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 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.

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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…

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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 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…

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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.