Kicking off the school year… part 1

This weekend I was working with a teacher preparing for the first week of school.  This teacher has been thinking a lot about three-dimensional instruction and the vision articulated in A Framework for K-12 Science Education since his state adopted new state standards based on the Framework. Before his state adoption, he had consistently kicked off the school year with a demo embedded below.  This coaching moments blog focuses on a teacher’s evolving understanding and road to expertise as he translates the Framework vision into classroom teaching and learning.

 

“The mind is entertained by the unusual, the different, and the new.”

Andy Puddicombe, Headspace

On the first day of school in this teacher’s district, students only spent about 20 minutes in each period. He loved how curious and interested students were in the discrepant event embedded above.  It just felt right to him as a great way to kick off the year in a science classroom.  Last year, he had started learning more about the science and engineering practices with his new state adoption.  He noticed the mention of phenomena and use of observations as a foundation to begin the sensemaking process embedded throughout the elements of the science and engineering practices in appendix f of the Next Generation Science Standards.  With this new understanding, he added a focus on observations and inferences to his first activity with the goal of supporting students in being able to make careful, accurate and complete observations of phenomena in order to engage in the science and engineering practices. (Read more about his first iteration of the activity here).

asking Q progression with highlight

Since last fall, this teacher has evolved his understanding even further about the role of phenomena in a three-dimensional classroom.  This weekend our conversations included a-ha moments about how phenomena in this new Framework vision have many essential attributes.  They are engaging and evoked curiosity in kids (the gut feeling he experienced for years with this kick-off activity).  Phenomena empower students by becoming a rich context for their own questions (careful, complete, and accurate observations of phenomena increase the probability for good questions).  Phenomena are the context for both the scientist and the engineer because they can be explained with science ideas. This last attribute, the science ideas needed to explain the phenomenon, was the new understanding that this teacher wanted to add to the activity this year.  He wanted his students to start the year understanding how phenomena and their questions would drive learning in this classroom, and how phenomena will be the context for learning because we need science to explain them (and answer the questions we generated). His evolving understanding of the role of phenomena can be evidenced in his iteration of this kick-off activity, from fun engaging event to a trajectory for the year and an establishment of the culture of learning in this classroom:  

It is the phenomenon plus the student-generated questions about the phenomenon that guide the learning and teaching”

Using Phenomena in the NGSS resource from Achieve

In our conversations, we referred often to the resource linked above to deepen our understanding of phenomena and their critical role in the new vision for science education.  Coaching conversations using classroom experiences and third-point references and resources have resulted in this evolution of understanding.  How have you changed your thinking about phenomena and its focus in your classroom?

Fotosearch_k3456048

My heart is full…

Teaching in the 21st century is full of challenges. Grappling with new standards, working to meet the needs of ALL students, and preparing students for opportunities in a rapidly changing world. Innovations in the 21st century have provided options to make tackling these challenges easier. Through technology and a national focus on supporting teacher leaders, there are many new opportunities to build relationships, seek or provide support, and share and receive knowledge so educators can learn and grow professionally. These educator communities inspire me.
Fotosearch_k20368954

I started this blog 5 years ago when I began to climb the NGSS mountain. I craved partnerships and networks on my road to expertise, and I wanted to reflect and document how these relationships were guiding my trajectory. I am full of appreciation for my mentors, partners and colleagues, especially the partnerships with the students in my classroom. Stories of these partnerships and my learning are sprinkled in past posts throughout this blog. Discussions and experiences continue to contribute to my professional growth and shape my thinking about science education today.

This is the best time in history to be a science educator! The energy and impacts of contemporary research on how kids learn can be seen and felt in classrooms throughout the nation. Every student has a right to a high-quality education. Educators and stakeholder are passionate about transforming classrooms to achieve the vision articulated in A Framework for K-12 Science Education, a collection of this contemporary research. This is more than a shift in thinking, this is a flip in how classrooms operate (thank you Okhee Lee for that great analogy). Transforming the way we teach science is complex and challenging. Partnerships, community, and networks are critical for success.

I am reviving this blog and committing myself to share highlights from the learning that I am blessed to experience as I work with educators throughout the US. Since I have transitioned from my own classroom to supporting classroom teaching and learning on a national scale, I embrace a responsibility to share the wonderful snapshots of classrooms, the tremendous work of teachers and those who support them, the new thinking and research on science education, and the tools and strategies and approaches that are making a difference. This blog will be a tapestry of classrooms, discussions, and people– all partners and stewards of science education.
Fotosearch_k11711110
My heart is full. I am in awe of the passion and hard work I observe from teachers on a regular basis. I am so appreciative of the conversations I have with teachers, researchers, curriculum writers, and education advocates. I can give back and show my appreciation by sharing. Thank you for checking in on the journey.

