August 29th, 2014
Using the Interactive Notebook in a Secondary Science Classroom

This past school year, I committed to trying a brand new strategy for my Anatomy & Physiology and AP Biology classes – the Interactive Notebook (INB)! This is something that I have wanted to try for some time, but I could not wrap my brain around how to put it all together in my classroom. The summer of 2013, I had the opportunity to attend an Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) Summer Institute in Dallas, TX where I was extensively trained in how to implement the INB for science teachers. Let me begin by saying the INB is not an original AVID strategy, but it is a wonderful strategy to use to help students stay organized, but I am getting ahead of myself!

What is an INB?


Other than being a life-saver in my classroom, an INB is a method to help students (1) stay organized, and (2) process the information you are giving them in the classroom. There are two components that are non-negotiable, in my opinion, when developing an INB. First off, students need a table of contents to help them stay organized. Some teachers choose to have one long table of contents for the entire notebook that is positioned at the beginning and filled in as you progress throughout the year. I chose to put a new table of contents with each unit (see Figure 1, left). I wanted my students to be able to organize information according to the unit. I also used the table of contents as their grading criteria. I assessed them on writing their warm up questions and answers, having all of their assignments present, and completing student developed questions and summaries for the Cornell Notes they took for the unit. There are many ways to assess an INB, but that needs to be saved for another blog!


Fig2The second non-negotiable of an INB is determining what goes on the right and left side of the notebook.  The right side is reserved for what students should know, and the left side is reserved for how students process the information that you want them to know.  I discuss this at the very beginning of the year with my students and provide them with the two pages shown in Figure 2 (left). I will often use the “clock examples” (shown on the left side of the figure) as a way for letting students choose how they will process the information. For example, after giving notes that the students have written on the right side, I will ask the students to choose from clock example number 1 (by jesse), 3, 5, or 7 to complete on the left side to process the information they just wrote on the right side. This allows for differentiation of instruction because students choose how they are processing information based on how they learn.  Sometimes the information that is put on the left side is very deliberate and all students do the same thing, such as completing a mind map as shown in Figure 3 (below). Other times, information that is placed on the left side is a homework assignment, as shown in Figure 4 (below).












Figure 5 and 6 (below) demonstrate how to incorporate laboratory investigations into an INB. Figure 5 shows that the students completed their pre-laboratory questions on the right side, and their data tables, graphs and questions on the left side. Notice that the students taped their graph over the top of their data table. In Figure 6, students were to design their own experiment based on the results they obtained in Figure 5. They wrote their hypothesis, materials, and procedures on the right side, and the left side was for data collection, graphs, and conclusion.













 Why use an INB?

Not only is the INB a great organization tool for students, it is also a valuable organization tool for educators, as supported by Eagleton and Muller. “This organizational tool works most effectively where the teacher plans lessons as part of a unit in which student-centered activities are structured to build learning over time. These activities focus on the student’s processing information in order to build strong mental connections.” The key is to focus on how the students are processing the information. Are you going to let students choose from various clock examples based on the students’ learning style?  Are you going to push them to try something new and outside of their comfort zone? Eagleton and Muller developed a model for whole brain learning of physiology. Their research “alerted to the importance of incorporating learning strategies that make provision for the personality, information processing, and environment and instructional needs of different students.” I feel it is important that students know their learning style and how their personality fits into their learning. It is up to the teacher to provide an environment and instructional needs to reach all learning styles of his/her students. In my opinion, the INB is the perfect tool to reach all students, if the teacher uses it correctly.

How to start an INB?

As you may know, when incorporating a major new system into your classroom, it’s sometimes like taking off a band-aid – you just have to rip it off and go for it! Once I decided I would transform my classroom using an INB, I began by looking up examples online and talking with other educators that had been using this method. Using an INB forced me to think about my instruction in a new and different way.  First off, I had to determine how to give my students information that could fit on one page. This really allowed me to pare down content and get rid of some of the “fluff.”  Sometimes I would give my students multiple pages of notes that they glued on top of each other on the right side. I also had to determine how I was going to have my students process the information. Was I going to use a clock example, or would they complete an assignment or activity that is the same for all students? I added extra items such as unit calendars that they put opposite of the table of contents, and unit exam reviews which they placed on the right hand side and then completed a study guide on the left hand side.

After having used the INB for a year, there are a few changes I am going to make for the next school year, but that is what we do as teachers – reflect and revise! I am still going to assess my students’ INB on completion of their warm up questions/answers, completing their student developed questions and summaries for their notes, but now I am going to incorporate giving students’ stamps for completing certain assignments, rather than collecting each assignment. In addition, I am adding a parent feedback page at the end of the notebook. Students will be required to show their parents their notebook, discuss what they learned during the unit, and then the parents will be required to write a feedback sentence and sign the paper. I will also have a reference section at the beginning of the notebook, which I did not do last year.

If you decide to take the plunge and use an INB in your classroom, it is important that you understand to make it your own! I can give some suggestions that worked for me, but it might not work for you. You must design it in such a way that helps support your instruction.





 Jennifer Giannou-Moore is an educator, department chair, and instructional coach for the science department at Austin High School, Austin Independent School District, TX.  Jennifer lhas taught a variety of science courses over the past 13 years including Anatomy & Physiology, AP Biology, and Integrated Physics and Chemistry.

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.






 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.


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.






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 (by jesse).  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.






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 (by ifland).  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  Also check out the Archive’s Collection on Biology Careers (including physiology):

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:

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 (by jesse)? 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?