January/February 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 4

Asking the Real Experts in Science Education

Posted: Saturday, January 1st, 2011

by Donna Ross

As a faculty member in the College of Education, I often find myself in a position to make teaching suggestions to preservice and inservice teachers.  Whenever possible, I try to get my ideas from the real experts.  I frequently ask K-12 students for their suggestions.  Recently, I had the opportunity to invite eight urban high school students to participate in a workshop for teachers.  I asked the students to answer two questions for the group:

  1. What is one teaching strategy or style that does NOT help you learn science?
  2. What is one teaching strategy or style that DOES help you learn science?

The only guideline I gave them was to try to avoid repeating answers.  They gave me permission to share their responses here.

NS: It doesn’t work for me when the teacher puts us in groups and each group presents one part of the chapter, but we are all supposed to learn all the parts.  I feel I only learn the part I present because not every group includes enough detail for the test.  It would be better if we were only tested on the part we present.  A style that does work for me is when we do a lab and come together to share our questions and ideas.  Then there is a lecture that clarifies our ideas and what the results mean and how to apply it.

SD: It doesn’t help me when teachers make me write down a long list of vocabulary terms and definitions and never revisit the material, so it feels like a waste of time.  Just because I wrote it down doesn’t mean I automatically learned it.  What does help is when there is repetition to help me remember the concept.  For example, we use the idea in the lab and the lecture and a game and the bellwork.  Also, if we get to figure out our own conclusions, we remember better.

NA: Reading out loud and expecting us to learn the material doesn’t work for me, especially if the teacher has different students doing the reading.  Most of the time we can’t even hear.  Even if the teacher is reading, it is hard to understand the textbook.  It feels like a waste of time.  A style that does work for me is to do the lab and then look at really short parts of the book that explain what we did in the lab.  Then the book makes more sense.

FK: It doesn’t work for me if I know more about the subject than my teacher.  I lose respect for the teacher if he or she hasn’t learned the material first.  Something that does work for me is when the teacher calls on us randomly because it keeps me focused and thinking.

SJ: Teaching the same way all the time doesn’t work for me; teachers should mix it up so we stay busy.  Not everyone learns the same way, so using lots of different styles is best.  It also helps to have a good study guide so tests are not surprises.

MF: It is hard for me to remember all the instructions when a teacher just says them once, so having them written clearly really helps.  During lectures, note-taking guides and foldables are also helpful for me.

TH: PowerPoints are not effective for me because they are usually too boring and have too much information.  Hands-on activities are better for me and anything that allows students to think and figure things out for ourselves.

NH: It is frustrating for me when we do labs where the results are obvious even without doing the lab.  It actually works for me if the teacher does a really good lecture with questions or we do a good lab where we have to figure out the results.

***

The eight students who participated come from four distinct ethnic and linguistic backgrounds and range in academic achievement, but all share a desire to be successful.  All eight of the students have slightly different preferences, but there is a consistent theme of engagement throughout all of their responses.  The more engaged the students are, the more they perceive the teaching as effective.  This personal wisdom echoes many of the findings from the research literature in science education.  Student engagement, hands-on activities, inquiry approaches, literacy supports, and well-prepared teachers all increase opportunities for meaningful learning in science classrooms.  Just ask the experts!

Donna Ross is associate professor of science education at San Diego State University and is CSTA’s 4-year college director.

Written by Donna Ross

Donna Ross is Associate Professor of Science Education at San Diego State University.

One Response

  1. “It is frustrating for me when we do labs where the results are obvious even without doing the lab.”

    Around 1929, F. W. Westaway addressed this issue in his book, Science Teaching. He termed this sort of lab as a “verification lab” and advised strongly against it. Here’s what he said.

    “Beware of verification methods. ‘Show that ferrous ammonium sulphate contains one-seventh of its own weight of iron.’ This is simply asking for the evidence to be cooked.”

    Must we repeatedly discover and rediscover what has been so well known for a century?

    Westaway goes on to say (please ignore the gender usage common a 100 years ago), “When a boy works an experiment, keep him just enough in the dark as to the probable outcome of the experiment, just enough in the attitude of a discoverer, to leave him unprejudiced in his observations.”

    This is a part of the essence of the education science lab. It doesn’t absolutely have to be hands-on, but it should not be simulated whether hands-on or not.

    Simulations belong to a different part of learning science, one that includes videos, animations, and the like.

