Using Graduate Science Labs for Teacher Development

In the beginning of March I wrote about using undergraduate lab exercises as a tool for community out reach and teaching. You can read that post here. In April we are trying to expand the use of graduate labs for science teacher development. Recently a School of Ed class of Masters students taking a science teaching course sat in on an graduate lab where the students were purifying genomic DNA from mammalian cells.

I asked the Ed students to write down their descriptions and reflection as to how they might take their observations of scientists practicing science process skills and apply these to their students.

Biggest Challenges In Teaching Science, Part II

Recently I asked a class what they thought their greatest challenges would be in teaching science. They came up with a great list. Here it is:

  1. Preparing students for state exams while giving students a positive outlook of science
  2. Familiarity with classroom manipulatives. How to choose right/appropiate outside readings and material.
  3. Change in mindset when moving to a learner focused teaching method. Changing nature of science based on what is currently known
  4. How to create a rubric that can be used to effectively assess students in a timely manner.
  5. How to tailor class plans, activities, and scientific language for students of different ages and different skills.
  6. Increase pressures on a teachers “teaching” time, including planning and assessment time. How to fit science into 40 minute periods?
  7. Lack of institutional commitment to science. Expense, storage and choice of science materials.
  8. How to keep students on task in the science classroom. Coming up with activities that will spark imagination and fit the curriculum.

I was taken aback at how many of these questions still dog me today when I am creating lesson plans and thinking about how to address a new topic. In fact in teaching this very Science Education class this semester, I have been wrestling with many of these same issues.

What do you think?

Concept Maps For Assessment

The concept map paper starts off with a practical question:

How can we know if students develop a coherent and scientific understanding of the important concepts? Is it possible to produce a snapshot of this understanding? In this article we address these questions by sharing some practical tips for using concept maps as a way to monitor students’ understanding.

For now the paper is available here.

If you are interested in developing concept maps as a assessment tool this article is a great place to start.

EDU 7136 Students head on to teh comments section for your reflection assigment…

Scientists at play

Science In SchoolThere is a nice piece on science skills as a focus of an activity as opposed to having the content be the focus of an activity.

For the EDU 7136 students I would like you to read this article here.

Reflect on your classroom activity where you performed some of the skills that you will be focusing on in your classroom. Please give me some feedback on how this activity worked for you. What came easily, what was difficult, where do you think your students will have the most difficulty.

Pick one of the experiments from the article above and write out what skills would be explored in such an activity. How could you improve on the activity. How could you make it your own?

Class 6 Reflections


With your learning cycle in hand your class reflection assignment is to take any k-8 science textbook that you can find and draw out a class plan with an open activity as the first item to perform. Your plan should highlight how you will engage the students in the new topic, how you will introduce information in the explain phase, and propose how you and the students will elaborate on your new knowledge.

Sadly I could not find any textbook publishers willing to share a free chapter.

Standards And The Inquiry Classroom

Performance StandardsMaybe its me, it probably is, but when I hear the word standards I feel a little uncomfortable. I feel trapped, unable to stretch or break out. No tangents, no questions just a headlong rush to check off a box indicating that I have covered the material. In taking on a science education class I had the feeling that this day would come. Well it has…

I don’t think the standards are that bad.

In looking over the old “new” standards I found a very nice incarnation of the standards, breaking the flat hierarchy that I always found so damnably mind numbing.

Have a look at the table of contents, which is refreshingly rich in examples of inquiry based activities that can be used to address the standards:

Here is the table of contents, and here is my favorite “come back can” activity.

Somehow when it is laid out this way, it all seems so simple. Well it’s not, but it is nice to see such a well done dissection of the performance standards plus commentary and work samples.

Inquiry Science in the Preschool Classroom?

Inquiry driven teaching in many ways is a recasting of what great teachers always did. The teachers that stood out in my mind were the ones that engaged the class in some way, a science project, history project, community work, something. Some action that ended-up teaching me as much as the teacher did.

Go to PBS Teachers

Go to PBS Teachers

The folks over at PBS Teachers have a treasure trove of material that I have used for my kids from age 3 and up, all the way through the college level for influenza. So I often find myself looking through to see what they have to offer. While doing so I came across an article that addresses how a teacher might engage the kindergarten crowd using techniques that are surprising centered around inquiry methods.

Read the article “Science in the Preschool Classroom“. for more…

Inquiry Based Teaching

Sometimes I start to wonder what constitutes an inquiry based approach to teaching science? Well it turns out that I am not the only one.


The folks over at the Institute For Inquiry are addressing some of these issues. The Institute is part of the Exploratorium, housed within San Francisco’s Palace of Fine Arts, the Exploratorium is a collage of hundreds of science, art, and human perception exhibits.

The Inquiry site has a great “foam activity” that helps identify the difference between inquiry based learning and other practices. It is great to see a more direct approach to help educators put an inquiry based curriculum into action.

The Nature Of Science

Science Article

NYT Science Essay

I came upon this essay today in the Times here and it really struck a chord for me. I had just been reading the introductory chapter of a textbook that I am using for a science education course and the tone of the chapter had been getting me down. The chapter started off by trumpeting the flip-flop nature of science and then moving forward to note that this inherent character of science was really not a feature of science.

Now I don’t know about you, but when I introduce myself I don’t say things like:

“Hi, I am really flawed, perhaps after meeting me you might see these flaws as a major problem, but really you will get used to it.”

“What’s your name?”

This just seems like a bad way to start a relationship, and books are a relationship. You know right off the back if you are going to get along or not and I have a bad feeling already.

Later while zipping through the Science Times today I felt relieved. Here was an author that understood the nature of science as a hive activity, moving forward by increments that are sometimes hard to see, but are nonetheless still incremental steps forward. The association of science with democracy or at least of science with free speech was a nice connection and I buy it. I think I might start with the article instead of the chapter and get the class going that way.