Spring Forward…Teachers Leading the Future of Professional Development
Posted: Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015
by Toby Spencer
Do you think in calendar years or school years? If you’re like me, years are hyphenated and stress levels oscillate inversely to the days remaining until progress reports are due. But at this time of year, I finally raise the periscope and begin pedagogical planning for the future.
Ah, the Future, an exciting blank slate! An opportunity to develop a new student model, revamp the genetics unit, research field trips or even plan our own summer professional development. Visions of delighted students dance in our heads, but where is the vision for NGSS implementation? Who will revolutionize and excite California’s current and future science teachers? Turns out the answer is – Us. You, me, all the teachers. Every experienced science educator is called to connect and share with other educators, particularly with new teachers and those reluctant to change.
I wanted to do more to support science teachers searching for creative inspiration. But how does one transition from participant to facilitator? For me, it was through a newly forged statewide alliance called the Instructional Leadership Corps (ILC), a teacher leadership partnership between our California Teachers Association, Stanford University, the National Board Resource Center, and our local districts and unions. The 186 seasoned educator-leaders comprising the ILC are trained and supported in our three-year charge to develop and facilitate multiple Common Core and NGSS PDs for our colleagues in our districts and regions. Initially daunting, once you overcome the fear of presenting to adult experts, passions and creativity blossom. Yes, it takes time away from your own classroom lesson planning to invest in collegial learning, but imagine the impacts you’re making on Future generations of science students!
I was honored to present the kickoff science PD for the ILC last October. I facilitated a Structured Academic Controversy, a literacy strategy shown to me by Dr. Diana Hess of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and presented in her book, Controversy in the Classroom: The Democratic Power of Discussion. I kicked off my theme, “Close Encounters with NGSS” with a series of ice-breaking clips from the classic sci-fi movie. Beginning with the metaphor of approaching NGSS: first contact (yes, the truck scene), and then mashed potato musing, I hoped to both amuse my ILC science colleagues and illustrate the brilliant, indelible, effect on our learners as they open up the door themselves to see the light. (The playlist is available on my inculcator YouTube channel). The next segment, the first two minutes of the film “Idiocracy” hooked participants into a 2-on-2 “debate” on the safety of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). After connecting the NGSS and their engineering practices to the Common Core literacy standards, I presented my favorite definition of rigor (from Strong, et al., 2001): complex, ambiguous, personal, and provocative lessons. For the final portion of the session, I facilitated the structured debate as teachers launched into the literacy activity. The workshop was so successful that I’ve been invited to present it (along with a session on global statistics and social justice) to the CTA Good Teaching Conferences in San Jose and San Diego in February. We’re now taking the same PD back to my district and others in our area. And when it rains it pours: I was also invited to present a Google Earth workshop with UC Davis at the NSTA conference in Long Beach last December! The NSTA workshop showed teachers how to use multiple data layers to analyze their own neighborhoods for relationships of canopy (parks) vs. soil drainage. This approach can expand into a lesson in local civics and social justice, spurring students to think about city planning, land use policies, and global climate change—rigor and student voice!
So, where will you sprinkle your science magic in your peer community? How will you instill pedagogical curiosity and risk-taking in other teachers? Start with your district science coordinator or PD team leader; they’re always looking for fresh ideas. Ask for an afternoon or a weekend for PD credit or extra pay: mention the new monies for NGSS implementation. Alternatively, CTA and NEA offer teacher grant for educators making change in their profession: apply at www.teacherdrivenchange.org or www.neafoundation.org/pages/learning-leadership-grants. And don’t forget to apply to present at future CSTA and NSTA conferences.
Surely, science teachers will use NGSS materials and lessons of some kind; I submit that yours are better than the corporate publishers’. You–the dedicated lab-meister, the zany superhero, the fun breath of fresh air in your students’ day–should save a breath for your peers. Take back your profession, believe in your own magic and Spring into the Future with PD action this season!
Strong, R.W., Silver, H.F. & Perrini, M.J. (2001). Teaching what matters most: Standards and strategies for raising student achievement. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Toby Spencer is a Biology Teacher and Leadership Team Member at Rio Americano High School in Sacramento California, the National Education Association (NEA) Science Caucus Chair and the CTA Career Technical Education Subcommittee Chair. He was invited to write for CCS by CSTA member Minda Berbeco.
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…