current positions. The force of the movement pushed up great mountain ranges which are still settling to this day, resulting in earthquakes along the margins of continents. This had happened about 6,000 years ago and created a great worldwide flood. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

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