    To read more of F. W. Westaway’s comments on teaching science, see http://smartscience.blogspot.com/2009/04/some-advice-on-teaching-science.html. I think that you’ll find the ideas to be quite modern.

    Westaway was indeed an expert on the subject having written successful books on scientific method, science teaching, and the history of science. I find his insights to be valuable.

Leave a Reply

LATEST POST

STEM Conference Hosted by CMSESMC

Posted: Saturday, January 14th, 2017

The Council of Math/Science Educators of San Mateo County will be hosting the 41st annual STEM Conference this February 4, 2017 at the San Mateo County Office of Education. This STEM Conference is the place to get lots of new lessons and ideas to use in your classroom. There will be over twenty-five workshops and a variety of exhibitors that provide participants with a wide range of practical and realistic ideas and resources to use in their science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs from Pre-K to grade 12. With California’s adoption of the Common Core State Standards and the Next Generation Science Standards, we are dedicated to ensuring that we prepare our teachers to take on these educational policies.

Teachers, administrators, and parents are invited to explore the many exciting aspects of STEM education and learn about and discuss the latest news, information, and issues. This is also an opportunity to network with colleagues who can assist you in building your programs and meet new friends that share your interests and love of teaching. Register online today!

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.

Submit Your NGSS Lessons and Units Today!

Posted: Friday, January 13th, 2017

Achieve has launched and is facilitating an EQuIP Peer Review Panel for Science–a group of expert reviewers who will evaluate the quality and alignment of lessons and units to the standards–in an effort to identify and shine a spotlight on emerging high-quality lesson and unit plans designed for the NGSS.

If you or your state, district, school, or organization has designed NGSS-aligned instructional materials, please consider submitting these in order to help provide educators across the country with various models and templates of high-quality lesson and unit plans. 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.

Opportunity for High School Students – Los Angeles County

Posted: Friday, January 13th, 2017

An upcoming Perry Outreach Program on Saturday, April 22, 2017 at the Orthopaedic Institute for Children in Los Angeles, CA. The Perry Outreach Program is a free, one-day, hands-on experience for high school and college-aged women who are interested in pursuing careers in medicine and engineering. Students will hear from women leaders in these fields and try it for themselves by performing mock orthopaedic surgeries and biomechanics experiments. 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.

Science Education Policy Update

Posted: Friday, January 13th, 2017

by Jessica Sawko

January 2017 has proven to be a very busy month for science education policy and CA NGSS implementation activities. CSTA has been and will be there every step of the way, seeking and enacting all options to support high-quality science education and the successful implementation of CA NGSS.

California Department of Education/U.S. Department of Education Science Double-Testing Waiver Hearing

The year started with California Department of Education’s (CDE) hearing with the U.S. Department of Education conducted via WebEx on January 6, 2017. This hearing was the final step in California’s efforts to secure a waiver from the federal government in order to discontinue administration of the old CST and suspension of the reporting of student test scores on a science assessment for two years. As reported by EdSource, the U.S. Department of Education representative, Ann Whalen, a senior adviser to U.S. Secretary John King Jr., committed to making her final ruling “very shortly.” Deputy Superintendent Keric Ashley presented on behalf of CDE during the hearing and did an excellent job describing the broad-based support for this waiver in California, the rationale for the waiver, and California’s commitment to the successful implementation of a new high-quality science assessment. As previously reported, California is moving forward with its plans to administer a census pilot assessments this spring. The testing window is set to open on March 20, 2017. For more information visit New CA Science Test: What You Should Know.

Learn More…

Powered By DT Author Box

Written by Jessica Sawko

Jessica Sawko

Jessica Sawko is CSTA’s Executive Director.

NSTA Los Angeles Conference Features Many CA Science Leaders

Posted: Friday, January 13th, 2017

by Jessica Sawko

The early-bird registration rates for the 65th NSTA National Conference on Science Education in Los Angeles is just days away (ends Feb. 3). And as the early-registration deadline approaches excitement is building for what is anticipated to be the largest gathering of science educators (both California and nationwide) – with attendance expected to reach 10,000 or more. If you have never had the pleasure of attending the NSTA National Conference, I recommend you visit their website with tips for newcomers that describe the various components of the event. A conference preview is also available for download. Learn More…

Powered By DT Author Box

Written by Jessica Sawko

Jessica Sawko

Jessica Sawko is CSTA’s Executive Director.