Instruction & Assessment

Two critical elements of effective instruction are content and pedagogy. Effective teachers have a deep understanding of the content that they are teaching and they bring a variety of proven, research-based teaching techniques to their classroom. The content that teachers choose to teach should be relevant and grade level appropriate. The way in which the content is taught should allow students to construct a lasting and deep understanding. Teacher decisions are informed by their knowledge of content, instruction, assessment, and their own students.

Instruction and assessment are two sides of the coin of learning:

Often it is hard to tell whether a particular technique or strategy serves an instructional, assessment, or learning purpose since they are so intertwined. Students are learning while at the same time the teacher is gathering valuable information about their thinking that will inform instruction and provide feedback to students about their learning (Page Keeley, Science Formative Assessment: 75 Practical Strategies for Linking Assessment, Instruction, and Learning. Corwin Press, 2008. Pg. 3).

This section contains resources that can be used to ensure that teachers develop deep content knowledge in subject areas they teach and allow those teachers to incorporate a research-based approach to facilitate student learning of that content.

I. Science Classroom Observation Guide

The Science Classroom Observation Guide establishes common language about effective science instruction, helps shape a common vision for science programs, guides individual and group reflection on instruction, and supports administrators and teachers in eliciting the collaborative involvement of their colleagues in examining instructional practices.

This tool is part of a suite of three tools, Science Classroom Observation Guide, Supporting Student Success Guide, and Professional Learning Community Observation Guide, designed to promote reflective discussions of institutional and instructional practices which will lead to continuous improvements in student understanding.

A. Introduction to Science Classroom Observation Guide (SCOG)

Purpose: The The Science Classroom Observation Guide is designed to help groups develop a shared understanding of effective science instruction. In this section you will find three PPt presentations targeting three different audiences: Elementary Teachers; Middle and High School Teachers; and Administrators. The PowerPoints and accompanying documents can be used to introduce a group to the Science Classroom Observation Guide.

Description: Groups will use video clips of classroom lessons and guided discussions to practice using the Science Classroom Observation Guide.

Note: The 'Note Taking Edition' can be copied as a pdf, or downloaded as an electronic template.

Preparation Time: 90 min

Presentation Time: 90 min

Resources:

B. Putting Science Classroom Observation Guide Into Practice

Description: The Science Classroom Observation Guide can be used by individual teachers to provide an inventory for effective instruction while planning lessons, and provide a focus for discussion with colleagues and administrators. It can also be used as a collaborative tool to provide structure for professional learning communities, peer classroom observations, and Lesson Study.

The Science Classroom Observation Guide: Note Taking Edition provides a place for observers to collect data from classroom observations. These data will aid in post-instruction discussion and reflection.

Note: The 'Note Taking Edition' can be copied as a pdf, or downloaded as an electronic template.

The Instructional Targets for Individual Teachers Form helps teachers narrow the focus of their instruction and helps observers look for specific evidence during instruction.

The Instructional Targets for Individual Teachers Form Sample provides an example of a completed form.

Resources:

II. Content for Teachers and Students

Effective teaching requires a deep understanding of the central facts, principles, ideas, and important generalizations organized within a common core of science content. An effective curriculum does not focus on facts but rather emphasizes conceptual understanding of only the most important topics. Thus, teachers must be able to identify the "big ideas," central concepts and skills, and specific ideas associated with the content they teach. To do this, teachers must be familiar with state and national documents that guide content selection and know how to effectively incorporate these documents into their curriculum.

A. Deep Content Understanding for Teachers

Teachers must have a deep understanding of the content they teach to be effective. In order to recognize student ideas as complete or incomplete, correct or incorrect, educators must have a deep foundation of factual and conceptual knowledge themselves. Educators must be able to diagnose student difficulties and guide them, through questioning or other means, in an appropriate direction. The tools and resources in this section support teachers in increasing their content knowledge.

Importance of deep content understanding of teachers

Description: The short readings in the resources listed here can be used to increase teacher content knowledge, or as a basis for discussion about the importance of deep content understanding for teachers.

Science for All Americans defines the basic knowledge that all students should acquire in a K-12 education in order to be considered scientifically literate adults.

Science Matters is a trade publication that provides interesting and comprehensible science in non-technical language.

