September 2016 – Vol. 29 No. 1

Being a ‘Next Generation’ Preservice Science Teacher

Posted: 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.

Just like the quotes above, we are all familiar with the old adage that “Teachers teach the way they were taught.” Herein lies the challenge for new teachers. Students entering the teaching profession in 2014 entered elementary school in the late 90’s, close to the time that the State Board of Education adopted the Science Framework for California Public Schools: Kindergarten Through Grade Twelve (2004). The consequence of this coincidence is that many of the students entering science teaching this year spent ten to twelve years in public schools learning science based on the “old” Framework. They were exposed to science instructional practices that were chosen to yield high scores on the California Standards Tests and the STAR tests. After high school, most of these same future teachers enrolled in and excelled at college level science courses that perpetuated the fact-based, didactic instruction that was honored by the “old” standards. Unfortunately, that means that their formative science experiences were probably not the rich, inquiry, critical thinking experiences that we strive to promote in our new approaches to teaching. Instead, they were exposed to unending opportunities to learn small bits of information on many subjects without the benefit of the integration, critical thinking and problem solving promised in the Conceptual Framework for K12 Science Education or the Next Generation Science Standards. When viewed this way, the “teach like they were taught” belief suggests that new teachers will have to integrate their strong content knowledge with a style of teaching that they may not have experienced as a student.

Don’t despair, things are not as bleak as this might sound. Yes, most new teachers experience their science education in very traditional ways but that doesn’t mean that they cannot learn new strategies. For the first time, we have guiding documents that describe science education as a combination of practices, content, and key crosscutting ideas to guide a new way of thinking about science curriculum. As we roll out NGSS, new teachers will have opportunities, guidance, and expectations that they will teach differently. Science departments across the state are talking about how to do this. Experienced teachers and new teachers alike are looking critically at their existing curriculum with an eye for change. New teachers should be welcome participants in these discussions. They bring a spirit that things will change and that everyone will be part of that change. Gone for the moment is the emphasis on increasing test scores, replaced by an emerging conversation about identifying the core ideas and the practices that support student learning. Despite their more traditional experiences, new teachers are primed for these discussions. We must not let ourselves fall into the “That’s the way we have always done it” hole. Instead we need to embrace change and move forward with a new vision, unimpeded by a long list of favorite, traditional activities. We need to embrace this paradigm shift while re-writing the experiences that our preservice teachers will provide for their students. Change of this magnitude will not happen overnight nor will it be easy, but it will be simpler if we begin planning for the new reality instead of attempting to tweak the past. This IS an exciting time to be in science education but we have to be realistic that our personal conceptions of the existing curriculum may no longer produce the scientifically literate citizens that our society needs. The next generation of science teachers will begin to move us in that direction and we need to encourage and support them as they define the new reality.

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Written by Rick Pomeroy

Rick Pomeroy

Rick Pomeroy is science education lecturer/supervisor in the School of Education, University of California Davis.

4 Responses

  1. Great article Rick.

    Another big challenge in getting teachers to shift their instruction is the (frequently correct) perception that in college instruction is mostly lecture and text with labs that are mostly procedural. Teachers teach the way that college is taught because they feel that is the best way to prepare their kids for college. Until science education at the university level makes big changes and sends strong signals to secondary education that it expects change, there will be resistance to the shifts expected by NGSS.

  2. Peter, I agree. In a meeting with our chancellor last year, I warned that when California successfully adopts and implements NGSS the faculty will be teaching classes to students who don’t want the lecture lecture lab format but will want, and hopefully demand, an education that continues their development as thinkers and doer’s not memorizers and test takers. These new clients for the faculty, aka students, will demand to be treated in a way that appreciates their talents and abilities to address and investigate real world problems in a way that proposes solutions to problems of society. Though she was a consultant on the Conceptual Framework, she seemed a bit surprised that this new generation of students might want something more than is currently available to them.

  3. A chicken and egg problem?

  4. Yes definitely.

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California Science Assessment Update

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 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.

Some ways to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service in your classroom

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. 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.

2016 Award Recipients – Join CSTA in Honoring Their Accomplishments

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

John Keller

John Keller

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…

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.

NGSS: Making Your Life Easier

Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

by Peter A’hearn

Wait… What?

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…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the K-12 science specialist in the Palm Springs Unified School District and is Region 4 Director for CSTA.

Celestial Highlights, September 2016

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…

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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.