Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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Case Studies in Science Education

Greg — Grade 6

Teacher Profile

Name Greg
Experience Student teacher in Master of Education program
Grade & Subject(s) Grade 6, all subjects
Classroom 60% Hispanic; 40% White
Demographics Urban K-8 school
Science Teaching 5 hours per week
Curriculum Specified by district
Other Participant in an accelerated program for teachers in urban and inner-city schools


Module 1 - Introducing the Case

Greg's practicum occurs in a school building that has recently been constructed and outfitted with state-of-the-art computer and telecommunications technology. The science curriculum is built around a videodisc science program that has been adopted by the school district. While he finds the content valuable, he sees the teaching mode as very limiting. Greg searches for ways to bring what he has heard referred to as a hands-on, minds-on dimension to his science classes. His goal is to incorporate more active experiences involving electricity in his upcoming science lessons.

Current Electricity Lesson

Greg launches an electricity unit with his class by viewing a lesson from a video disc. The objectives for learning include what current electricity is, what composes an electric circuit, and what makes good insulators and conductors. When he feels it is appropriate, Greg stops the player to ask questions of his students and to encourage discussion of the ideas presented on the video disc.

Discussion Questions

What issues about science teaching and learning does Greg's experience as a student teacher raise for you?

In what ways can you identify with the difficulties of bringing educational theory into real classroom practice?

What do you consider to be the critical components of a "hands-on, minds-on" science activity? "Teacher-centered" vs. "student-centered?"

Module 2 - Trying New Ideas

Greg meets with Sue Mattson of the Smithsonian Institution. Together they discuss ways to integrate individual, group, and full class strategies so that each student has an opportunity to learn with understanding. They also discuss the importance of connecting hands-on and minds-on work by having students not only use materials as part of an activity, but also by having them reflect upon and represent their learning in some way.

Greg opts to teach his next science lesson in the school's lab, where group seating arrangements exist. He believes that this setting can help him move toward a more student-centered learning environment.

On one day, groups of students are guided through the construction of series and parallel circuits. They use batteries, wires and bulbs to make their construction. The next day, Greg tries to assess students' understanding by having these same groups build "circuit boards," which involves students in making connections among recently introduced terms. He looks toward increasing attention for individual learners.

Current Electricity Lab Activities

In a lab setting, groups of students first construct series and parallel circuits, using batteries, wires and bulbs. Later, students work together to build circuit boards. Groups develop a matching activity wherein connected concept pairs are written on the front of the circuit board. Next, using tacks and wire on the rear of the board, students make a physical connection between concepts. Groups challenge one another to make the correct connections between concepts and use available components to complete a circuit that lights a bulb.

Discussion Questions

In your opinion, what evidence exists that Greg has moved toward a more "hands-on, minds-on" approach to science teaching and learning? Toward a more student-centered?

What rationale can you give for using group work as a way of increasing the possibilities for individual learning?

What are some additional ways to provide opportunities for each student to learn with understanding?

Module 3 - Reflecting and Building on Change

Greg hopes to determine how previous activities have contributed to students' present understandings of concepts involving electricity. He changes his focus from primarily full class and group work to include more individual work. But first, each student is given the time and space in which to make sense of prior hands-on activities. Next, students work together, sharing one another's ideas as they work toward group consensus. Greg looks toward a teaching career in which he continues to learn ways to create hands-on, minds-on, student-centered learning environmenst in science.

Battery And Bulb Activity

Each student is asked to think about, write about, and draw how two wires and a battery can be used to light a bulb. Next, groups of students discuss one another's ideas and develop written descriptions and drawings showing how the group thinks these materials can be used to light a bulb. Groups then gather the materials and follow their own directions for lighting the bulb. Finally, each group, followed by each student, modifies the original ideas. What do you consider to the be the most important changes Greg has made to support the individual learner?

Discussion Questions

Under what circumstances do you think a hands-on, minds-on, student-centered learning environment is fostered by full-class activities? Small group activities? Individual activities?

How would you integrate different modes of classroom organization to promote individual learning?


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