March/April 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 6

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.

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.

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Posted: Tuesday, March 14th, 2017

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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.

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CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

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Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017

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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.