July 9th, 2014
Teach with Case Studies

boredclass“Why are we learn­ing this?”

Ahh, the quin­tes­sen­tial query of all stu­dents. Per­haps hear­ing this phrase gives you a pit in your gut; after all, hav­ing to defend your inves­ti­ga­tion of a topic with your stu­dents implies that they’re miss­ing a core con­cept at the start, the why behind the what. So how can you make sure you never hear this ques­tion again?

Teach with Case Studies!

For those unfa­mil­iar with case stud­ies, one of the most com­mon types, and that which I’ll be dis­cussing in this post, is the “inter­rupted” case study. In this for­mat, stu­dents are pre­sented with a mys­tery or prob­lem that must be solved. Stu­dents are then given infor­ma­tion in a piece­meal fash­ion, includ­ing data, graphs, and charts, and must con­tin­u­ally assess and reassess the avail­able infor­ma­tion to make a deci­sion on a course of action. This for­mat of problem-solving is a phe­nom­e­nal way to incor­po­rate real-world sci­ence skills in the day-to-day work­ings of your class­room. These cases are often com­plex, requir­ing stu­dents to develop ana­lyt­i­cal and decision-making skills for ques­tions that are messy, com­pli­cated, and fun – just like most good sci­ence ques­tions are! Teach­ing with case stud­ies allows you to rein­force the sci­ence con­tent you’re learn­ing in your class­room, but more impor­tantly, allows your stu­dents to expe­ri­ence how the process of sci­ence works. Many true cases also impact pub­lic pol­icy, pre­sent­ing an oppor­tu­nity to dis­cuss the need for sci­en­tific lit­er­acy among the gen­eral public.

A Few Pointers

Whether you’re new to teach­ing with case stud­ies or have been teach­ing with them for years, a few point­ers on how to make the most out of each case:

  • Be pre­pared! Make sure that you’re famil­iar with the case and have con­sid­ered areas stu­dents might get lost or con­fused. A solid foun­da­tion with the case your­self will make for a much more pro­duc­tive experience.
  • Have them turn in a prod­uct! Cases often inspire excel­lent dis­cus­sions; how­ever, most stu­dents feel more secure in their learn­ing if they are required to turn in some sort of prod­uct by the end. This can be as sim­ple as a sum­mary of the case, or can be spe­cific ques­tions and/or reflec­tions on actions that should be taken in the case.
  • When pos­si­ble, include var­i­ous media! Par­tic­u­larly when using true case stud­ies, it is often pos­si­ble to find video clips from news orga­ni­za­tions or tele­vi­sion shows that high­light the case. Includ­ing these in your les­son adds another layer of real­ity and depth for your stu­dents, mak­ing them real­ize that these are real peo­ple and real cases, not just some activ­ity their teacher is mak­ing them do. All cases listed below have coor­di­nat­ing media avail­able on Youtube and Vimeo.
  • If you can, jump in full force! The more cases you do, the more com­fort­able you and your stu­dents will be with the process. This will, in turn, allow you to have more pro­duc­tive dis­cus­sions and get the most out of each case.

A Few Examples

Cases I’ve used in my own expe­ri­ence, by topic:

  • Car­dio­vas­cu­lar System/Bioethics — “Dennis’s Deci­sion”: This par­tic­u­lar case is a true story about Den­nis, a boy with leukemia whose reli­gious beliefs are dis­cor­dant with his treat­ment options. I left my stu­dents hang­ing over Spring Break with this case, and as they left my room that day for a week off, I heard no less than three times, “Spring break needs to be over so we can find out the rest!”
  • Meio­sis – “You Are Not the Mother of your Chil­dren”: This case addresses the true story of a woman who almost lost cus­tody of her chil­dren when a DNA test indi­cated that she was not the bio­log­i­cal mother of her chil­dren. This case was intro­duced at the begin­ning of our meio­sis unit; stu­dents then learned the basics of meio­sis, and we came back to the case study a week later. Through­out the entire week between the intro­duc­tion and res­o­lu­tion, the first ques­tion asked at the begin­ning of each class period was, “Are we going to find out what happened?!”
  • Osmo­sis – “Water Can Kill: Explor­ing Effects of Osmo­sis” : This case fol­lows the true sto­ries of three indi­vid­u­als who all die as a result of ingest­ing too much water in a short period of time. In my class, we focus pri­mar­ily on the case of Jen­nifer Strange, who died after par­tic­i­pat­ing in a water-drinking con­test to win a video game con­sole from a radio sta­tion. Being that so many stu­dents are ath­letes, this often inspires many con­ver­sa­tions about safety in prac­tices and training.
  • Cel­lu­lar Res­pi­ra­tion – “The Mys­tery of the Seven Deaths”: This true case study explores the Chicago Tylenol mur­ders that occurred in 1982 when cyanide was added to Tylenol cap­sules. When I intro­duce this story, I don’t tell them up-front that it’s true; the shock they expe­ri­ence when they find out that seven peo­ple actu­ally died under such bizarre cir­cum­stances is enough to keep them guess­ing for the rest of the case study.
  • Any topic of your choos­ing National Cen­ter for Case Study Teach­ing in Sci­ence (NCCSTS) and CASES Online from Emory Uni­ver­sity : There are lit­er­ally hun­dreds of more cases in every life sci­ence sub­ject area found at these two web­sites. All of the pre­vi­ous cases listed above came from the NCCSTS, but I have also used quite a few from CASES Online as well. Both are truly excel­lent resources.

