Everybody In! Using Cultural Awareness to Support Diverse Classrooms
Posted: Wednesday, August 10th, 2016
by Emily Schoerning
California science teachers work with some of the most diverse student populations in the country. Finding ways to help students from all sorts of backgrounds achieve in the science classroom can be a real challenge. Learning science often means learning a lot of vocabulary, but it also means learning how to present scientific arguments and utilize the scientific method. By recognizing the intense language and cultural demands of classroom science, we can help to build inclusive environments where diverse students can succeed.
If you work with many students who are English Language Learners, you may have considered that learning the language of science is in some ways like learning another new language. When we also consider cultural differences, we can start to see what a unique environment the science classroom can be for our students. Some cultures do not encourage children to engage in questioning or produce arguments. Other cultures have a lot of anxiety around children making mistakes or experiencing failure.
Not only is the science classroom a place with lots of new words, it is a place where you can argue and it is a place where you are expected to make mistakes. Every scientist knows that not every experiment works out! The resilience involved in going back to the drawing board is as important a scientific skill as learning the vocabulary of scientific communication.
Research suggests that a concept-first approach to science learning, which de-emphasizes vocabulary lists, is useful for many students from all sorts of language backgrounds. By working to explain ideas before introducing new vocabulary words, you may find that your students actually retain new vocabulary more successfully. A concept-first approach to language can help level the playing field for your students regardless of language background, but there is more you can do to increase access for students from varied cultural backgrounds.
When you go back to the classroom this fall, think about the cultural backgrounds of your students and how they compare to the unique culture of the science classroom. This can help you make valuable changes to your teaching practice. What types of backgrounds do your students usually come from? If you can think of ways in which their cultural practices may be different from the science classroom, you can provide targeted support.
For example, many science teachers do not provide students with explicit instruction or practice time in questioning skills. This is because they assume this is a skillset their students bring to the classroom from their home environments. Similarly, many science teachers assume that students are familiar with the question-claim-evidence structure of scientific argument, or that students understand that mistakes and failure are essential elements of the scientific process. By breaking down these processes and concepts for your students, and giving them opportunities to practice with you and with their peers, you can build student confidence and skill regarding these scientific cultural practices. By explicitly discussing these potentially major cultural differences, we can reduce the anxiety our students might feel at finding themselves in a new environment with unfamiliar expectations.
Welcoming students to the unique language and culture of scientific practice is an important part of teaching science in today’s America. By helping them navigate these differences, you can show them that science is for all of us!
Emily Schoerning is the Director of Community Organizing and Research at the National Center for Science Education
Posted: Wednesday, October 12th, 2016
by Jessica Sawko
In June 2016 California submitted a waiver application to discontinue using the old CST (based on 1998 standards) and conduct two years of pilot and field tests (in spring 2017 and 2018, respectively) of the new science assessment designed to support our state’s current science standards (California Next Generation Science Standards (CA-NGSS) adopted in 2013). The waiver was requested because no student scores will be provided as a part of the pilot and field tests. The CDE received a response from the U.S. Department of Education (ED) on September 30, 2016, which provides the CDE the opportunity to resubmit a revised waiver request within 60 days. The CDE will be revising the waiver request and resubmitting as ED suggested.
At its October 2016 North/South Assessment meetings CDE confirmed that there will be no administration of the old CST in the spring of 2017. (An archive of the meeting is available at http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/tg/ai/infomeeting.asp.) Learn More…
Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016
by Carol Peterson
1) To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, Google has put together a collection of virtual tours combining 360-degree video, panoramic photos and expert narration. It’s called “The Hidden Worlds of the National Parks” and is accessible right from the browser. You can choose from one of five different locales, including the Kenai Fjords in Alaska and Bryce Canyon in Utah, and get a guided “tour” from a local park ranger. Each one has a few virtual vistas to explore, with documentary-style voiceovers and extra media hidden behind clickable thumbnails. Ideas are included for use in classrooms. https://www.engadget.com/2016/08/25/google-offers-360-degree-tours-of-us-national-parks/. Learn More…
Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016
CSTA is pleased to announce the winners of the 2016 CSTA Awards for Distinguished Contributions, Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award, 2014 and 2015 PAEMST-Science recipients from California, and the 2016 California PAEMST Finalists. The following individuals and organizations will be honored during the 2016 California Science Education Conference on October 21- 23 in Palm Springs. This year’s group of awardees are truly outstanding. Please join us in congratulating them!
Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award
The Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award honors an individual who has made a significant contribution to science education in the state and who, through years of leadership and service, has truly made a positive impact on the quality of science teaching. This year’s recipient is John Keller, Ph.D. Dr. Keller is Associate Professor, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Co-Director, Center for Engineering, Science, and Mathematics Education, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. In her letter of recommendation, SDSU science education faculty and former CSTA board member Donna Ross wrote: “He brings people together who share the desire to make a difference in the development and implementation of programs for science teaching. Examples of these projects include the Math and Science Teaching Initiative (MSTI), Noyce Scholars Program, Western Regional Noyce Initiative, and the Science Teacher and Researcher (STAR) program.” Through his work, he has had a dramatic impact on science teacher education, both preservice and in-service, in California, the region, and the country. He developed and implemented the STEM Teacher and Researcher Program which aims to produce excellent K-12 STEM teachers by providing aspiring teachers with opportunities to do authentic research while helping them translate their research experience into classroom practice. SFSU faculty member Larry Horvath said it best in his letter:“John Keller exemplifies the best aspects of a scientist, science educator, and mentor. His contributions to science education in the state of California are varied, significant, and I am sure will continue well into the future.” Learn More…
Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016
by Peter A’hearn
NGSS is a big shift. Teachers need to learn new content, figure out how this whole engineering thing relates to science, and develop new unit and lesson plans. How could NGSS possibly make life easier?
The idea that NGSS could make our lives easier came to me during the California State NGSS Rollout #1 Classroom Example lesson on chromatography. I have since done this lesson with high school chemistry students and it made me think back to having my own students do chromatography. I spent lots of time preparing to make sure the experiment went well and achieved the “correct” result. I pre-prepared the solutions and organized and prepped the materials. I re-wrote and re-wrote again the procedure so there was no way a kid could get it wrong. I spent 20 minutes before the lab modeling all of the steps in class, so there was no way to do it wrong. Except that it turns out there were many. Learn More…
Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016
by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller. Graph of evening planet setting times by Dr. Jeffrey L. Hunt
Our evening twilight chart for September, depicting the sky about 40 minutes after sunset from SoCal, shows brilliant Venus remaining low, creeping from W to WSW and gaining a little altitude as the month progresses. Its close encounter within 2.5° N of Spica on Sept. 18 is best seen with binoculars to catch the star low in bright twilight. The brightest stars in the evening sky are golden Arcturus descending in the west, and blue-white Vega passing just north of overhead. Look for Altair and Deneb completing the Summer Triangle with Vega. The triangle of Mars-Saturn-Antares expands as Mars seems to hold nearly stationary in SSW as the month progresses, while Saturn and Antares slink off to the SW. Learn More…