January/February 2018 – Vol. 31 No. 2

What About the Stages of Mitosis?

Posted: Monday, June 20th, 2016

by Peter A’Hearn

The stages of mitosis are really important.

A-Hearn-Mitosis-Vocabulary

I’m not being sarcastic. Every cell in your body (save those used to make babies) went through the stages of mitosis. And if the stages of mitosis didn’t work with great precision at coordinating the dance of the chromosomes, you would not be a very well functioning human being.  So the stages of mitosis are very important.

As a starting biology teacher, I spent much time and energy making sure my students knew the phases of mitosis. I brought in straw hats and flannel shirts and had my students do a “Mitosis Square Dance.” We tried to identify the phases in onion cells under the microscope. I came up with mnemonics so stupid I can’t remember them.

Turns out neither could the students. They would perform abysmally the first time they were tested on them, and by the time the final rolled around, only my two or three who remembered EVERYTHING knew them. This got me thinking about if they really were important. I had been taught them, and the book devoted considerable pages to them, so they must be something the students needed to know. I re-read the standards (the 98 standards at the time) and couldn’t find the stages of mitosis.

I did find meiosis (the baby making type of cell division) in the high school standards:

HS Biology 2a   Students know meiosis is an early step in sexual reproduction in which the pairs of chromosomes separate and segregate randomly during cell division to produce gametes containing one chromosome of each type.

This got me reflecting on why I was teaching it. I couldn’t think of anything students could actually DO with their knowledge of the phases of mitosis. What real world problem could they understand or solve? It might come up on Jeopardy someday. It might come up on a college test– if magically they could remember something three of four years out that they couldn’t remember for a week. And in that case, the stages of mitosis would have been re-taught anyway.

Maybe a former student when they get to grad school will become involved in medical research involving understanding of and manipulation of the stages of mitosis. It would be cool to think so! If they do, they will have plenty of time for detailed study and will learn them in the ways that expert knowledge is learned, through deep engagement and problem solving. It would pretty arrogant as a high school teacher to think my square dances and silly mnemonics had anything to do with it.

So… what does this have to do with the NGSS? One of the challenges of implementation is that teachers are having a hard time deciding what to cut out. There are things teachers have taught and have come to accept as important knowledge that are not in the NGSS. If a teacher is thinking about NGSS as something to pile on top of everything you already teach, then transitioning to NGSS might seem like an impossible goal. We need to make hard choices about what to cut out.

Many teachers want to transition to NGSS but, at the same time, have a hard time letting go of content they have been teaching. Examples are the periodic table in 5th grade, the gas laws in high school chemistry, and lots of content in biology– the parts of the cell, the details of each body system, classification, and oh yeah, the stages of mitosis.

Does that mean that these details have no place in NGSS? Is NGSS just about vague generalities?

No! Our teaching under NGSS should be anchored in specific real world questions or problems so as not to be vague. A teacher could start with the problem of a genetic disease caused by mistakes in mitosis. This is true of many cancers. Using this context, students would learn as many details as needed to understand the problem and model their understanding. It’s not hard to see how several performance expectations could be bundled in a unit that is centered around genetic diseases. They might include:

HS-LS3-1Ask questions to clarify relationships about the role of DNA and chromosomes in coding the instructions for characteristic traits passed from parents to offspring.

HS-LS1-1Construct an explanation based on evidence for how the structure of DNA determines the structure of proteins which carry out the essential functions of life through systems of specialized cells.

HS-LS1-2Develop and use a model to illustrate the hierarchical organization of interacting systems that provide specific functions within multicellular organisms.

And finally, the place where mitosis does occur in NGSS:

HS-LS1-4Use a model to illustrate the role of cellular division (mitosis) and differentiation in producing and maintaining complex organisms.

The assessment boundary leaves the importance of the phases pretty clear:

Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include specific gene control mechanisms or rote memorization of the steps of mitosis.

So in a unit like this, it would be clear that mitosis is very important. It helps understand where living things come from and how they develop. It can explain how genetic information is duplicated and how mistakes can be made that lead to both diversity and disorder.  It also makes it clear that memorizing the details is not a productive use of time.

The transition to NGSS is an opportunity to reflect on what we teach:  Is it deep? Does it help explain the real world?  Will it result in lasting learning?

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

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

2 Responses

  1. Great insight in the struggles teachers have when they first examine NGSS. Two years ago our school site science department dived into NGSS and we haven’t looked back once. Except to reflect on how difficult and rigid the old content was for our students.
    As the old saying goes, “Keep it simple, stupid” is NGSS in a nut shell. It looks complicated, but approaches instruction simply-give students a problem, outline the criteria (PE’s), give them opportunity to explore and learn (Engineering Practices), require them to report or explain what they have solved, or learned from their work (Common Core, Writing and communicating).
    The hard part of this transition is to let go of the textbook and assessments and get busy challenging students to meet a challenge and guide them in the scientific processes.
    NGSS is a new way of thinking about the Framework. It is not a map or list of steps to get somewhere, instead it is the World, where students look at the entire planet or universe and see how things are connected and/or focus on individual places and explore how even the smallest of things affect everything around it. This is how we as humans see the world, so why not teach it that way?

  2. Great comment Julie. A beautiful way of looking at it.

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LATEST POST

California Science Test Academy for Educators

Posted: Thursday, February 15th, 2018

California Science Test Academy for Educators

To support implementation of the California Science Test (CAST), the California Department of Education is partnering with Educational Testing Service and WestEd to offer a one-day CAST Academy for local educational agency (LEA) science educators, to be presented at three locations in California from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. As an alternative to traveling, LEA teams can participate virtually via WebEx on one of the dates listed below.

