Category Archives: science

Seeing Students Learn Science: Integrating Assessment and Instruction in the Classroom

seeing students learn scienceOVERVIEW: Seeing Students Learn Science is a new FREE document from The National Academies Press. This publication in meant to help us improve our understanding of how students actually learn science and to provide guidance as we modify and adapt our instruction and assessment practices.

The document contains 6 sections:

  1. Front Matter
  2. What’s Really Different?
  3. What Does This Kind of Assessment Look Like?
  4. What Can I Learn from My Students’ Work?
  5. Building New Kinds of Assessments into the Flow of Your Instruction
  6. You and Your School, District, and State

You can read the document FREE in your browser or download the pdf. Enjoy!

PURPOSE: Provide support to educational systems as we continue to implement the vision of A Framework for K-12 Science Education and the Next Generation Science Standards

AUDIENCE: Teachers, administrators, PD providers, assessment developers, etc

LINK: https://www.nap.edu/catalog/23548/seeing-students-learn-science-integrating-assessment-and-instruction-in-the

 

The Case for Early Education about STEM Careers

The Case for Early Education about STEM Careers (10 Science Facts & Fictions) was shared with me today at a meeting. This short document summarizes some interesting research on our knowledge and beliefs about scientists and science careers. This could be a useful piece for advocating for elementary science instruction or for use in science education professional development. Enjoy!

Recommendations on the Next Generation Science Standards

The feedback window for the Next Generation Science Standards is closed but I think it is important for us to keep the conversation going about how to make the final draft the best set of science standards possible.

Two recent set of recommendations from national groups were just released and I suggest we all take a look:

  • The National Science Teachers Association has released their recommendations. (Click HERE) I tend to agree with most of their thoughts, however, I’m growing a bit weary of their platform on the nature of science. Don’t get me wrong- I have nothing against the nature of science but I don’t see how the addition of content on the nature of science will bring clarity to what is already a pretty dense document packed with layers of complexity.
  • AAAS also released a set of recommendations. (Click HERE) I agree wholeheartedly with their call for “less”. Check out the following quote:

Thus, before finalizing the new standards, we urge Achieve to quickly convene small groups of the nation’s best teachers at the primary, middle-school, and high-school levels. Although teachers have been involved in the writing effort, their new charge should be to bring ground truth to the NGSS by determining the maximum number of disciplinary core ideas that can be covered in a single school year.

In the last 3 weeks I have had opportunities to present the draft NGSS to multiple K-8 teachers in several districts in my region. Here are some of their questions and thoughts many of which align with the NSTA and AAAS recommedations:

  • Who is the audience for this document? It doesn’t seem to be for K-5 teachers. Not teacher friendly.
  • Do the performance expectations have to be one sentence? It feels like some of them could be broken down into smaller parts.
  • Even though it looks like a small number of standards per grade (K-5) when you start to unpack each performance expectation there is obviously a lot of instructional time that will need to be dedicated to each.
  • There seems to be way too much content despite the purported goal of decreasing the traditional broad content coverage in science.
  • How will these standards help to create interest, advocacy, and efficacy around effective science instruction in an elementary system that already lacks most of these qualities? In other words, if a teacher or building principal is not a champion of elementary science and already feels overwhelmed by Common Core, teacher/principal evaluation, AYP, etc.. How is this multicolored barrage of science information going to help them take a step toward saying, “Yes, we can do this! Now I see how science is important for all elementary students.”

I’m confident that Achieve, the lead states,  and the writing team will continue to work hard to make the NGSS the best set of science standards possible. I also hope they are willing to take some extra time, if necessary, to get it right.

The Spangler Effect

The Spangler Effect is a new online show from frequent Ellen DeGeneres guest, Steve Spangler. On The Spangler Effect, Steve digs into a science experiment or demonstation by conducting a demonstration and explaining what caused the event. The clips are typically in the 15 minute range and include a scientific explanation of the observed phenomena.

As a teacher, I could imagine using a given video after students have had a chance to observe and explain a similar scientific event. The video could provide a new situation for applying a scientific idea or for checking an explanation. I have to admit that I wish the videos withheld the explanation a bit longer so that the observer could consider a personal explanation before hearing from the expert.

Embedded below is an example- Ultimate Can Crusher

Success at the Core: Resources for Science Instruction

Success at the Core is an excellent and well-designed site that provides an online professional development toolkit focused on effective instruction. (Click HERE to see how effective instruction is defined in 4 elements.)Tools are designed for collaborative teams and are organized to support facilitators and participants. The site is not content specific, however there are several resources that are set in a science context. (You will need to sign up for a FREE account in order to access all content- it’s easy.. and worth it!)

Click HERE to see a list of videos of middle school science instruction. Each video focuses on a strategy and includes teacher commentary, instruction plans, and student work.

Click HERE to see a video of science teacher Al Gonzalez teaching his eighth grade science class how to make, test, and reflect on predictions in a physical science lab. Good stuff!

Click HERE to see  Steven English engage this  eighth grade science class as they refine their understanding of scientific concepts through small group and whole class discussions.