Trish

Our First Day

Background

“Teacher Learning is interwoven with student learning”  This is a core belief from the Kentucky Teacher Leadership Framework that is the driver behind our Making Thinking Visible  partnership.  With the goal of implementing the Next Generation Science Standards, we started our discussions with the question:

When considering our past “first days” of our classes that focus on the nature of science, how does the new vision in the NGSS include how science works or the Nature of Science (NGSS Appendix h)?

The NGSS

A  key element of NGSS alignment is 3 Dimensional Learning.  The vision of the NGSS describes student learning as sensemaking where “students are, over multiple years of school, actively engaged in scientific and engineering practices and apply crosscutting concepts to deepen the understanding of the core ideas.” (Framework p. 10).  That sensemaking can also be described as the ability for students to connect empirical evidence to core ideas and crosscutting concepts to make sense of phenomena.  Empirical evidence is defined as information acquired by observation or experimentation that is recorded and analyzed.

Pre-NGSS, we often started our discussions at the beginning of the semester with a focus on observation and inference.  We may have even checked to see that students could explicitly define and describe these terms and differentiate between them.  In the NGSS era, observations are serving as the foundation of empirical evidence gathered, then reasoned, and finally communicated in an explanation of phenomena.  Using this understanding, we decided to focus on observation and inference but under the umbrella of gathering information that we can record, analyze, and then communicate an understanding of the natural world.  Our target was

Careful observation, attention to detail, and consideration of validity and reliability are important when acting and thinking like a scientist.

We didn’t just want students to know this, we wanted them to experience it and understand the importance of observations in understanding the world, and also in practicing science.  In addition, we wanted them to begin to see that it is evidence, not just answers, that we will value in this class.

Student Learning

This is a quick demonstration performed by the teacher where students are asked to make observations of a phenomenon.  


 

Teacher Learning

One of the outcomes of this experience that I did not see coming initially and used as a teachable moment was students confronting the bias that they bring into an experience, and why confronting this bias was important in a science classroom where empirical evidence is king.

Post ReflectionNGSS Brett Evidence

In NGSS Appendix h, The Nature of Science, there is a discussion of a quote in the Framework “Epistemic knowledge is knowledge of the constructs and values that are intrinsic to science. Students need to understand what is meant, for example, by an observation, a hypothesis, an inference, a model, a theory, or a claim and be able to distinguish among them” (NRC, 2012, page 79). The discussion in the appendix goes on to point out that the Framework quote above presents concepts and activities important to understanding the nature of science as a complement to the practices imbedded in investigations, field studies, and experiments. In other words, an understanding of the Nature of Science and how science works is necessary for students to engage in the practices and 3-dimensional learning.  This learning experience and discussion serves as the springboard to a series of experiences to help students understand:

  • Scientific Knowledge is Based on Empirical Evidence  
  • Scientific Knowledge is Open to Revision in Light of New Evidence

 

Collective Wisdom

Fotosearch_k19828896Image credit: (c) aksakalko http://www.fotosearch.com

The Need…

One of the many benefits of being a connected educator is the end to isolation.  According to studies by Scholastic and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, teachers spend only about 3% of their teaching day collaborating with colleagues.  Lack of time to collaborate with colleagues has consistently been reported as one of the top 2 challenges in teacher’s daily work.  Considering these statistics, it is no surprise that in our opening #NGSSchat on Goals for the New Year, collaboration was a top trend.  I loved this tweet shared by a member of the #NGSSchat PLN, DIane Johnson @MDHJohnson pictured below in response the the question:

What support do you need to achieve your 2016 classroom goals?

Collective WIsdom

Collective Wisdom paired with Reflection continues to drive my professional growth.  I agree with Diane in that what educators report they need are models and examples to enact the kind of transformative change envisioned in the Framework and NGSS.

The Plan…

I am blessed to be involved in many collaborations that continue to support the development of my capacities which, in turn, support my students.  In addition, I have adopted a classroom thought partner.  In this partnership, we will work to coach each other to strengthen classroom practice and implement new instructional models around the NGSS and 21st Century Learning.  As we navigate this semester, we will be sharing our classrooms through blog posts in a thread called

Making Thinking Visible

Fotosearch_k7241802

Our hope is that by sharing our classrooms and the thinking behind instructional and assessment decisions, we will be able to connect and receive feedback from others as well as contribute to the national science education conversation.