Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Educational Research = A.M.A.Z.I.N.G.

I recently had the very cool opportunity to take part in a lesson study that linked ONR (Office of Navy Research) researchers with high school teachers to find a way to bring their research into secondary science classrooms.  

UCSan Diego's CREATE (Center for Research on Education Equity, Assessment & Teaching Excellence) facilitated this unique opportunity.  CREATE is a "research and partnership development center" that has a "system of partners working together to support young people's development."

The task was for teachers (5 of us) to learn from a scientist about what they do and then find a way to bring this scientific research to the classroom for students to experience.  We used the 5E instructional model to create the lesson.  After we designed the lesson, we teachers delivered the lesson twice to two different classes of students.  We tweaked the lesson a bit between each delivery and collected data through formative assessments, observations, student work, etc.  The researchers from UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography and UCSD-CREATE watched what we did, took notes, asked questions, etc.

My takeaways:
  • Working with an actual research scientist was amazing!!!!   The scientist we got to work with was Anna Leese de Escobar.  This woman's research is EPIC!!!!  She works at SPAWAR.  Her research focuses on "cryogenic exploitation of RF for the war fighter."  EPIC!  Anna shared with us how her team is using extremely cold temperatures (like 4 Kelvin cold) to filter, amplify and process radio frequencies with the ability to find and listen to bad guys.  Anna's passion for science was so evident as she shared her studies.  She helped us find a way to bring her research into the classroom.  I could have listened to this physicist for hours.  She was engaging and brilliant and down to earth.  Just getting to talk to someone like Anna completely made my day.  My hat is off to Anna.  Way to represent women in the sciences!!!
  • Education research is so interesting!  I am a former research scientist.  I worked on rats, cancer research, and in crime lab.  I understand how to make and run a controlled experiment.  I know how to collect and analyze data.  I did it A LOT in my former scientist life.  But as an educator, I have not really ever participated in educational research.  Sure, I've analyzed data within my own class, from year to year, and even with my coworkers in order to develop a better lesson or pedagogical approach, but I've never done formal education research. The group used what is called the LESSON STUDY, which is a model that has teachers planning, observing then reflecting on the lesson.  Watching the researchers attempting to maintain as controlled an environment as possible was FASCINATING!  As a teacher, we want to dive right in and help kids out, clarify information, adapt on the fly.  But as a researcher, you need to repeat the same lesson, say the same words, do the same transitions, collect the same work product.  I found this VERY hard to do as a teacher...I never say exactly the same words, use the same questions, etc.  It made me realize how educational research can be so challenging.  Establishing a truly controlled environment is almost impossible to do in the everyday classroom.
  • Qualitative Data were more prevalent than quantitative data.  Most of the data that I was observing from students was qualitative in nature.  What are they doing?  How are they doing it?  Do they understand?  Are they engaged?  Can they answer the few questions?  Etc.  I could easily turn this data into quantitative information, but in order for the data to have meaning and be comparable, there has to be some sort of norm scale.  As teachers, we often times only focus on the quantitative data to see if a student gets it:  grades.  But this entire process really served as a reminder of the value of classroom observations and made me think if there was a way I could incorporate qualitative data that into the ol' gradebook, and not just as participation points.
  • Working with my peers was powerful!  I learned copious amounts of information about the EM spectrum...stuff I didn't even realize I didn't know!  Just talking to my peers, kicking around ideas, asking questions in a non-judging environment was so rewarding.  I found so many gaps in my knowledge as well as misconceptions.  The deep, philosophical discussions about science and the best way to engage students really pushed me personally and professionally.  I also really enjoyed getting to work with teachers who all came up with a different way to approach the same idea in the classroom.  It would be amazing if teachers were provided the time to do this with all major concepts of discussion in the classroom.  This is truly evidence of the power of strong PLCs.  But in truth, great discussions like this can't happen at a once a week, pre-programmed PLC meeting at school sites.  They have to be ongoing and deliberate throughout the class day and work week.
  • Real scientific research is how to nail NGSS!  Anna mentioned that she felt EM waves were a remarkable phenomena.  She said that it was what the universe created and we could study the universe through these waves.  NGSS focuses on phenomena.  The link was undeniable.  Anna, the physicist, was using the language of NGSS and Anna is not a teacher nor has she ever seen the standards.  She was the walking, talking evidence of NGSS.  So as teachers, if we can get our students to see the phenomena within the world around them, then maybe, just maybe, they can acquire a deeper and richer understanding of their world.  
  • The 5E Instructional Model, in my opinion, is common sense teaching.  I have been hearing A LOT about the 5E instructional model in recent years.  By the way, did you know this model was created in 1987 by BSCS?  I didn't.  Up to this point, I have not written a lesson with the 5E approach in mind.  For those who do not know, the 5E models do the following:  Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, Evaluate.  It really focuses on what the STUDENTS are doing. Being forced to use this model made me realize that this is just good, common sense teaching.  I was able to combine this model with my NGSS lesson plan template.  The 5Es would go into the instructional strategy area. 
    • Engage:  What phenomenon is being used to drive the lesson?  
    • Explore:  What are the students doing with that phenomenon?  How are they learning about it?
    • Explain:  Can the students create an explanation about what they are seeing?  (could use a claim, evidence, reasoning approach)
    • Elaborate:  How can the student further challenge or deepen the understanding of this phenomenon?  Experiment?  
    • Evaluate:  How can the student assess if they understand this phenomenon?

