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.

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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 and is a past-president of CSTA.

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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LATEST POST

CSTA Annual Conference Early Bird Rates End July 14

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Jessica Sawko

Teachers engaged in workshop activity

Teachers engaging in hands-on learning during a workshop at the 2016 CSTA conference.

Don’t miss your chance to register at the early bird rate for the 2017 CSTA Conference – the early-bird rate closes July 14. Need ideas on how to secure funding for your participation? Visit our website for suggestions, a budget planning tool, and downloadable justification letter to share with your admin. Want to take advantage of the early rate – but know your district will pay eventually? Register online today and CSTA will reimburse you when we receive payment from your district/employer. (For more information on how that works contact Zi Stair in the office for details – 916-979-7004 or zi@cascience.org.)

New Information Now Available On-line:

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.

Goodbye Outgoing and Welcome Incoming CSTA Board Members

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

Jill Grace

Jill Grace, CSTA President, 2017-2019

On July 1, 2017 five CSTA members concluded their service and four new board members joined the ranks of the CSTA Board of Directors. CSTA is so grateful for all the volunteer board of directors who contribute hours upon hours of time and energy to advance the work of the association. At the June 3 board meeting, CSTA was able to say goodbye to the outgoing board members and welcome the incoming members.

This new year also brings with it a new president for CSTA. As of July 1, 2017 Jill Grace is the president of the California Science Teachers Association. Jill is a graduate of California State University, Long Beach, a former middle school science teacher, and is currently a Regional Director with the K-12 Alliance @ WestEd where she works with California NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative districts and charter networks in the San Diego area.

Outgoing Board Members

  • Laura Henriques (President-Elect: 2011 – 2013, President: 2013 – 2015, Past President: 2015 – 2017)
  • Valerie Joyner (Region 1 Director: 2009 – 2013, Primary Director: 2013 – 2017)
  • Mary Whaley (Informal Science Education Director: 2013 – 2017)
  • Sue Campbell (Middle School/Jr. High Director: 2015 – 2017)
  • Marcus Tessier (2-Year College Director: 2015 – 2017)

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.

Finding My Student’s Motivation of Learning Through Engineering Tasks

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Huda Ali Gubary and Susheela Nath

It’s 8:02 and the bell rings. My students’ walk in and pick up an entry ticket based on yesterday’s lesson and homework. My countdown starts for students to begin…3, 2, 1. Ten students are on task and diligently completing the work, twenty are off task with behaviors ranging from talking up a storm with their neighbors to silently staring off into space. This was the start of my classes, more often than not. My students rarely showed the enthusiasm for a class that I had eagerly prepared for. I spent so much time searching for ways to get my students excited about the concepts they were learning. I wanted them to feel a connection to the lessons and come into my class motivated about what they were going to learn next. I would ask myself how I could make my class memorable where the kids were in the driver’s seat of learning. Incorporating engineering made this possible. 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 California NGSS k-8 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.

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Unveils Updated Recommended Literature List

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson unveiled an addition of 285 award-winning titles to the Recommended Literature: Prekindergarten Through Grade Twelve list.

“The books our students read help broaden their perspectives, enhance their knowledge, and fire their imaginations,” Torlakson said. “The addition of these award-winning titles represents the state’s continued commitment to the interests and engagement of California’s young readers.”

The Recommended Literature: Prekindergarten Through Grade Twelve list is a collection of more than 8,000 titles of recommended reading for children and adolescents. Reflecting contemporary and classic titles, including California authors, this online list provides an exciting range of literature that students should be reading at school and for pleasure. Works include fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama to provide for a variety of tastes, interests, and abilities. Learn More…

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.

Teaching Science in the Time of Alternative Facts – Why NGSS Can Help (somewhat)

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Peter A’Hearn

The father of one of my students gave me a book: In the Beginning: Compelling Evidence for Creation and the Flood by Walt Brown, Ph. D. He had heard that I was teaching Plate Tectonics and wanted me to consider another perspective. The book offered the idea that the evidence for plate tectonics could be better understood if we considered the idea that beneath the continent of Pangaea was a huge underground layer of water that suddenly burst forth from a rift between the now continents of Africa and South America. The waters shot up and the continents hydroplaned apart on the water layer to their current positions. The force of the movement pushed up great mountain ranges which are still settling to this day, resulting in earthquakes along the margins of continents. This had happened about 6,000 years ago and created a great worldwide flood. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the Region 4 Director for CSTA.