Science Curriculum Topic Study provides a bridge between science content standards and research to curriculum, instruction, and assessment.

On pg. 91, there is a nice description of a high school integrated science teacher using SCTS to understand gravity-related content (Vignette #1).

Note: If new to SCTS, you may want to start with the Introduction to SCTS under NCOSP Tools in this website.*

Resources:

SCTS as a guide to access content

Description: Science Curriculum Topic Study provides a framework that links and aligns content, research, standards, instruction, and assessments to commonly taught science topics and processes. Science Curriculum Topic Study provides an exceptional means to make use of many of the primary content resources of the North Cascades and Olympic Science Partnership.

Pages 92-95 of SCTS describe an experienced middle school teacher using SCTS to revise a unit on biological classification (Vignette #2).

Note: If new to SCTS, you may want to start with the Introduction to SCTS under NCOSP Tools in this website.

Resources:

Adult (teacher) content

Description: Science for All Americans defines the knowledge that all adults should have acquired through a K-12 education. Science Matters is a trade publication that provides interesting and comprehensible science in non-technical language. Instructional materials and textbooks are also valuable sources for content.

Resources:
  • AAAS. Science for All Americans (web). New York: Oxford University Press, 1990.

  • Hazen, R. and J. Trefil. Science Matters. New York: Anchor Books, 1991.

  • Instructional materials: FOSS, STC, SEPUP, BSCS, etc.

  • District textbooks

B. Determining Appropriate Amount and Level of Content for Students

An effective curriculum does not focus on facts but rather emphasizes conceptual understanding of only the most important topics. Teachers must be mindful of the amount of content they are covering and the developmental level at which they are covering it.

Selecting appropriate science content

Description: Unburdening the Curriculum provides a rationale for teaching fewer topics at a deeper level. Key findings from How People Learn provide a broad overview of research on learners and learning and on teachers and teaching. Three of those findings are highlighted here because they have both a solid research base to support them and strong implications for how we teach.

Resources:

Topic specific teacher content knowledge

Description: The Science Curriculum Topic Study (SCTS) process contains elements that will help teachers improve their understanding of science content. Choose one of the 147 Topic guides.

Pages 96-97 have a description of a team of primary teachers using SCTS to identify goals for learning about life cycles (Vignette #3).

Note: If new to SCTS, you may want to start with the Introduction to SCTS under NCOSP Tools in this website.

Resources:

Science literacy

Description: The National Science Education Standards and Benchmarks for Science Literacy can be used to determine appropriate content and developmental targets. These resources present a vision of a scientifically literate populace, defining science standards for students at all levels. They address many applications in science education including teaching, assessment, content, and professional development for teachers of science.

The initial overview and chapters 1 & 2 of NSES provide an introduction to the national standards.

Resources:

Linking science literacy to the science standards

Description: PowerPoint presentation that gives a nice overview of the Benchmarks for Science Literacy and the Atlas of Science Literacy, and relates them to the Washington State Science Standards.

The Washington State Science Standards are organized around nine "big ideas" in physical, earth, and life science, and three overarching concepts (systems, inquiry, and application).

Resources:

Student learning

Description: Research on student learning should guide instruction. The Science Curriculum Topic Study (SCTS) process will help teachers improve their students' understanding of concepts, specific ideas, level of sophistication and terminology related to a topic at different grade levels. Teachers familiar with the primary resources may wish to go straight to the research base (SFAA, NSES, Benchmarks, Atlas, Making Sense of Secondary Science, etc.).

On pages 103-104, a fourth grade district team uses SCTS to examine alignment of curriculum, instruction, and assessment (Vignette #6).

Note: If new to SCTS, you may want to start with the Introduction to SCTS under NCOSP Tools in this website.

The Washington State Science Standards are organized around nine "big ideas" in physical, earth, and life science, and three overarching concepts (systems, inquiry, and application).

The Atlas of Science Literacy contains conceptual maps expressing how ideas in science are correlated. Each map has a sidebar discussion which delineates common misconceptions and associated relevant research references about those ideas.

Resources:

Connecting content (understanding content relationships)

Description: Science topics should not be taught in isolation. The Science Curriculum Topic Study (SCTS) process helps teachers improve their understanding of prerequisites for learning and connections between ideas within and across topics that can promote student understanding. Teachers familiar with the primary resources may wish to go straight to the research base (SFAA, NSES, Benchmarks, Atlas, Making Sense of Secondary Science, etc.).