Final Thoughts

So, why do I use case stud­ies? I could say it’s because it increases their problem-solving abil­ity, their cre­ativ­ity in explor­ing approaches, their skep­ti­cism in con­sid­er­ing solu­tions, and their expe­ri­ence with the “dirty work” of sci­ence – all of which are incred­i­bly true! But… you want to know the real rea­son I teach case stud­ies? It changes their ques­tion from “Why are we learn­ing this?” to “When are we learn­ing this?” When that is the ques­tion your stu­dents ask, you can be con­fi­dent that they under­stand the why behind the what – and finally, the real work is ready to begin.

What are some of your favorite cases that you use in your class­room? If you haven’t used any yet, what ques­tions or con­cerns do you have? Leave your comments/questions/ideas below!

 

The fol­low­ing arti­cles were used in my research for this blog post. They are all authored by Clyde F. Her­reid, Direc­tor for the NCCSTS.

 

Schecker

 

 

 

 Caitlin Schecker has a Bachelor’s Degree in Sec­ondary Sci­ence Edu­ca­tion, spe­cial­iz­ing in Biol­ogy edu­ca­tion. She has absolutely loved teach­ing at Bishop McLaugh­lin Catholic High School in Spring Hill, Florida for the past five years. She has served as a LifeSc­iTRC Scholar and Fellow.

 

June 11th, 2014
Six Steps to Flipping Your Classroom

Ask any teacher what they need to improve stu­dent achieve­ment, and you’ll likely hear, “MORE TIME!” Because this is pre­cisely the answer I would have given, I decided to give the flipped class­room a try, and found that it enabled me to spend more time facil­i­tat­ing inves­ti­ga­tions and projects, and less time in direct teach­ing mode. This is my first year to flip my sci­ence class­room, so I am still read­ing arti­cles and books and attend­ing train­ing to improve the tech­nique, but I am very pleased with the extra time I have with my stu­dents since I started flip­ping.  My stu­dents now come to class ready to apply what they lis­tened to and watched at home, which allows me to inter­act with them dur­ing the school day. This was my ulti­mate goal in flip­ping– to be able to build rela­tion­ships with my mid­dle school stu­dents while they were cre­at­ing prod­ucts and con­duct­ing exper­i­ments based on the infor­ma­tion from the flipped assign­ment. I’m also able to quickly clear up any mis­con­cep­tions they have as they are apply­ing the knowledge.

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Here are the 6 steps that I took to flip my sci­ence classroom:

Step 1: To get started, I read Flip Your Class­room by the flip­ping gurus, Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams, and attended train­ing offered by my district.

Step 2: Next I cre­ated a web­site devoted only to the flipped class­room, and linked it to my dis­trict teacher web page. At our open house I showed par­ents the web­site which includes a sec­tion of FAQs along with the ratio­nale behind flip­ping, which gar­nered much support.

Step 3:  It was impor­tant to find out how acces­si­ble tech­nol­ogy was to my stu­dents so dur­ing the first week of school I gave a tech ques­tion­naire as an exit slip, ask­ing them to check what was avail­able to them out­side of school (Smart phone, Inter­net access, com­puter, iPad/tablet, and DVD player/gaming sys­tem with DVD player). I could burn a DVD for stu­dents if that was their only access, but that hasn’t been necessary.

Step 4: In the class­room, I cre­ated a lap­top work­sta­tion for stu­dents who did not com­plete the assign­ment at home, which has been the biggest strug­gle in the whole process. Before they were able to engage in the hands-on activ­i­ties, they had to com­plete the flipped assign­ment.  I’m very con­scious of the fact that many of my stu­dents will not com­plete lengthy assign­ments, so I have tried to limit each flipped assign­ment to 5 min­utes or less, includ­ing a short fill in activ­ity for account­abil­ity. The pur­pose of flip­ping a class­room is to gain more time, so avoid spend­ing time going over what the stu­dents were required to do at home, even if they didn’t do it! Before long they will real­ize that the flipped assign­ments are manda­tory, and will have them com­pleted when they enter the class­room.  The five minute video at home has given me an extra 15–20 min­utes in class because I do not have time spent redi­rect­ing dis­trac­tive behav­iors or tran­si­tion­ing between activities.