Overall, this was a fantastic opportunity.  I would strongly encourage any teacher to partake in a lesson study.  I am grateful for ONR for providing the funds and scientists to allow this to happen and I am also grateful to UC San Diego CREATE and Scripps Institution of Oceanography for allowing me to be a part of this process.  I can't wait to see other teachers’ lesson study results.

Oh...and if you are looking for another guinea pig teacher, UCSD, I'm right here!

Monday, September 5, 2016

NGSS "To Do" List

This is our first year to roll out our new NGSS Physics course.  I am currently in the classroom delivering this content, but over the next few weeks/months, I will be transitioning into one of two science TOSA roles in my district.

As I think about this incredible transition to NGSS, it hit me that the "to-do" list as a teacher, TOSA and district is tremendous.

1.  Design the new NGSS science courses.  Identify all Performance expectations (DCI, CCC and SEP)
2.  Write the new NGSS curriculum for the courses, including finding all resources, writing key assignments and assessments.
3.  Have a conversation about GRADING in an NGSS classroom.  Possibly establish a digital portfolio for students.
4.  Provide training for science teachers on TONS of stuff

  • What is NGSS
  • What does an NGSS lesson look like
  • Online data analysis, graphing resources
  • communicating in the science classroom (writing, whiteboarding, modeling, etc)
  • experimental design
  • Engineering and engineering design
  • Phenomenon
  • CCC (what they are, why they are important)
  • What are models
  • What are systems
  • Claim, evidence, reasoning
  • Writing in science
  • technology in the classroom (including science equipment)
  • projects in the classroom
5.  Training for administrators so that they understand WHAT NGSS is going to look like
6.  Develop a summer science institute
7.  Get teachers collaborating within schools and within the district.  Set up a PLC network that works!
8.  Possibly establish a monthly science newsletter
9.  Possibly establish a website for science teachers in the district to use
10.  Continued support for teachers (find out their needs, wants)
11.  Identify teacher leaders at each school site as well as within content
12.  Network with community to find STEM resources, speakers, collaborators, etc
13.  Set up a STEM night (site or district level)
14.  New teacher training (as new teachers come into the district, providing them with the necessary training to be up-to-speed on NGSS and our curriculum)
15.  Pedagogical approach to NGSS
16.  What to do with the other science courses in the district (marine, A&P, etc)
17.  Two or three years of science in the district
18.  What happens to teachers who are not credentialed in one of the 3 major areas?

This is the start of the to-do.  I am sure that it will change/transform as the year goes on.  I will come back and add as the year continues.  This is such an exciting time in science education that I want to make sure that we are focusing on the critical areas but not biting off more than we can chew.  I believe in focused goals and follow through.  Nothing is more annoying than being promised something and the delivery of the promise never coming to fruition.  We need to do this right.  We need to create and facilitate an amazing science experience for our students, for our next generation!