See section four of each topic guide.

Note: If new to SCTS you may want to start with Science Curriculum Topic Study under Collaboration

The Atlas of Science Literacy contains conceptual maps expressing how ideas in science are correlated.

Resources:

C. Planning for Identifying and Addressing Students' Initial Ideas

In addition to clarifying content to be learned, planning for instruction should take into account the research base that describes typical initial ideas, including misconceptions, that students have (Children's Ideas in Science, etc.).

The integration of assessment throughout instruction allows teachers to track the development of student ideas over time. Some assessments generate written work that teachers can later review. Others involve observing student discussions and actions during class. The sections below provide a variety of strategies that can be used to elicit student thinking and bring their thoughts out into the open during any phase of instruction.

III. Probing for Student Understanding

Students come into the classroom with a wide set of preconceptions about how the world works; some correct, some partially correct, some incorrect. If these ideas are not directly confronted, students may fail to incorporate new concepts into their understanding and will often revert to their previously-held incorrect ideas after instruction has ended. There is a fairly extensive literature on common misconceptions that children hold. These common ideas can and should be used to inform instruction and can be incorporated during the curriculum development process. There are also methods for eliciting preconceptions held by students in specific classrooms and these can be used to inform daily classroom practice.

A. The Importance of Students' Prior Ideas

This set of strategies and tools make the case for considering the prior knowledge students have. These preconceptions must be taken into account when designing and implementing instruction.

Preconceptions (illustrations)

Description: These classroom video clips provide a rich resource that highlights the failures of our current science teaching practice as well as a discussion of what needs to be done to improve it. The "Into Thin Air" clip is excellent for illustrating how students revert to previously held incorrect ideas.

See also the Private Universe/Minds of Our Own Descriptor Matrix. (The 'Descriptor Matrix' provides annotations and descriptions of the videos. Use it to select appropriate clips for your work.)

Resources:

Preconceptions (research)

Description: The first key finding in How People Learn directly addresses research about preconceptions and specific implications for teaching are discussed.

The introductory chapters of Children's Ideas in Science and Making Sense of Secondary Science provide a rationale for addressing student preconceptions.

Resources:
  • Donovan, M.S., Bansford, J.D. & Pellegrino, J.W. How People Learn (pdf), Key Findings pg. 10-12.(1999) National Research Council, National Academy Press.

    How People Learn is also available online.

  • Driver, R., Guesne, E. & Tiberghien, A. Children's Ideas in Science. (1985) Open University Press Ch. 1 pg. 1-9; Ch. 10

  • Driver, R., Squires, A., Rushworth, P. & Wood-Robinson, V. Making Sense of Secondary Science. (1994) Routledge,
    Introduction pg. 1-8

Vignettes of students discussing prior ideas

Description: Short transcripts of children discussing scientific phenomena can provide insight into children's preconceptions and can be used to prompt discussion. These vignettes come from Children's Ideas in Science and Making Sense of Secondary Science.

Resources:
  • Driver, R., Guesne, E. & Tiberghien, A. Children's Ideas in Science. (1985) Open University Press Ch. 1 pg. 1, 7.

  • Driver, R., Squires, A., Rushworth, P. & Wood-Robinson, V. Making Sense of Secondary Science. (1994) Routledge, Introduction pg. 4-5, 11-12.

B. Identifying Typical Student Ideas (from Research)

These strategies and tools offer practical connections to the research base on commonly held student preconceptions on a variety of topics.

Science Curriculum Topic Study as a guide to identifying common prior ideas

Description: Choose a specific topic and use Science Curriculum Topic Study as a guide to sources that help identify common prior ideas around that topic.

Resources:

Understanding research into students’ prior ideas

Description: These sources characterize common misconceptions and research on student learning for a wide variety of topics. They can be used to investigate specific topics of your choice.

Children's Ideas in Science and Making Sense of Secondary Scence both contain several chapters on misconceptions about a variety of topics. "Making Sense" expands on the research contained in "Children's Ideas."

Benchmarks for Science Literacy specifies learning goals - or standards - for grades 2, 5, 8, and 12.