Step 5: I have found that some very cre­ative teach­ers have already made (and posted to YouTube and SchoolTube) some awe­some videos that I posted to my site so I didn’t have to rein­vent the wheel. To do this, I down­loaded Screen Cast-O-Matic. This soft­ware enables you to record what you are show­ing on your screen. For exam­ple, if I want to move the mouse and high­light some­thing impor­tant on a web­site or pre­sen­ta­tion, it is recorded so that I can upload it to my web­page as a video.

Step 6: Be your­self! Your kids know you and your teach­ing style, so when cre­at­ing your own video, don’t worry about it being per­fect. Chances are the kids will pay more atten­tion if there are a few “bloopers”!

I will con­tinue to hone this tech­nique because I have wit­nessed the ben­e­fits of flip­ping for me as a teacher, and for my stu­dents. Flip­ping has given me a huge advan­tage of spend­ing time inter­act­ing and teach­ing kids as they are apply­ing con­tent, instead of teach­ing and hop­ing they “got it” so that they can com­plete assign­ments at home. Flip­ping is a win-win for my stu­dents and me.

 

Joy

 

 

 

Anne Joy has a Bachelor’s Degree in ele­men­tary edu­ca­tion from Texas Tech Uni­ver­sity with a spe­cial­iza­tion in his­tory and a Life/Earth sci­ence cer­ti­fi­ca­tion, grades 6–12. She has taught in Texas for over 10 years and has spent the last 8 years teach­ing 7th grade sci­ence. Anne has served as an APS Fron­tiers in Phys­i­ol­ogy Fel­low and Men­tor. To read more about Anne’s expe­ri­ence flip­ping a 7th grade sci­ence class­room, visit her web­site.

 

May 13th, 2014
Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS): An Overview

The Next Gen­er­a­tion Sci­ence Stan­dards is cur­rently a hot topic in K-12 edu­ca­tion with a num­ber of states who are debat­ing adopt­ing or have already done so. This month the LifeSc­iTRC invited Com­mu­nity Mem­ber Geor­gia Everett, who is a high school and under­grad­u­ate edu­ca­tor with hands-on NGSS expe­ri­ence, to explain these stan­dards to our K-12 Edu­ca­tor Community.

 What are the Next Gen­er­a­tion Sci­ence Standards? 

The Next Gen­er­a­tion Sci­ence Stan­dards (NGSS) are built off of the Frame­work for K-12 Sci­ence Edu­ca­tion which was devel­oped by the National Research Coun­cil.  The stan­dards progress stu­dents on top­ics in Life Sci­ence, Earth Sci­ence, Phys­i­cal Sci­ence and Engi­neer­ing & Tech­nol­ogy through­out ele­men­tary, mid­dle and high school.  They involve 7 con­cep­tual shifts that include mak­ing con­nec­tions to real world and prepar­ing stu­dents for col­lege, career, and cit­i­zen­ship while also mak­ing con­nec­tions to Com­mon Core State Stan­dards in Math and ELA. They focus on a pro­gres­sion of learn­ing while putting a spot­light on the sci­ence prac­tices that have fallen by the way­side over the years.

What are the Goals of the Next Gen­er­a­tion Sci­ence Standards?

A major goal of the NGSS is to approach sci­ence learn­ing from three dimen­sions; Dis­ci­pli­nary Core Ideas (focused on life sci­ence, phys­i­cal sci­ence, earth & space sci­ence, and engi­neer­ing & tech­nol­ogy), Sci­ence & Engi­neer­ing Prac­tices, and Cross­cut­ting Con­cepts (focuses on things that can be seen across all dis­ci­plines not just sci­ence as well as across grade bands).  By effec­tively using these three dimen­sions, stu­dents work towards mas­tery of per­for­mance expec­ta­tions which are the stan­dards.  Each per­for­mance expec­ta­tion includes clar­i­fi­ca­tion as well as assess­ment bound­aries to keep con­sis­tency when inter­pret­ing what is and is not being inferred in the standard.

 Who is Using the Next Gen­er­a­tion Sci­ence Standards?

Twelve states have already agreed to adopt the NGSS, and are plan­ning on slowly work­ing towards incor­po­rat­ing the stan­dards into their state cur­ricu­lum.  (It is impor­tant that I note: NGSS are not cur­ricu­lum. They are the final goal and out­come, but do not tell how to get there.) Achieve has encour­aged states to take their time when decid­ing if and when to adopt.  They do not want to see the same issues that were faced with the Com­mon Core State Stan­dards when they were released. They also want to have teach­ers, admin­is­tra­tors, and state lead­ers to be edu­cated on how to prop­erly work with and use the NGSS.

Where Can I Find More Infor­ma­tion about the Next Gen­er­a­tion Sci­ence Standards?

