Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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The Science of Teaching Science

The goal of this series is to provide motivation, encouragement, a variety of models, and support for K-12 teachers who want to explore ways of changing how they teach science. Using video clips that take us into a broad range of classrooms, audiences are provided an opportunity to view how some teachers are approaching the teaching of science. Audiences are encouraged to reflect upon and discuss their own practices and changes they could make in their classrooms. The latest international study of science and mathematics education has found evidence of improvement in the U.S. schools, and this series aims to promote continued movement toward more authentic, engaging ways of teaching and learning.

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Workshop 1 — Preparing to Teach Science

Most K-8 teachers have not had many science and math courses and often feel as though they didn't get much out of the courses they did have. How can they be expected to teach science topics for meaningful understanding when they themselves are not sure they understand the topics? We'll look at a variety of strategies teachers use to learn as much as possible about a science topic before they teach it.

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Workshop 2 — Eliciting Students' Prior Knowledge

Why begin a lesson by eliciting students' prior knowledge? Because as many teachers know, it is essential to know what students believe at the outset in order to provide the instruction necessary to help them move toward a more scientific understanding. There are many ways of eliciting prior knowledge, including strategies such as concept mapping, pretests, and interpretation of a demonstration by students. This program will examine many of these strategies.

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Workshop 3 — Creating a Context for Learning: Observing Phenomena

In our videotapes of teachers in classrooms, we sometimes see a teacher open a science kit and ask students to start working on it without any framing or introduction. Students need time to assimilate a problem and make it their own. It helps if they can relate the problem to experiences in their everyday lives, and even better if they can formulate the questions. We will see video clips of teachers trying to incorporate student questioning into their lessons.

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Workshop 4 — Supporting Good Data Collection

One of the things that sets science activities apart from other endeavors is the care with which observations are made and data is recorded. If it is possible and relevant, a scientist will measure and quantify: How long did it take? How many are required?, etc. Children need support in collecting careful data. Thinking through the entire process in advance and making sure to provide the students with good tables and charts prepared for data collection can make the task much more manageable. We will look at ways to do this.

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Workshop 5 — Summarizing, Comparing, and Interpreting Results

Although students generally work together in small groups in hands-on science classes, there are times when all-class discussions are valuable. Summarizing, comparing, and interpreting often involves the whole class. We will see examples of teachers using both small group and whole class approaches to teaching science and discuss when each may be appropriate.

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Workshop 6 — Special Considerations

Hands-on science classes involve all the challenges of regular classrooms and add some additional ones besides. This program will focus on some of the things we must think about in teaching science:

  1. Working with diverse student populations
  2. Stimulating interest in science among minorities and girls
  3. Using scientific vocabulary only as necessary
  4. Helping students believe their voices are valued
  5. Promoting student discussion yet keeping it focused
  6. Eliminating sexism and racism
  7. Treating students with respect
  8. Facilitating learning with multiple learning modalities

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Workshop 7 — Specific Instructional Strategies

We will discuss problem-based learning as one way to approach science teaching in the context of student interests. The problems may range from finding particular information in the library to examining the effects of pollution on animal and plant life.

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Workshop 8 — Assessing Student Understanding

Embedded assessment means building assessment into the activities and classroom processes in an integral and natural manner. We will see teachers integrating many different forms of assessment into their lessons.

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