March/April 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 6

Getting Ready for Student Teaching

Monday, October 19th, 2015

By Susan Gomez Zwiep

Your credential classes have prepared you for this! You are ready to begin your apprenticeship into one of the most important professions out there, teaching. During student teaching you have the support of expert teachers to guide you into your first full teaching experiences. Your time as a student teacher is an opportunity to find your own style as you develop your science teaching expertise. Here are some suggestions for how to make the most of this time. (more…)

Preservice Teachers: Opportunities for Professional Learning at the CSTA Conference

Tuesday, September 15th, 2015

If you work with preservice teachers, we have a great opportunity for you to pass along to them. If you are a preservice teacher, we’ve got a great opportunity for you!

Next month CSTA will be hosting the 2015 California Science Education Conference in Sacramento. The conference will have more than 200 workshops, multiple lectures and keynote speakers, an amazing exhibit hall filled with the latest science equipment, instructional materials, and resources from commercial vendors and informal and non-profit partners. The three day event, October 2-4, includes something for everyone. (more…)

I Got the Job – What Do I Do? Part 4

Tuesday, May 5th, 2015

by Rick Pomeroy

You have just accepted your first job and now the real work and worry begins. What will I teach, how will I set the perfect climate on the first day, how will I keep all of those students’ names straight, and stay up to date on all of that grading? These are very common questions for new teachers. Depending on the date when you accept the job, you will have anywhere from three to four months to prepare for the most important day of your new career. You may not know the exact teaching assignment, you might not even know which school, but that is not a reason sit and wait. Your students are going to show up for your classes on the first day and you need to be ready. So, what would I recommend? (more…)

Decisions, Decisions, Part 3 – The Offer

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015

by Rick Pomeroy

You have done your research, you had a great interview, and now it is time to wait. Hopefully, the wait is not too long but any time at all will seem like an eternity. During this time, it is important for you to consider your options and be prepared with your answer.

Going into the job search, you must understand that there are two players in the job search-job offer game. You are looking for a place to launch your career. It is critical that it be a position where you will have an opportunity to grow as a teacher. You will need to feel like you are a part of the faculty and wanted as part of the staff. On the other hand, the principal is working hard to fill a position(s) with the most highly qualified teacher. It is critical to them that the person they select has the credentials to teach the classes they need, the skills to do the job effectively, and a person who will become part of their school team.  In most cases, they are looking for a new teacher to fill a particular need, whether it is replacing the beloved retiring teacher or a teacher that was ineffective in the classroom. Either way, they are investing time and energy in selecting the best candidate before that person is snapped up by another district.

When an offer is made, the principal or administrator wants a response right away. They want to believe that you are as excited about joining their team as they are about making you the offer. When they call, some want an answer during that phone call. Others recognize the significance of this decision and may offer you a day or two to consider their offer. Either way, you should be ready with your decision when the offer is made. If they give you some time to respond, you need to do them the courtesy of meeting their time frame. If you know that this is the job you want, don’t put them off waiting to see what others will say. On the other hand, if you know it is not the job for you, be ready to decline and move forward. (more…)

What Should I Do? Part 2 – Preparing for the Interview

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015

by Rick Pomeroy

The phone rings, you don’t recognize the number, but it’s job search time and you take the call. “Hello, this is Pat Admin, and we would like to interview you for a science opening at Purfect High School in the Adreem Unified School District.”

So what should you do? If you are interested in Purfect High School (PHS), thank them very nicely, say yes, and begin preparing for the interview. (more…)

What’s Next?

Tuesday, January 6th, 2015

by Rick Pomeroy

The winter break is over, your first and possibly only semester of student teaching is drawing to a close, and you are beginning to think about that big elephant in the room. Will there be a job at the end of all this work? If the number of phone calls I have received in the past week is any indication of the need for science teachers, the answer is “Yes, Virginia, there will be jobs.”

As you move forward into the spring, thoughts will logically turn to the job search and all of the questions, and decisions that you will be making about your future. Every year I coach my students through this phase of the process with some simple, and seemingly successful, advice.

First – remember that every day is a job interview. The teaching community is extensive but ultimately everybody knows somebody, and you never know when that somebody is looking for a science teacher. (more…)

Being a ‘Next Generation’ Preservice Science Teacher

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014

by Rick Pomeroy

This is a great time to be getting into science education, everything is changing and you are poised to be the leaders or the new thinking about science education.

You are so lucky, you don’t have to unlearn all of the bad habits of the old California Science Standards. You can just focus on the new ways of teaching and learning in the Next Generation Science Standards.