If you would like to find out more about how to read and get famil­iar with the NGSS there are a vari­ety of tools out there. The Con­cord Con­sor­tium has a web­site that helps teach­ers cre­ate a path through NGSS.  For you apple users, there is an NGSS app that allows you to search the stan­dards using the Dis­ci­pli­nary Core Ideas, Top­ics, Con­cept Pro­gres­sion, or Domains. You can also find other resources related to NGSS in the LifeSc­iTRC.

Any Addi­tional Thoughts on the Next Gen­er­a­tion Sci­ence Standards?

With the amount of time and effort that teach­ers across the nation (includ­ing myself) have put into read­ing, revis­ing, and work­ing on resources for NGSS, I hope that they are a huge suc­cess! When prop­erly uti­lized the Next Gen­er­a­tion Sci­ence Stan­dards can help us strengthen the edu­ca­tion of all our future sci­en­tists, espe­cially the next gen­er­a­tion of physiologists.


everett

 

 

 

 

Geor­gia Everett has taught var­i­ous lev­els of life sci­ence classes in Indi­ana rural schools for the last 12 years at the sec­ondary level. For the last 8 years, she has also been an adjunct fac­ulty mem­ber with Ivy Tech Com­mu­nity col­lege teach­ing Anatomy & Phys­i­ol­ogy.  Geor­gia has served on a review team for the Next Gen­er­a­tion Sci­ence Stan­dards and helped deliver pro­fes­sional devel­op­ment to other teach­ers about the NGSS. She has also pre­sented at NSTA about teach­ing inquiry and sta­tis­ti­cal analy­sis in the sci­ence classroom.

April 2nd, 2014
Introducing the New Life Science Teaching Resource Community

lifesci-box-highresNew Com­mu­nity

We are pleased to wel­come you to the new Life Sci­ence Teach­ing Resource Com­mu­nity, pre­vi­ously the Archive of Teac­ing Resources. Our goal is to pro­vide you with a free online envi­ron­ment where you can share ideas and exper­tise with fel­low edu­ca­tors to trans­form sci­ence edu­ca­tion for your stu­dents. We will con­tinue to offer our online library of free, peer-reviewed teach­ing resources, but will now pro­vide you with more.

New Tools

The Life Sci­ence Teach­ing Resource Com­mu­nity (LifeSc­iTRC) offers a num­ber of tools that allow edu­ca­tors to share their ideas and teach­ing exper­tise including:

  • Com­mu­nity Pages with news and rec­om­mended teach­ing resources
  • Blogs focus­ing on class­room and sci­ence top­ics rel­e­vant to educators
  • Forums for educator-led discussions
  • Resource Rat­ing and Com­ment­ing areas that allow edu­ca­tors to share their expe­ri­ences of using resources
  • Monthly Newslet­ters high­light­ing com­mu­nity mem­bers, news, and resources

 

New Part­ners

In addi­tion to the new name, the LifeSc­iTRC will fea­ture three new sci­en­tific soci­ety part­ners: The Phys­i­o­log­i­cal Soci­ety, Genet­ics Soci­ety of Amer­ica, and Amer­i­can Soci­ety of Plant Biol­o­gists. These soci­eties will join the cur­rent part­ners: Amer­i­can Phys­i­o­log­i­cal Soci­ety, Human Anatomy and Phys­i­ol­ogy Soci­ety, Soci­ety for Devel­op­men­tal Biol­ogy, Amer­i­can Asso­ci­a­tion of Anatomists, Mass­a­chu­setts Soci­ety for Med­ical Research, and North­west Asso­ci­a­tion for Bio­med­ical Research in offer­ing over 6,000 free, sci­en­tif­i­cally accu­rate teach­ing resources to the community.

Our new part­ners will be adding their resources to the LifeSc­iTRC over the com­ing months, so keep an eye out for their mate­ri­als on the LifeSc­iTRC home page and in upcom­ing newsletters.

Visit Us Today and Enter Our Drawing!

To cel­e­brate the launch of our new com­mu­nity, we will be hold­ing a draw­ing for free prizes dur­ing the month of April. All you need to do by April 30 is:

  • Visit the Com­mu­nity Forums
  • Select the Forum most appro­pri­ate to the grade level you teach
  • Post a brief intro­duc­tion to the com­mu­nity and share what you hope to gain by participating

Once you have done so, you will auto­mat­i­cally be entered in our draw­ing. We hope that you will visit the LifeSc­iTRC soon and dis­cover all that we have to offer!

March 10th, 2014
Women’s History Month
Photo by George Joch / courtesy Argonne National Laboratory via Flickr.

Photo by George Joch / cour­tesy Argonne National Lab­o­ra­tory via Flickr.

