March 2015 – Vol. 27 No. 7

Opening Keynote Speaker Spotlight: Dr. Helen Quinn

Posted: Monday, October 1st, 2012

by Bethany Dixon

Google “genius,” and you’ll get pictures of Albert Einstein. However, to bring genius into your classroom, attend the CSTA Opening Session and listen to Dr. Helen Quinn speak at the Marriot San Jose on October 19, at 9:15 a.m. Dr. Quinn is one of the few to have shared Einstein’s job title: as a theoretical physicist she proposed the near-symmetry of the universe and explained quark-hadron duality. You might say she has a proclivity for solving both large and small problems. To our great fortune she has also channeled her energy into improving science education. Dr. Quinn served as the Chairperson of the 18-member super-team (equally split between science and education experts and including two Nobel Prize winners) responsible for developing, “A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas.” 

Dr. Quinn’s speech at the 2012 CSTA Conference will focus on the Framework as the basis for the Next Generation Science Standards, and while 26 states including California work to revise and release the second draft of the NGSS, teachers have the opportunity to change science education well before states can determine how to adopt and assess the new standards. “There is nothing in the framework that hasn’t happened in classrooms where people have paid attention to research about learning for the last few years,” says Dr. Quinn. This is good news for the CSTA: members will recognize that the California experimentation and investigation standards (also written by Dr. Quinn) have given teachers experience in implementing core concepts of the Next Generation Science Standards even prior to their official adoption.  Have a burning question you would like Dr. Quinn to address? Let us know, email your question to conference@cascience.org and we will share your questions with Dr. Quinn. Your questions can help to shape her presentation, making this a truly valuable experience for you.

Dr. Quinn is serious about engaging students: science practices are designed to provide students with a direct application of their learning. She explains that experimentation and critical thinking should be taught with content, not only cutting across scientific disciplines, but integrating math and language arts within the Common Core. This vision of education leads to a cohesive, three-dimensional format for science education that can be implemented within a curriculum, a course, or a lesson. Inquiry has been unpacked, with contextual, social, and experimental skills that would previously be taught separately or in different courses instead now aligned so that math and language arts classrooms support and reinforce each other.

Dr. Quinn says that drastically improving the education of all students requires a “connective tissue” between the disciplines, and she is committed to helping science students to develop the skills they need to succeed globally, and the lifeblood of our economy depends on it. Highly skilled professional scientists and technicians are in demand, and if we want to prepare students for a successful future, we need to increase their access to high-quality science education. The Framework provides what will be an internationally benchmarked solution for America’s decline in the STEM fields.

Although Dr. Quinn’s talk will give teachers a head start on what is coming next in science education, this shot in the arm from the National Academies isn’t a panacea. State standards, curriculum, and assessments need to be fully developed in order for the new vision to be fully implemented. The best hope for this includes science teachers, she explains. “If the people who are teaching you are excited about something, you’re more likely to be excited.” For Dr. Quinn, excitement with the building of the Stanford Linear Accelerator during her undergraduate years led to a career in particle physics. For your students it could be tomorrow’s lesson in your classroom. To implement the new science practices immediately, research the Framework at the National Academies website and come hear Dr. Quinn’s speech at the CSTA Conference.

Links:

http://www7.nationalacademies.org/bose/Standards_Framework_homepage.html

http://www.cascience.org/csta/ngss.asp

Written by Bethany Dixon

Bethany Dixon is a science teacher at Western Sierra Collegiate Academy, is a CSTA Publications Committee Member, and is a member of CSTA.

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