Do these statements sound familiar? If you are a preservice teacher, an undergraduate considering going into teaching, or recently graduated from a science teacher credential program, you have probably heard similar statements many times. I know that I have said them to my students and many of their mentor teachers are anxious for the epiphany that these new teachers will bring when they design their “Next Generation” aligned science lessons. Unfortunately, it is not quite that simple. The fact that there are new standards for new teachers to focus on does not mean that there is going to be an instantaneous transformation. To accomplish a full implementation of the new standards, even for brand new teachers, it will require some deep soul searching, re-orientation, and re-thinking of our concepts of a science curriculum. (more…)

Informal Science Education and Preservice Teachers

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

by Rick Pomeroy

Despite the hours of lesson planning, methods classes, student teaching, and high stakes testing, every pre-service teacher eventually comes to the conclusion that their students learn science in a variety of ways and a variety of places, not always in the classroom. Learning the power of these informal science experiences is important for any teacher but particularly for teachers who will be entering the profession in the next few years. (more…)

Student Teacher Voices at the California Science Education Conference

Wednesday, December 4th, 2013

by Rick Pomeroy

As a life member of CSTA, I have not missed a California Science Education Conference for as far back as I can remember. The networking and professional development that I get each year by attending is hard to beat anywhere.  As a supervisor of teacher education, I have encouraged my student teachers to attend the conference for the past 5-6 years. Each year, they come back charged up and ready to implement a wide range of new strategies. This year, I asked them to share some of their thoughts immediately after the conference ended. The quotes below are what they said:

At the conference I learned how much teachers care about their students. It’s not done for the glory or for personal gain. Every presenter wanted to share their work and help every other teacher at the conference. Teaching is a community effort and it is all for the students. Everything teachers do is geared towards students and it was refreshing to see so many teachers excited about bringing new ideas into their classroom for the students.” PG (more…)

Science Geek Vacation – Be There!

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

by Rick Pomeroy

In the last issue of CCS, Greg Potter shared some ideas about how to become the best science teacher that you can be. His recommendation that you attend professional conferences is a great one and, luckily, the next opportunity is right around the corner. On October 25-27, CSTA will be hosting the California Science Education Conference in Palm Springs. If you have never been to a science teachers’ conference, this one is going to offer you more in three days than many methods classes can offer in a full quarter or semester. To sweeten the deal, there is a special reduced price for CSTA Student Member conference registration. (more…)

Tapping All of Your Resources

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

by Gregory Potter

Like many new teachers, you want to be that special teacher for your students.  You want to be the teacher that every student remembers and enjoys and most importantly, learns a great deal from.  As you look forward to your future career, you begin to ask yourself, “How am I going to make this happen?”  While I have no doubt that you have the passion and desire to be the best teacher you can be, it is vital that also you tap all of the resources that are available to you.  (more…)

Western Regional Noyce Conference Bring Together Future Math & Science Teachers

Monday, December 3rd, 2012

by Laura Henriques

The National Science Foundation provides Robert Noyce Scholarship Grants to numerous universities and colleges to support STEM majors who commit to teach in high need schools. The Noyce Scholarship program is highly competitive. Applicants must have a degree in a STEM field, a high GPA, and demonstrated desire to work with at risk/high need students. Prospective teachers who are selected to be Noyce Scholars get financial and programmatic support as they complete their bachelor’s degree and credential. In return for the financial support they must teach one year for each semester of funding. California has had 62 Noyce programs at 35 different campuses, each of which supports 20-40 students over the life of the grant. Preliminary data suggests that the Noyce Scholars remain as teachers in high need schools long after they have worked off their commitment. What a wonderful investment this is for our state!  (more…)

Inverted or Flipped Classrooms: What are they and how do they work?

Sunday, July 1st, 2012

by Laura Henriques and Meredith Ashbran

What is a flipped or inverted classroom?

Classrooms at the K-12 and college level normally include the direct instruction portion of the instructional sequence. Students listen to a lecture, take notes, and may participate in discussions. There might be some demonstrations or lab activities, but the bulk of classroom time is often spent with the teacher doing lots of work and the students passively receiving the information. Students then go home to solve problems, answer homework questions, and try to apply the information they “learned” during class. It is often at this point where the lessons, which seemed to make so much sense during school hours, seem confusing and the students need help from us. Sadly for them, we aren’t there to help! (more…)

Technology for the Classroom: An Examination of YouTube Education

Friday, June 1st, 2012

by Donna Ross

In the last installment of Technology for the Classroom, I considered the value of TED-Ed for classroom use.  This issue will examine several uses of YouTube.  Among people with computers and smart-phones, YouTube has become ubiquitous. Even late-night comics mine YouTube videos for humorous gems.  Most students, including those at the elementary grades, have searched for YouTube videos and many have posted their own creations.  However, as I watch those funny cat videos I inevitably seem to be bombarded with material that makes me question the appropriateness for a school setting.   For example, I searched for a video on DNA replication and I was faced with thousands of videos, many with comments that definitely were not school-friendly. Along with some reasonable choices, I also was presented with “popular videos” that, based on the content and the number of views, caused me to despair for the future of our society. But, before despair takes over, let me share some ways to make better use of YouTube for educational purposes. (more…)

Technology for the Classroom: An Examination of TED-Ed

Monday, April 2nd, 2012

by Donna Ross

Technology has become a central component of the science classroom, but it can be overwhelming to consider the vast array of resources. During the next few months I will review a few of my favorite free or low-cost options for teachers. This month I am starting with TED-Ed. In case you haven’t used TED talks, I will start with a brief overview before exploring their new educational initiative.