March is Women’s His­tory Month and what bet­ter time to intro­duce your stu­dents to some excep­tional female sci­en­tists? Here are some short, infor­mal video inter­views of female scientists:

  • TanYa Gwath­mey – TanYa is a Post­doc­toral Fel­low at Wake For­est Uni­ver­sity School of Med­i­cine. Find out what inspired her to study phys­i­ol­ogy and what some of her other inter­ests are.
  • Car­men Tron­coso Brindeiro – Car­men is a Postodoc­toral Fel­low at Dart­mouth Med­ical School. Orig­i­nally, she didn’t like sci­ence but now she stud­ies cys­tic fibrosis.
  • Johana Vallejo – Johana is an Assis­tant Pro­fes­sor at Mid­west­ern Uni­ver­sity Col­lege of Osteo­pathic Med­i­cine who stud­ies insulin resis­tance. She pro­vides infor­ma­tion on her research and career in both Eng­lish and Spanish.

If your stu­dents get inspired and want to read about more female sci­en­tists, point them to these two Archive col­lec­tions:  Biogra­phies of Female Biol­o­gists I & Biogra­phies of Female Biol­o­gists II.

Share with the Com­mu­nity: Who are some of your favorite female sci­en­tists? Are you doing any fun activ­i­ties with your class to intro­duce them to women in STEM careers? Leave a Comment!

February 3rd, 2014
5 Pieces of Career Advice for High School Students

83893360High school is a unique time in life.  I vividly recall my high school days as a period of immense per­sonal growth, tinged with a bit of fear and uncer­tainty about the future.  Many deci­sions in life are made not because we feel we are ade­quately pre­pared to make them, but because it is time to do so.  But that is life.  If you are a junior or senior, you’ve likely started get­ting ques­tions from friends, fam­ily, and teach­ers about your future.

As a high schooler, you are at a stage in which you are gain­ing increas­ing amounts of inde­pen­dence, and you are begin­ning to think seri­ously about what you want to do with your life.  Of course, that includes pon­der­ing where you will go to col­lege, what you plan to major in, and what career you hope to pursue.

If you love sci­ence, you are for­tu­nate.  Oppor­tu­ni­ties for a career in sci­ence are numer­ous and var­ied.  From teach­ing, to research, to engi­neer­ing, to med­i­cine, to admin­is­tra­tion, to count­less other voca­tions, the options are many.  These fields all have merit, and each is unique and spe­cial in its own way.

I wouldn’t be sur­prised if you’ve had peo­ple tell you what career you should go into based upon your abil­i­ties.  That’s not what I plan to do here.

Below are five sim­ple, gen­eral words of advice that should apply to you no mat­ter what field you’d like to go into:

  1. Get involved early — If you’re inter­ested in research, find a lab­o­ra­tory at your local med­ical cen­ter and ask if you can observe or par­tic­i­pate in the work.  If you’re inter­ested in teach­ing, find an ele­men­tary or mid­dle school and ask teach­ers if they would be will­ing to let you be a guest speaker once in a while.  If you’re inter­ested in med­i­cine, find a doc­tor to shadow or a hos­pi­tal to vol­un­teer at.  These are just a few exam­ples of things you can do.  Be cre­ative.  Even if you don’t end up going into those fields, col­lege admis­sions com­mit­tees and future employ­ers will be impressed that you took the ini­tia­tive to get involved.
  2. Keep your options open – As stated above, there are many career options for those who enjoy sci­ence.  Cer­tainly it is good to have a clear goal, but know that just because you have your heart set on one career now does not mean you can­not or will not change your mind later.  Be open minded, espe­cially at your cur­rent stage, and be will­ing to explore new areas.
  3. Develop a strong work ethic – Hav­ing the desire and abil­ity to work hard will serve you well no mat­ter what you do in life.  Peo­ple take note of hard work­ers, espe­cially those who are young.  Strive to be one.
  4. Make an impact – You don’t have to be famous or old or wealthy to make a dif­fer­ence in the lives of oth­ers.  Go visit elderly folks at a nurs­ing home.  Vol­un­teer at your local Sal­va­tion Army on the week­ends.  Join (or cre­ate) a school com­mit­tee that orga­nizes com­mu­nity out­reach events.  Again, be cre­ative.  Find ser­vice activ­i­ties that you enjoy tak­ing part in, and get a group together of those who share your interests.
  5. Love what you do!  It will show – Whether you are study­ing, work­ing, play­ing sports or doing some other extracur­ric­u­lar activ­ity, be pas­sion­ate about it and have a pos­i­tive atti­tude.  Peo­ple enjoy being around those who are hav­ing fun, and a pos­i­tive atti­tude is contagious.