The dates and locations for the CAST Academy are as follows:

  • Monday, April 23, 2018—Sacramento
  • Wednesday, April 25, 2018—Fresno
  • Thursday, April 26, 2018—Irvine

The CAST Academy will help participants develop a deeper understanding of the assessment design and expectations of the CAST. The academy also will provide information and activities designed to assist educators in their implementation of the California Next Generation Science Standards and three-dimensional learning to help them gain an understanding of how these new science assessment item types can inform teaching and learning. The CAST Academy dates above are intended for school and district science instructional leaders, including teacher leaders, teacher trainers, and instructional coaches. Additional trainings will be offered at a later date specifically for county staff. In addition, curriculum, professional development, and assessment leaders would benefit from this training.

A $100 registration fee will be charged for each person attending the in-person training. Each virtual team participating via WebEx will be charged $100 for up to 10 participants through one access point. Each workshop will have the capacity to accommodate a maximum of 50 virtual teams. Each virtual team will need to designate a lead, who is responsible for organizing the group locally. Registration and payment must be completed online at http://www.cvent.com/d/6tqg8k.

For more information regarding the CAST Academy, please contact Elizabeth Dilke, Program Coordinator, Educational Testing Service, by phone at 916-403-2407 or by e‑mail at caasppworkshops@ets.org.

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.

Accelerating into NGSS – A Statewide Rollout Series Now Accepting Registrations

Posted: Friday, January 19th, 2018

Are you feeling behind on the implementation of NGSS? Then Accelerating into NGSS – the Statewide Rollout event – is right for you!

WHO SHOULD ATTEND
If you have not experienced Phases 1-4 of the Statewide Rollout, or are feeling behind with the implementation of NGSS, the Accelerating Into NGSS Statewide Rollout will provide you with the greatest hits from Phases 1-4!

OVERVIEW
Accelerating Into NGSS Statewide Rollout is a two-day training geared toward grade K-12 academic coaches, administrators, curriculum leads, and teacher leaders. Check-in for the two-day rollout begins at 7:30 a.m., followed by a continental breakfast. Sessions run from 8:00 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. on Day One and from 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Day Two.

Cost of training is $250 per attendee. Fee includes all materials, continental breakfast, and lunch on both days. It is recommended that districts send teams of four to six, which include at least one administrator. Payment can be made by check or credit card. If paying by check, registration is NOT complete until payment has been received. All payments must be received prior to the Rollout location date you are attending. Paying by credit card secures your seat at time of registration. No purchase orders accepted. No participant cancellation refunds.

For questions or more information, please contact Amy Kennedy at akennedy@sjcoe.net or (209) 468-9027.

REGISTER

http://bit.ly/ACCELERATINGINTONGSS

DATES & LOCATIONS
MARCH 28-29, 2018
Host: San Mateo County Office of Education
Location: San Mateo County Office of Education, Redwood City

APRIL 10-11, 2018
Host: Orange County Office of Education
Location: Brandman University, Irvine

MAY 1-2, 2018
Host: Tulare County Office of Education
Location: Tulare County Office of Education, Visalia

MAY 3-4, 2018
Host: San Bernardino Superintendent of Schools
Location: West End Educational Service Center, Rancho Cucamonga

MAY 7-8, 2018
Host: Sacramento County Office of Education
Location: Sacramento County Office of Education Conference Center and David P. Meaney Education Center, Mather

JUNE 14-15, 2018
Host: Imperial County Office of Education
Location: Imperial Valley College, Imperial

Presented by the California Department of Education, California County Superintendents Educational Services Association/County Offices of Education, K-12 Alliance @WestEd, California Science Project, and the California Science Teachers Association.

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.

The Teaching and Learning Collaborative, Reflections from an Administrator

Posted: Friday, January 19th, 2018

by Kelly Patchen

My name is Mrs. Kelly Patchen, and I am proud to be an elementary assistant principal working in the Tracy Unified School District (TUSD) at Louis Bohn and McKinley Elementary Schools. Each of the schools I support are Title I K-5 schools with about 450 students, a diverse student population, a high percentage of English Language Learners, and students living in poverty. We’re also lucky to be part of the CA NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative with the K-12 Alliance. 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.

2018 CSTA Conference Call for Proposals

Posted: Wednesday, January 17th, 2018

CSTA is pleased to announce that we are now accepting proposals for 90-minute workshops and three- and six-hour short courses for the 2018 California Science Education Conference. Workshops and short courses make up the bulk of the content and professional learning opportunities available at the conference. In recognition of their contribution, members who present a workshop or short course receive 50% off of their registration fees. Click for more information regarding proposals, or submit one today by following the links below.

Short Course Proposal

Workshop Proposal 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.

CSTA’s New Administrator Facebook Group Page

Posted: Monday, January 15th, 2018

by Holly Steele

The California Science Teachers Association’s mission is to promote high-quality science education, and one of the best practice’s we use to fulfill that mission is through the use of our Facebook group pages. CSTA hosts several closed and moderated Facebook group pages for specific grade levels, (Elementary, Middle, and High School), pages for district coaches and science education faculty, and the official CSTA Facebook page. These pages serve as an online resource for teachers and coaches to exchange teaching methods, materials, staying update on science events in California and asking questions. CSTA is happy to announce the creation of a 6th group page called, California Administrators Supporting Science. 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.