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.

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Participate in Chemistry Education Research Study, Earn $500-800 Dollars!

Posted: Tuesday, May 9th, 2017

WestEd, a non-profit educational research agency, has been funded by the US Department of Education to test a new molecular modeling kit, Happy Atoms. Happy Atoms is an interactive chemistry learning experience that consists of a set of physical atoms that connect magnetically to form molecules, and an app that uses image recognition to identify the molecules that you create with the set. WestEd is conducting a study around the effectiveness of using Happy Atoms in the classroom, and we are looking for high school chemistry teachers in California to participate.

As part of the study, teachers will be randomly assigned to either the treatment group (who uses Happy Atoms) or the control group (who uses Happy Atoms at a later date). Teachers in the treatment group will be asked to use the Happy Atoms set in their classrooms for 5 lessons over the course of the fall 2017 semester. Students will complete pre- and post-assessments and surveys around their chemistry content knowledge and beliefs about learning chemistry. WestEd will provide access to all teacher materials, teacher training, and student materials needed to participate.

Participating teachers will receive a stipend of $500-800. You can read more information about the study here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/HappyAtoms

Please contact Rosanne Luu at rluu@wested.org or 650.381.6432 if you are interested in participating in this opportunity, or if you have any questions!

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.

2018 Science Instructional Materials Adoption Reviewer Application

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

The California Department of Education and State Board of Education are now accepting applications for reviewers for the 2018 Science Instructional Materials Adoption. The application deadline is 3:00 pm, July 21, 2017. The application is comprehensive, so don’t wait until the last minute to apply.

On Tuesday, May 9, 2017, State Superintendent Tom Torlakson forwarded this recruitment letter to county and district superintendents and charter school administrators.

Review panel members will evaluate instructional materials for use in kindergarten through grade eight, inclusive, that are aligned with the California Next Generation Science Content Standards for California Public Schools (CA NGSS). 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.

Lessons Learned from the NGSS Early Implementer Districts

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

On March 31, 2017, Achieve released two documents examining some lessons learned from the California K-8 Early Implementation Initiative. The initiative began in August 2014 and was developed by the K-12 Alliance at WestEd, with close collaborative input on its design and objectives from the State Board of Education, the California Department of Education, and Achieve.

Eight (8) traditional school districts and two (2) charter management organizations were selected to participate in the initiative, becoming the first districts in California to implement the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Those districts included Galt Joint Union Elementary, Kings Canyon Joint Unified, Lakeside Union, Oakland Unified, Palm Springs Unified, San Diego Unified, Tracy Joint Unified, Vista Unified, Aspire, and High Tech High.

To more closely examine some of the early successes and challenges experienced by the Early Implementer LEAs, Achieve interviewed nine of the ten participating districts and compiled that information into two resources, focusing primarily on professional learning and instructional materials. 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.

Using Online Simulations to Support the NGSS in Middle School Classrooms

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

by Lesley Gates, Loren Nikkel, and Kambria Eastham

Middle school teachers in Kings Canyon Unified School District (KCUSD), a CA NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative district, have been diligently working on transitioning to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) integrated model for middle school. This year, the teachers focused on building their own knowledge of the Science and Engineering Practices (SEPs). They have been gathering and sharing ideas at monthly collaborative meetings as to how to make sure their students are not just learning about science but that they are actually doing science in their classrooms. Students should be planning and carrying out investigations to gather data for analysis in order to construct explanations. This is best done through hands-on lab experiments. Experimental work is such an important part of the learning of science and education research shows that students learn better and retain more when they are active through inquiry, investigation, and application. A Framework for K-12 Science Education (2011) notes, “…learning about science and engineering involves integration of the knowledge of scientific explanations (i.e., content knowledge) and the practices needed to engage in scientific inquiry and engineering design. Thus the framework seeks to illustrate how knowledge and practice must be intertwined in designing learning experiences in K-12 Science Education” (pg. 11).

Many middle school teachers in KCUSD are facing challenges as they begin implementing these student-driven, inquiry-based NGSS science experiences in their classrooms. First, many of the middle school classrooms at our K-8 school sites are not designed as science labs. Learn More…

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NGSS Early Implementer

In 2015 CSTA began to publish a series of articles written by teachers participating in the NGSS 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.

Celestial Highlights: May – July 2017

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

May Through July 2017 with Web Resources for the Solar Eclipse of August 21, 2017

by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller. Graphs of planet rising and setting times by Jeffrey L. Hunt.

In spring and summer 2017, Jupiter is the most prominent “star” in the evening sky, and Venus, even brighter, rules the morning. By mid-June, Saturn rises at a convenient evening hour, allowing both giant planets to be viewed well in early evening until Jupiter sinks low in late September. The Moon is always a crescent in its monthly encounters with Venus, but is full whenever it appears near Jupiter or Saturn in the eastern evening sky opposite the Sun. (In 2017, Full Moon is near Jupiter in April, Saturn in June.) At intervals of 27-28 days thereafter, the Moon appears at a progressively earlier phase at each pairing with the outer planet until its final conjunction, with Moon a thin crescent, low in the west at dusk. You’ll see many beautiful events by just following the Moon’s wanderings at dusk and dawn in the three months leading up to the solar eclipse. Learn More…

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Written by Robert Victor

Robert Victor

Robert C. Victor was Staff Astronomer at Abrams Planetarium, Michigan State University. He is now retired and enjoys providing skywatching opportunities for school children in and around Palm Springs, CA. Robert is a member of CSTA.