If you’re a high schooler inter­ested in a career in phys­i­ol­ogy, which I hope you are, make sure you check out the Amer­i­can Phys­i­o­log­i­cal Society’s Careers in Phys­i­ol­ogy web­page at http://www.the-aps.org/mm/Careers/Midhigh.  Also check out the Archive’s Col­lec­tion on Biol­ogy Careers (includ­ing phys­i­ol­ogy): http://www.lifescitrc.org/collection.cfm?collectionID=2203.

Do you have any other tips from what you have learned?  Please share them in the com­ments sec­tion below.

January 15th, 2014
A New Year and New Science Education?

Happy New Year from the Archive of Teach­ing Resources!students desk

As a new cal­en­dar year starts, I like to sit and reflect on the hap­pen­ings over the past year and begin plan­ning for the future. One ben­e­fit of serv­ing as the Archive Man­ager is that I have the oppor­tu­nity to think about and see exam­ples of sci­ence edu­ca­tion from the kinder­garten to grad­u­ate level. This year has brought some BIG SHIFTS in sci­ence edu­ca­tion and the stan­dards that are rec­om­mended to be used in education.

This year, the Next Gen­er­a­tion Sci­ence Stan­dards were released for K-12 edu­ca­tion and Vision and Change in Sci­ence Edu­ca­tion con­tin­ues to spread through­out under­grad­u­ate edu­ca­tion. What makes me happy to see is that both of these doc­u­ments focus on mak­ing sci­ence student-centered, inte­gra­tive, and concept-centered. As a sci­en­tist myself, I am pleased to know that there is such a large push for the next gen­er­a­tion of stu­dents to expe­ri­ence all aspects of sci­ence and learn how it applies to their lives. How­ever, what makes me even more happy is to look back over the resources that have been sub­mit­ted by YOU, the Archive Users, and to see that you are already mak­ing sci­ence inter­ac­tive, inte­gra­tive, and applic­a­ble for the next gen­er­a­tion of stu­dents.

I tip my hat to each and every one of you for your fore­sight and vision for sci­ence edu­ca­tion. I believe the next step is to share your expe­ri­ence and wis­dom with other edu­ca­tors so we can con­tinue to improve sci­ence edu­ca­tion for all stu­dents. I hope that over the com­ing year we can work together to spread the “new” wave of sci­ence edu­ca­tion. Please con­tinue to share your resources, thoughts, and exper­tise with the Archive com­mu­nity and con­sider shar­ing this com­mu­nity with oth­ers. My New Year’s Res­o­lu­tion is to con­tinue reach­ing out to and sup­port­ing teach­ers like you.

What is your New Year’s Res­o­lu­tion? Com­ment Below.

December 5th, 2013
PhUn Times Make Great Science Outreach!

phun-color-smallPhUn Week is an annual week-long event spon­sored and encour­aged by The Amer­i­can Phys­i­o­log­i­cal Soci­ety to pro­mote sci­ence out­reach in K-12 edu­ca­tion. The event stands for Phys­i­ol­ogy Under­stand­ing, and encour­ages K-12 teach­ers to team up with higher edu­ca­tors for the pur­pose of devel­op­ing expe­ri­ences for young stu­dents to learn and explore the world of phys­i­ol­ogy. The ben­e­fit of the rela­tion­ship is the prac­ti­cal knowl­edge of design­ing and imple­ment­ing age-appropriate lessons, pro­vided by K-12 teach­ers, paired with the vast exper­tise of the sub­ject mat­ter, pro­vided by the phys­i­ol­o­gist. Together, great things can be established.

If you’re a K-12 teacher like me, the thought of attempt­ing PhUn Week for the first time is exhil­a­rat­ing, over­whelm­ing, and a lit­tle bit scary. The con­cept sounds like an incred­i­ble expe­ri­ence for stu­dents, and a per­fect oppor­tu­nity to make sci­ence come alive, but where do you start? How do you design (or some­times bor­row) activ­i­ties that will work? How do you struc­ture the event? With so much free­dom to design an event that works for you, the task can quickly turn grandiose. The best advice APS gave to me was to start small. After com­plet­ing two years of PhUn Week, I can state with con­fi­dence that it does become eas­ier to plan and to build in more lay­ers over time.

Are you con­sid­er­ing join­ing the club? This link will pro­vide all of the details from APS on how to get started and what to do:

http://the-aps.org/mm/Education/K-12/EducationProjects/PhUn-Week

In the mean­time, below is some advice I’ve gath­ered from my own expe­ri­ences of plan­ning and imple­ment­ing PhUn Week on a high school campus:

1) Know your tar­get audience

–I taught my stu­dents, then they taught ele­men­tary stu­dents, then my stu­dents had an oppor­tu­nity to learn directly from our vis­it­ing phys­i­ol­o­gist. Who do you want to involve in the event?

