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.
Posted: Tuesday, March 14th, 2017
The pre-publication version of the new California Science Curriculum Framework is now available for download. This publication incorporates all the edits that were approved by the State Board of Education in November 2016 and was many months in the making. Our sincere thanks to the dozens of CSTA members were involved in its development. Our appreciation is also extended to the California Department of Education, the State Board of Education, the Instructional Quality Commission, and the Science Curriculum Framework and Evaluation Criteria Committee and their staff for their hard work and dedication to produce this document and for their commitment to the public input process. To the many writers and contributors to the Framework CSTA thanks you for your many hours of work to produce a world-class document.
For tips on how to approach this document see our article from December 2016: California Has Adopted a New Science Curriculum Framework – Now What …? If you would like to learn more about the Framework, consider participating in one of the Framework Launch events (a.k.a. Rollout #4) scheduled throughout 2017.
The final publication version (formatted for printing) will be available in July 2017. This document will not be available in printed format, only electronically.
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
The 2017 Award Season is now open! One of the benefits of being a CSTA member is your eligibility for awards as well as your eligibility to nominate someone for an award. CSTA offers several awards and members may nominate individuals and organizations for the Future Science Teacher Award, the prestigious Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award, and the CSTA Distinguished Contributions Award (organizational award). May 9, 2017 is the deadline for nominations for these awards. CSTA believes that the importance of science education cannot be overstated. Given the essential presence of the sciences in understanding the past and planning for the future, science education remains, and will increasingly be one of the most important disciplines in education. CSTA is committed to recognizing and encouraging excellence in science teaching through the presentation of awards to science educators and organizations who have made outstanding contributions in science education in the state and who are poised to continue the momentum of providing high quality, relevant science education into the future. Learn More…
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
CSTA is now accepting applications from regular, preservice, and retired members to serve on our volunteer committees! CSTA’s all-volunteer board of directors invites you to consider maximizing your member experience by volunteering for CSTA. CSTA committee service offers you the opportunity to share your expertise, learn a new skill, or do something you love to do but never have the opportunity to do in your regular day. CSTA committee volunteers do some pretty amazing things: Learn More…
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
by Marian Murphy-Shaw
If you attended an NGSS Rollout phase 1-3 or CDE workshops at CSTA’s annual conference you may recall hearing from Chris Breazeale when he was working with the CDE. Chris has relocated professionally, with his passion for science education, and is now the Executive Director at the Explorit Science Center, a hands-on exploration museum featuring interactive STEM exhibits located at the beautiful Mace Ranch, 3141 5th St. in Davis, CA. Visitors can “think it, try it, and explorit” with a variety of displays that allow visitors to “do science.” To preview the museum, or schedule a classroom visit, see www.explorit.org. Learn More…
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
by Joseph Calmer
Probably like you, NGSS has been at the forefront of many department meetings, lunch conversations, and solitary lesson planning sessions. Despite reading the original NRC Framework, the Ca Draft Frameworks, and many CSTA writings, I am still left with the question: “what does it actually mean for my classroom?”
I had an eye-opening experience that helped me with that question. It came out of a conversation that I had with a student teacher. It turns out that I’ve found the secret to learning how to teach with NGSS: I need to engage in dialogue about teaching with novice teachers. I’ve had the pleasure of teaching science in some capacity for 12 years. During that time pedagogy and student learning become sort of a “hidden curriculum.” It is difficult to plan a lesson for the hidden curriculum; the best way is to just have two or more professionals talk and see what emerges. I was surprised it took me so long to realize this epiphany. Learn More…