May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

SciEd Side Bar: Let Them Figure It Out!

Posted: Wednesday, September 14th, 2016

Supplement to: Poland, Evans, and Grace (2016), Taking Risks with NGSS: A Growth Model for the Classroom, California Classroom Science, (29)1.

“Every kid starts out as a natural-born scientist, and then we beat it out of them. A few trickle through the system with their wonder and enthusiasm for science intact.”

– Carl Sagan

There is a vast body of research that supports the notion that for students to develop deep conceptual understanding, we must put students in the driver seat of thinking.

Allowing students to have the freedom to work through their thinking without being told they are wrong or the correct “answer” is critical in building their conceptual understanding as well as supporting metacognitive growth. There’s also an added benefit for the teacher: observing students in the process of sense-making provides a powerful opportunity to adequately gage their thinking to inform the next instructional decision. When a teacher realizes the students are “off target”, s/he subsequently provides more experiences that will challenge naïve ideas. Students that experience this tend to question their original ideas and gradually replace those with more scientifically accepted thinking. It is this method, often described as “constructivism”, that is most powerful in helping students overcome their initial preconceptions. Not only is this type of learning more long-term and sustainable, it has the added benefit of increasing student enthusiasm when students get to “work like scientists” and know their thinking is valued, even when flawed (Duschl, R. A., Schweingruber, H. A., & Shouse, A. W., 2007).

It is this kind of teaching and learning that supports a key shift called for by the NGSS:

K-12 Science Education should reflect the interconnected nature of science as it is practiced and experience in the real world (NGSS Lead States, 2013).

Although the NGSS may seem new, the underpinning ideas are not. Readers might be familiar with “A Private Universe”, where Harvard graduates struggle to explain what causes seasons (Schneps, M. H., Sadler, P. M., Woll, S., & Crouse, L. (1989). Many expressed their naïve conception that seasons are caused based on how close the Earth is to the sun. A conclusion from this pivotal study is that, like these Harvard graduates, the ideas we tend to retain are those we create for ourselves. Therefore, teachers must help students to develop their understanding by providing opportunities that move them from their preconceptions to more scientifically-aligned understanding. It is far more likely that students will retain their ideas constructed in this manner, rather than the ones we tell them.

In the “teaching day” described in this article, students were asked to engage in generating a model to show their understanding of what happened in their system. The practice of scientifically modeling gave students the space to mentally process their ideas. When the students noticed they didn’t have enough information to be successful in the task, this set the stage for challenging their thinking. Further, the teacher resisted the urge to correct student thinking knowing she would use their work to determine her next teaching steps. She carefully questions the students to gain insight into their ideas (a powerful form of formative assessment). The students, in response to the task and teacher questioning, came to their own realization that they were unsure of their ideas. On their own, the students decided they needed to know more. When the teacher walked away, the students independently pulled out their science notebooks to gather more information. This was a powerful moment where students were given the time and opportunity to truly work like a scientist and have experiences to shape their thinking.

Want to take a first step in changing your practice? Here are some of our favorite references that have helped us shift our practice in a way that provides students such opportunities:

For a short dive, try:

Colburn, A. (2007). The Prepared Practitioner: Constructivism and Conceptual Change, Part 1. The Science Teacher, 74 (7), 10.

Colburn, A. (2007). The Prepared Practitioner: Constructivism and Conceptual Change, Part 1I. The Science Teacher, 74 (8), 14.

For a deeper dive, try:

Coffey, Hammer, Levin, Grant “The Missing Disciplinary Substance of Formative Assessment” Journal of Research in Science Teaching Vol 48, No.10 PP.1109-1136 (2011)

Richard A. Duschl, Heidi A. Schweingruber, and Andrew W. Shouse, eds. (2007). Taking Science to School: Learning and Teaching Science in Grades K-8. Committee on Science Learning, Kindergarten Through Eighth Grade. Richard A. Duschl, Heidi A. Schweingruber, and Andrew W. Shouse, Editors. Board on Science Education, Center for Education. Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

Bransford, J., A. Brown, and R. Cocking, eds. (2000). How people learn: Brain, mind, experience, and school committee on developments in the science of learning. With additional materials from The Committee on Learning Research and Educational Practice, M. Suzanne Donovan, John D. Bransford, and James W. Pellegrino, editors. Commission on Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education of the National Research Council. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.

References:

NGSS Lead States. 2013. Next Generation Science Standards: For States, By States. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. (2013).

Appendix A – Conceptual Shifts in the Next Generation Science Standards Retrieved from: http://www.nextgenscience.org/sites/default/files/Appendix%20A%20-%204.11.13%20Conceptual%20Shifts%20in%20the%20Next%20Generation%20Science%20Standards.pdf

http://www.nextgenscience.org/sites/default/files/Appendix A – 4.11.13 Conceptual Shifts in the Next Generation Science Standards.pdf

Richard A. Duschl, Heidi A. Schweingruber, and Andrew W. Shouse, eds. (2007). Taking Science to School: Learning and Teaching Science in Grades K-8. Committee on Science Learning, Kindergarten Through Eighth Grade. Richard A. Duschl, Heidi A. Schweingruber, and Andrew W. Shouse, Editors. Board on Science Education, Center for Education. Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

Schneps, M. H., Sadler, P. M., Woll, S., & Crouse, L. (1989). A Private universe. S. Burlington, VT: Annenberg Media.

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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.

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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…

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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.