2) Decide on your time frame and start plan­ning early

–My cul­mi­nat­ing event was on Fri­day of PhUn Week, where 6th grade stu­dents were bussed to our cam­pus to inter­act with my high school kids, and when the vis­it­ing phys­i­ol­o­gist was avail­able to come. If you want to involve more than your own stu­dents, plan­ning early is cru­cial in order to com­plete all nec­es­sary paper­work and approval processes.

3) Don’t rein­vent the wheel

–A famil­iar phrase to teach­ers, but don’t for­get to apply it dur­ing your plan­ning. The APS site has some great resources shared by pre­vi­ous teach­ers that can be used or mod­i­fied to fit your needs. Does your phys­i­ol­o­gist have access to lab sup­plies to bor­row, or pre­vi­ous lab activ­i­ties that you can mod­ify to your tar­get audi­ence? With so many details to plan, it isn’t nec­es­sary to write all of the lessons from scratch.

 4) Iden­tify your resources, and use them

–What resources do you have avail­able that can enhance your event while reduc­ing some of the teach­ing from your plate? If your phys­i­ol­o­gist isn’t avail­able for the entire week, per­haps some grad­u­ate stu­dents can attend, or per­haps some of your room par­ents are experts in the field. Inquiry-based lessons that involve stu­dent dis­cov­ery are pow­er­ful. You shouldn’t do all of the teaching.

 5) Remem­ber that it’s about the expe­ri­ence for students

–Regard­less of the actual time you allo­cate to PhUn Week, the fact is that stu­dents are gain­ing a new expe­ri­ence to inter­act with sci­ence in a fun and mem­o­rable way. Keep it sim­ple, keep the focus on them.

Are you ready to get started? I’d love to hear your ideas! Have you par­tic­i­pated in PhUn Week before? What type of event did you estab­lish? What are some words of wis­dom you can share from your own experiences?

November 6th, 2013
Teacher Evaluation

Java PrintingEdu­ca­tion as a whole is con­tin­u­ously chang­ing and ever evolv­ing. We have progress from No Child Left Behind to Race to the Top and many oth­ers. The newest push has been the adop­tion and imple­men­ta­tion of the Com­mon Core State Stan­dards.  These stan­dards pri­mar­ily focus on Eng­lish Lan­guage Arts and Math­e­mat­ics. Included are the read­ing and writ­ing in Sci­ence and Social Studies.

As the stan­dards of edu­ca­tion are chang­ing so are the stan­dards for teach­ing. For years our stu­dents have been eval­u­ated with a high stakes test to deter­mine their abil­ity. As the rigor of the stan­dards has increased so has the need to assess teacher effec­tive­ness. In some instances the stu­dent high stakes results are used to deter­mine teacher effectiveness.

Teacher eval­u­a­tions based on instruc­tion in the class­room has become a focus for many edu­ca­tional stake­hold­ers.  The best indi­ca­tor of stu­dent achieve­ment is based on the teacher effec­tive­ness in the class­room. How­ever, the method for deter­min­ing teacher effec­tive­ness is not uni­ver­sally used. Some states have imple­mented state based teacher effec­tive­ness mea­sure­ment rubrics. The learn­ing process is an active process and meth­ods such as inter­ac­tive lec­tures are con­sid­ered as edu­ca­tional best prac­tice when teach­ing stu­dents with diverse sci­ence back­grounds. Does this edu­ca­tional prac­tice span across con­tent areas? I find myself agree­ing that an active learn­ing expe­ri­ence is a good prac­tice and more mean­ing­ful to students.

Cur­rently my role in edu­ca­tion is that I serve as a TAP Mas­ter Teacher for one cam­pus. One of my respon­si­bil­i­ties is to con­duct class­room observations/evaluations using a rubric. Based on each teacher eval­u­a­tion con­ducted, I hold an indi­vid­ual con­fer­ence to pro­vide feed­back and pro­vide sug­ges­tions to improve stu­dent achieve­ment. I am also eval­u­ated in the same man­ner as the teach­ers using the same mea­sure­ment rubric.

When I look at teacher eval­u­a­tions as a whole I look at the process from both the view of the admin­is­tra­tor as well as the teacher. From the view­point of an admin­is­tra­tor, I can see how teacher eval­u­a­tions based on actual teach­ing of stu­dents is ben­e­fi­cial, espe­cially if stu­dents are being assessed on con­tent that is to have been taught by the teacher. How­ever, some high stakes exams are not built to assess con­tent that was taught in one year and require stu­dents to think back to pre­vi­ous “taught” con­tent. Some states have revised their high stakes assess­ments to now reflect what was to be taught in that aca­d­e­mic year hence being called end of course exam/test.  From the view­point of a teacher, I can see how teacher eval­u­a­tions can also be ben­e­fi­cial if the mea­sure­ment is based upon teach­ing and remove the focus from pro­ce­dural actions that a teacher is to com­plete. The teacher eval­u­a­tions them­selves can be a tool to help to improve the qual­ity of instruc­tion being pro­vided to the students.

