Teaching: Meeting the Standards
To exemplify my ability to teach inquiry-based science and effectively build scientific curiosity amongst students, I have organized samples of my teaching into the six National Science Education Standards (NSES) for science teachers.
Teaching Standard A: Provide inquiry-based learning
Momentum Inquiry Lab
Momentum is a relatively straight forward concept -- the mathematical expression of inertia. Students quickly pick up on the idea that momentum is mass x velocity and seem to be able to apply this knowledge to real world situation. However, to align with the Next Generation Science Standards, I implemented and inquiry-based lab opportunity for students to design their own investigation that produced data supporting the mathematical concept of momentum. I provided students with the prompt and some "thinking" questions and they spent 3 class days designing their experiment, carrying out their tests, and making conclusions based on their data.
Click Here to See My Instructional Powerpoint
Click Here to See a Sample of a Student Presentation
Teaching Standard B: Guide and Facilitate Learning
Research shows that students at the middle level fundamentally struggle to understand the relationship between mass and volume in terms of density. Specifically, they fail to fully comprehend the fact that density is mass per unit of volume. Many teachers simply "tell" students about the relationship, but never truly challenge their misconceptions and rebuild an accurate understanding of the concept. As a part of my application to the Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching, I used a sample of my classroom instruction to show my ability to facilitate and guide a learning experience to help students discover the relationship themselves.
See the full teaching video sample here (small group lab work in first 15 minutes and whole group discussion in the last 15 minutes).
See the discussion questions used in the video here
Teaching Standard C: Engage in assessment of student learning
Depth of Density Cornerstone Task
Student assessment does not necessarily mean a test reviewing the standards. Instead, authentic assessment engages students in meaningful learning to illustrate what they have learned through the uncoverage of scientific concepts. As a part of a cohort in Boulder Valley School District, I helped develop a "cornerstone task" to be piloted district wide.
After a 3-day workshop with Jay McTighe (author and creator of "Understanding by Design,"), I created the "Depth of Density" cornerstone task for high school Physical Science. A cornerstone task is an authentic formative assessment tool that assesses the student mastery of the long-term transfer goals for science. The basic idea is that each grade level content is a "vehicle" to help students master these 5 "big picture" goals regarding the practice of science.
This past year, I piloted the Depth of Density and then brought student work to our workshop in the summer to re-evaluate the assessment tool, make changes to increase effectiveness, and develop rubrics that can be used district wide.
Click Here to see Depth of Density Student Handout
Click Here to see Depth of Density Rubric
Click Here to see Depth of Density Student Sample
Teaching Standard D: Develop learning environment with resources needed for learning science
This standard is all about creating the space for students to take ownership of their own learning. This means purposefully designing lessons to allow for student choice while still building in rigor and accountability.
R.A.F.T stands for Role, Audience, Format and Topic. Student chose how they want to show what they have learned during the expedition. This choice gives students "buy in" to the learning and they end up getting excited about the concepts. On top of that, the project was set up so that students worked independently to "dig" for a deep and robust understanding of body systems and how they interact. I provided research questions that were scaffolded by ability and language level. At the end, students created a "product" to show their learning. Some students wrote a travel blog from the perspective of a sandwich going through the digestive system, some made a display board to teach others about their systems, while others created a 3D poster with information bubbles about their body systems. At the end of the expedition, students reflected on how they handled their freedom and gave me feedback on how to improve the activity.
Teaching Standard E: Develop communities of learners that reflect intellectual rigor of inquiry
The Density Column
Students in 9th grade Physical Science begin the year with a brief introduction to the properties of matter. This was a great opportunity for me to challenge student thinking regarding the density of liquids vs. solids. I designed a lesson where students first observed a density column that I had made using different liquids, and then got samples of the liquids to "experiment" with on their own.
As students began experimenting with the liquids, they began to collaborate on how the liquids interacted. As they collaborated they began to ask questions and then provide each other with ways to explore the answers to each other's questions. I facilitated the discussion by providing guided questions when they "got stuck."
By providing the lesson as a jumping point and working to develop a community, I had made it possible for the students to truly explore the liquids through the lens of a density exploration. They were asking questions and testing the liquids in ways I had not even thought of! The result was that they learned about the process of being a scientist and how it required an inquiry attitude to be able to answer the questions they had generated.
By the end of the lesson students were dropping things into the columns to see if the size of an object affected whether it would float or sink! It was as if they had taken over as the curriculum specialists!
Teaching Standard F: Actively participate in ongoing planning and development of the school science program
Implementing New Standards
Part of my role as BVSD Secondary Science Teacher Leader, is to facilitate district curriculum council meetings and work with teachers to implement the recently revised Colorado Academic Standards. Within the past two years, this has also meant integrating some of the language regarding the scientific practices in the Next Generation Science Standards.
This work has involved updating curriculum documents, facilitating teacher discussions, developing performance-based assessments, encouraging implementation, and helping teachers develop the lessons and resources to implement the new standards.