TED is a nonprofit that began nearly 30 years ago as a conference. The underlying goal was that there are some ideas so important that they are worth sharing. People were invited to come and give a brief talk that would be shared with others. Since then, the conferences have continued, generally two per year with up to 100 presenters sharing talks that last from six to eighteen minutes. Eventually, the goal became even bigger. It seemed that if the ideas were worth sharing, they were worth sharing even more widely. For the past five years, many of the talks have been shared with the world on the TED website http://www.ted.com/talks. (more…)

Productive Discussions

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

by Donna Ross

It is the season for future educators to settle into new placements as student teachers.  As their mentors (guide or cooperating teachers) help them find a home in the classroom, it seemed timely to remind both parties of a few basics that can help smooth the process.  It is worth noting that a critical part of an effective student teaching placement is the opportunity for both the student teacher and the mentor to discuss pedagogy, theory, and practices.  It is not necessary for both parties to share the same views about every topic.  (more…)

Virtual Courseware: Web-Based Simulations for Promoting Inquiry-Based Teaching and Learning

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012

by Paul Narguizian and Robert Desharnais

There is wide acceptance that inquiry-based curriculum programs have positive effects on cognitive achievement, process skills, and attitudes towards science. Science instructors seek engaging, effective, and inquiry-based activities that are convenient to implement in their classrooms. While the web provides a vast resource of declarative information (some of it multimedia), there are few places on the web where instructors can obtain effective inquiry-based tools for teaching science. The Virtual Courseware Project fulfills this need with interactive, web-based simulation activities that emphasize the methods of science for both life and earth science topics.

With Virtual Courseware, students learn by doing: making observations, proposing hypotheses, designing experiments, collecting and analyzing data generated by the software, and synthesizing and communicating results. The activities include an online assessment quiz that consists of randomized interactive questions. The students’ answers are graded automatically and stored in a database server, and a printable certificate of completion is issued for each student. The instructor can access student and class results, allowing them to quickly gauge how well the key concepts were understood. The simulations are designed to enhance traditional curricula and provide a supplement to experimental laboratory and field work. (more…)

Using the Internet to Connect Science and Mathematics Teachers to Each Other and to Excellent Online Resources

Thursday, December 1st, 2011

by Laura Henriques, Davida Fischman, David Andrews, and Elizabeth Ambos

In 2007, a group of California State University (CSU) faculty from several different campuses in the 23-campus system started working together to help preservice and in-service teachers find, evaluate and use on-line science and mathematics teaching resources. Through this project, resources were identified at the local level and then linked together online for use globally. Funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), Building Locally, Linking Globally provided a way for campuses to connect their preservice teachers and recent alumni to one another in order to enhance mathematics and science teaching. Pre/In-service teachers were identified both within a campus and across campuses; a particular target audience was the Noyce Scholars on CSU campuses. (more…)

Hey students, there are many ways to attend the conference!

Friday, September 30th, 2011

by Laura Henriques

If you are a preservice science teacher, have we got good news for you! The upcoming California Science Education Conference in Pasadena has many things to offer you. CSTA has done all it can to help make conference attendance attractive to you!

Lots of Sessions Just for You – While you would be able to find value in just about all of the conference offerings, there are dozens of sessions specifically developed and tailored just for you. These sessions address topics such as classroom management, science safety issues, understanding what administrators are looking for when they come observe your teaching, assessment techniques, the unveiling of a new website to support new teachers, and strategies for teaching students with special needs and English learners. Many other sessions in the conference will address these topics, but the sessions listed in the new teacher strand were selected just for you! (more…)

Job Searching in Tough Economic Times

Sunday, May 1st, 2011

by Donna Ross

This column will reach many preservice teachers just as you are finishing your credential programs and applying for jobs. Unfortunately, this is not the easiest job market. However, there are always some teaching jobs available and you should strive to market yourself as effectively as possible. This column highlights a few suggestions.

