May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

Preparing for New School Year: Supporting High School Students’ Science Motivation

Posted: Friday, August 19th, 2016

by Sandra Simpkins and Yangyang Liu

When science teachers prepare for a new school year, they often think about how they can teach their students science concepts and principles in an interesting way. Not only is it important to spark students’ initial interest in science, but is also key to help maintain students’ interest in science. Without that continued support, students who were once interested in science run the risk of losing that interest (Renninger & Hidi, 2016). In fact, 45% of 10th grade students interested in pursuing a STEM career (that is, a science, technology, engineering, and mathematics career) lost that interest by the end of high school (Aschbacher, Li, & Roth, 2010) – making high school a critical time for science. High school is often the first time when students can opt out of science coursework as most states require less than four years of science coursework to graduate. When students lose interest in science, they are less likely to take elective science courses – which hinders their college science prospects.

Science teachers are not the only ones who can support students’ science interest. Teachers can help support students’ interest by getting them connected with exciting science opportunities at their school or community, such as clubs and museums. One goal of our research has been to study the importance of family support in students’ motivation in a variety of areas including science, math, English, sports, and music. With funding from the National Science Foundation, we have spent several years studying whether family support is important for the Latino high school students’ science motivation.

The typical narrative around parent involvement in high school, particularly for ethnic minority and low-income families, is that parents are not involved. It is true that high school parents typically are less involved in their children’s schools than elementary and middle school parents. But, the focus of many of these studies is on parents’ contact with teachers and involvement in school opportunities, such as the PTA. Many parents have hectic work schedules that make meeting with teachers challenging. And, for some cultures parents believe they should defer to the school and focus their support within their home. While parents may be pulling back from being on the school campus, many parents are still doing things at home.

CCSAdBOur research suggests that parents’ home-based support of their 9th grade students in science is related to how much students believe they are good at science and their value of science in 9th grade and increases in students’ motivational beliefs from 9th to 10th grade (Simpkins, Gaskin, & Kloberdanz, 2016; Simpkins, Price, & Garcia, 2015). Parents’ support predicts students’ motivational beliefs even after we take into account students’ science course grade and whether they are in honors or basic science, which suggests this relationship is not because students who are doing well in science have strong motivational beliefs and supportive parents. So, what were parents doing at home?

In our study, we have parents and high school students report how often parents provide general positive support, engage in science-related activities and conversations, as well as support their student in their science coursework. Positive general support includes things such as telling teenagers they are good at science and helping their teenager feel better when science is hard. Parent-adolescent co-activity includes watching science TV shows, talking about science-related current events, and talking about science careers/majors. Last, support around science coursework includes behaviors like checking if their teenagers’ homework is completed and encouraging them to work with friends or other family members who are good at science. Importantly, many of these parent behaviors do not require parents to be science experts. Some parents hesitate to help their children with science-related schoolwork because they feel the subject matter is too complicated or surpasses their level of education. However, our study suggests that parents can engage in other meaningful ways that do not require mastery of science facts in textbooks and still help their teenagers’ motivation in science.

As part of one paper, we tested whether there were differences between White boys, White girls, Latino boys, and Latina girls. White students and male students received more support and had higher motivational beliefs in science than Latino students and female students. As a result, White boys often had the highest science resources whereas Latina girls had the lowest science resources. However, we found that many of ethnic differences were partially explained by family background such as parent education and parents’ language preference. In other words, Latino students may have lower parent support and science motivation than white students, in part, because Latino families often have more limited parental resources, such as education. In addition, Latina girls continued to be at a disadvantage compared to other groups. Teachers might consider providing additional resources to Latina students or students whose parents have more limited education. As part of teachers’ planning for the upcoming year, it might be helpful to think about how they can help parents support their children at home.

Sandra Simpkins and Yangyang Liu are a part of the School of Education at the University of California, Irvine. They can be reached at simpkins@uci.edu

References

Aschbacher, P. R., Li, E., & Roth, E. J. (2010). Is science me? High school students’ identities, participation and aspirations in science, engineering, and medicine. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 47: 564–582.

Renninger, K. A., & Hidi, S. E. (2016). The power of interest for motivation and engagement. New York: Routledge.

Simpkins, S.D., Gaskin, E., & Kloberdanz, E. (2016, March). Does the expectancy-value models hold for Latino parents of high school science students? In J. Fredricks (chair), Individual and contextual influences on adolescents’ STEM motivation and engagement. Paper presented at the Society of Research on Adolescence Biennial Meeting, Baltimore, MD.

Simpkins, S. D., Price, C. & Garcia, K. (2015). Parental support and high school students’ motivation in biology, chemistry, and physics: Understanding differences among Latino and Caucasian boys and girls. Journal for Research in Science Teaching, 52, 1386-1407.

Written by Guest Contributor

From time to time CSTA receives contributions from guest contributors. The opinions and views expressed by these contributors are not necessarily those of CSTA. By publishing these articles CSTA does not make any endorsements or statements of support of the author or their contribution, either explicit or implicit. All links to outside sources are subject to CSTA’s Disclaimer Policy: http://www.classroomscience.org/disclaimer.

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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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Written by NGSS Early Implementer

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.