May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

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.

Powered By DT Author Box

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.

Leave a Reply

LATEST POST

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…

Powered By DT Author Box

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…

Powered By DT Author Box

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.