If you are still in your student teaching placement, be sure to invite the school administrators to observe your teaching. Assuming you are doing excellent work, this is an opportunity to showcase your skills. Be sure to thank the administrator in writing for visiting your class. (more…)

If Dr. Phil were a Science Educator…

Friday, April 1st, 2011

by Donna L. Ross

My friends, let’s call them John and Karen, are a couple in their late 30s who have been married for ten years. For the past three years, Karen has felt ready to have a child;  John does not believe they are financially ready. He wants to wait until they have saved enough for all likely contingencies.

Another couple, Paul and Susan, friends of my parents, plan to retire in seven to eight years. Paul would like to begin traveling now, taking one trip each year. Susan says there will be plenty of time to travel when they retire; but for now, there is just too much work at the office.  She doesn’t feel comfortable taking any of her vacation time.

At the risk of sounding like Dr. Phil, here are some things I imagine saying after I listen to my friends.

To John and Karen: you’ll never be completely ready. You should plan as well as you can, but ultimately you just have to jump in, knowing you might need to work a little longer or harder down the road.  Somehow, with just a little planning it seems to work out and be worth the effort.

To Susan and Paul: don’t live just for the future.  There will always be demands on your time and an increasing number of expectations.  By putting off the things you want to try, you risk losing the opportunity. Or, consider this question, is there a reason you don’t want to do it?  If you value something, you will find a way to fit it into your busy schedule now, instead of putting it off until that magical time when you are “caught up” with everything.

To the readers:  if you’ve stuck with me this far, you are probably asking…what does this have to do with science education?  I spend a lot of time considering these same responses as I listen to teachers in different districts, schools, and grades.

I think of my advice to Susan when I hear elementary teachers say “I am going to teach science as soon as I have more time” or “I am going to teach science as soon as I finish the math and language arts standards my students need for the tests.”

I think of my advice to Susan when I hear secondary teachers say “I want to do more labs and student-centered activities, but I can’t until after the state tests.”

I think of my advice to John and Karen when I hear all teachers say “I read about inquiry, but my students aren’t ready for it” or “I’ll try some inquiry labs as soon as I know a little more about how to engage my students.” or “Our school doesn’t have enough equipment to do labs.”

Try it.  Go back and read my responses to my friends. Substitute the family challenges with science teaching issues. You might be surprised how well the same advice fits both scenarios.

I think if Dr. Phil were a science educator, he might say the following:  We find a way to do the things we value. Even without enough time or resources, we figure out a way to embrace the aspects of our lives that are most important to us.  Teachers do the same thing every day.

The instructional choices you make with each lesson reflect your values about science education. Imagine Dr. Phil is watching your class, what do your actions say about your beliefs?

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

Asking the Real Experts in Science Education

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. (more…)

Preservice Teachers are STARs

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

Far too many science teachers have a handicap: they have never done scientific research.  They know their subjects, but they have never experienced science as a exciting process, or used the scientific method in practice, or worked with scientists.  They are dedicated teachers, but how can they communicate these things to their students?

Four years ago a Lawrence Livermore Laboratory researcher named Laura Gilliam recognized this problem and obtained an NSF grant to do something about it.  Grant in hand, she contacted the California State University system’s chancellor for advice on coordinating the use of it.  The result was STAR, the Science Teacher and Researcher program. (more…)

Academic Language in Science Teaching

Monday, November 1st, 2010

by Donna Ross

Most preservice teachers in California are preparing to teach in diverse communities.  And, perhaps more immediately on your minds, is your preparation to complete one of the high-stakes assessments (PACT, TPA) demonstrating your understanding of pedagogy, with an emphasis on meeting the needs of learners from diverse backgrounds.  A critical component of meeting the needs of all learners is recognizing the academic language demands in the science classroom and implementing strategies to support learners.  There was a time when science teachers whined, “But I’m not the English teacher!”

Fortunately, we have moved beyond that mindset.  Our job is to provide comprehensible instruction in science.  To do that, we must recognize the demands we place on the learners and ensure their skills allow them to make sense of the content. (more…)

Science Methods Instructors: A Classroom Resource for You!

Friday, October 1st, 2010

Science Methods Instructors: Introduce your preservice students to CSTA and professional enrichment.  New and prospective teachers will benefit by understanding that they are an important part of the larger science education community and that professional growth in their career is a lifelong endeavor.  Introduce your preservice students/teachers to the benefits of belonging to their professional organizations and participating in ongoing professional development activities, including the California Science Education Conference.  Download activities to use with your preservice students.

Use this PowerPoint presentation to help familiarize your students with their professional organization and enhance the activities.

Preservice Resources

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

by Donna Ross

For many of you reading this column, this begins the school year when you make the shift from studying science to teaching science.  Welcome to an exciting new career!  Teaching is one of the most rewarding and exhausting jobs imaginable.  Most teacher education programs include useful readings, video examples and assignments, but there is never enough time to prepare people for the complexities of teaching.  (more…)

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