There are so many ques­tions to think about:

How can we have teacher eval­u­a­tions that are ben­e­fi­cial to the teach­ers while impact­ing stu­dent achieve­ment? In my expe­ri­ence, teach­ers that truly care about their stu­dents and their per­for­mance want to hear con­struc­tive crit­i­cism with sug­ges­tions for improve­ment. Many teach­ers have expressed the dis­like for “busy work” that does not impact stu­dent achievement.

What type of actions can we take to pre­pare teach­ers for the shifts we see in edu­ca­tion? I have come across this infor­ma­tion while work­ing to help pre­pare my teach­ers for the shift to the rigor of the CCSS. The Stu­dent Achieve­ment Part­ners are a non-profit orga­ni­za­tion that is work­ing to sup­port teach­ers as they are imple­ment­ing the Com­mon Core State Stan­dards. They have pro­vided free resources that were designed to help teach­ers and stu­dent achieve suc­cess with the CCSS. They have also devel­oped and pro­vided rubrics that help to deter­mine if a teacher’s les­son is com­mon core aligned.

What about if the adop­tion of the Next Gen­er­a­tion Sci­ence Stan­dards comes to your state? NGSS have been rec­om­mended to be adopted in whole with­out alter­ations. If they are adopted this could pos­si­bly impact the man­ner in which teach­ers are trained. What does that do to the account­abil­ity factor?

How will all these changes impact teacher eval­u­a­tions? Do you think that as the stan­dards have begun shift­ing so should the expec­ta­tions for teacher evaluations?

October 8th, 2013
Are you Virtual or Not? That is the Question!
Student at computer

Photo by Tom Wood­ward via Flickr.

With the pop­u­lar­ity of dig­i­tal devices, there has also been a great inter­est in online course­work. Dis­cus­sions and research are just now being done in rela­tion to their effec­tive­ness. Todays’ dig­i­tal natives are nat­u­rally attracted to the oppor­tu­nity to take courses dig­i­tally. The ques­tion is, “Is this the best way for stu­dents to learn?” espe­cially in the area of sci­ence, which by its very nature lends itself to “hands-on” activities.

As a long­time edu­ca­tor in Texas, I have seen a push for schools to con­sider more dig­i­tal text­books and online learn­ing resources. As a reviewer of some of these resources, I was some­what dis­ap­pointed in that some were noth­ing more than PDF’s of text­books with very lit­tle inter­ac­tiv­ity for the stu­dent. Most will agree that just putting the pages of a text­book online is not the answer to engag­ing stu­dents. How­ever, what about highly inter­ac­tive open-ended elec­tronic resources?

In the July 17 Jour­nal of “NATURE”, M. Mitchell Wal­drop dis­cusses the explo­sive pop­u­lar­ity of online learn­ing in Edu­ca­tion online: The vir­tual lab.  Wal­drop men­tions that this approach might be fine for lec­tures and the like but what about the hands on expe­ri­ence? Can that be taught online?

I have had the oppor­tu­nity to try some vir­tual labs with mixed reviews. My expe­ri­ence as a high school sci­ence teacher allowed me to see both sides of this issue. As a Biol­ogy teacher, I did many hands-on labs includ­ing dis­sec­tions. Over the years con­cerns about dis­sec­tions have been expressed for a vari­ety of rea­sons, the pur­pose of some of these dis­sec­tions, cost, effects on the envi­ron­ment, and just per­sonal pref­er­ences to not touch dead things. As a result of that I began to explore some of the vir­tual alter­na­tives. As I tried some of these vir­tual dis­sec­tions, some­thing was always lack­ing. How can a stu­dent feel the tex­ture or the depth required to cut? How can a stu­dent prob­lem solve if another tis­sue is in the way? (While some­thing like radioac­tiv­ity and half life would not be appro­pri­ate to work with in a high school lab and would lend itself to a vir­tual envi­ron­ment for safety issues, I feel like there are just some things that are bet­ter suited to the real thing. If I am going to be oper­ated on I want some­one who has expe­ri­enced work­ing on human tis­sue, knows how deep to cut, knows what to do if there is a prob­lem, and has not just worked on a “vir­tual” cadaver.

Is “hands on” the only way to learn a con­cept? Is there any value in “vir­tual labs”?

If you do a search online you will find sev­eral providers of vir­tual labs. Here are a few I found in rela­tion to Frog dis­sec­tion. Try some of these Vir­tual Frog dis­sec­tions and let me know what you think in the com­ments below.

http://www.mhhe.com/biosci/genbio/virtual_labs/BL_16/BL_16.html

http://frog.edschool.virginia.edu

http://froggy.lbl.gov/virtual/

 You can also find vir­tual labs in the Archive in this Vir­tual Lab Collection

Do you have any vir­tual labs that you like to use? Share below.