The Atlas of Science Literacy contains conceptual maps expressing how ideas in science are correlated. Each map has a sidebar discussion which delineates common miconceptions and associated relevant research reference about those ideas.

Resources:
  • Driver, R., Guesne, E. & Tiberghien, A. Children’s Ideas in Science. (1985) Open University Press.

  • Driver, R., Squires, A., Rushworth, P. & Wood-Robinson, V. Making Sense of Secondary Science. (1994) Routledge

  • AAAS. Benchmarks for Science Literacy (web). Chp. 15, "The Research Base." New York: Oxford University Press. 1993.

  • AAAS. Atlas of Science Literacy, Vol. 1 available online (2001) & Vol. 2 (2007). Washington: NSTA Press.

C. Strategies for Eliciting Student Ideas

Description: This set of strategies and tools supports the elicitation of student preconceptions: common techniques, assessment probes, science notebooks, questioning, observation, whiteboarding, assessments from instructional materials or research. These strategies are useful throughout learning cycles as both teacher and students monitor the status of their thinking about a science topic.

See the next sub-section (D) for supporting collaborative analysis of student thinking, and sub-section (E) for strategies to respond to students' ideas.

Resources:
  • Page Keeley, Science Formative Assessment: 75 Practical Strategies for Linking Assessment, Instruction, and Learning. Corwin Press, 2008.

Common Elicitation Techniques

Description: Page 9 of Making Sense of Secondary Science identifies several possible techniques for eliciting student ideas, including classifying written statements, using posters/whiteboards, card sorts, thought experiments, design & make, explanations/diagrams, checklist/questionnaires, predict & explain, and practical experiments. Also note example methods of addressing misconceptions in the classroom (pp. 10-12).

Resources:
  • Driver, R., Squires, A., Rushworth, P. & Wood-Robinson, V. Making Sense of Secondary Science. (1994) Routledge, pg. 9-12.

Assessment probes

Description: Effective classroom assessment probes are based on content standards together with knowledge of specific student difficulties. Probes are used to identify the variety of ideas students bring to their learning and to design and modify instruction based on these preconceptions. (From: Uncovering Student Ideas in Science, Vol. 2)

Uncovering Student Ideas in Science, Vol. 1-4: These resoiurces each contain 25 Formative Assessment Probes designed to be used during the elicitation, exploration and/or concept development stages of an instructional sequence. These probes are available for use or modification in grades K-16.

Concept Cartoon in Science Education: This resource contains cartoon style drawings about the science involved in everyday situations showing a range of viewpoints. Concept cartoons are useful in eliciting student understanding and thinking about complexity in scientific problems, confusion, and misconceptions, as well as in stimulating discussion about complexity for K-16 students.

A presentation designed to help educators develop their own asessment probes, along with accompanying documents, can be found by clicking on the SCTS and Developing Assessment Probes link.

Resources:

Science Notebooks

Description: Science notebooks can be used to help students develop, practice, refine, and articulate their science understanding, while also enhancing reading, writing, mathematics and communication skills.

Teachers also use science notebooks to assess students' understanding of discipline specific content as well as scientific processes such as making predictions, gathering evidence, analyzing data, and drawing conclusions. Science notebooks are also a venue for teachers to provide the feedback students need to improve their performance.

The Science Notebooks link includes two robust notebook resources. One is an introductory presentation on the effective use of Science Notebooks. The second presentation provides teachers with strategies for examining student entries in Science Notebooks. Both include supporting documents.

The website, www.sciencenotebooks.org, includes a vast array of student work samples which can be filtered by grade, discipline, entry type, curriculum publishers, or student contexts. In addition, writing frames, rubrics, notebook organization, and other teacher resources can be found here.

Clicking on Science notebook entry types brings you to a page on the sciencenotebooks.org website with definitions and purposes of specific notebook entry types.

Questioning

Description: The role of questioning in classrooms can be quite complex. Questioning often takes the form of a "three turn exchange" where a teacher questions, a student responds, and the teacher evaluates the student response. Questioning at this level does not generally encourage student generated questions or allow instructors to find out "what conceptions and ways of reasoning their students are using." Questioning can be used strategically to gather data on student thinking. (Text within quotation marks is from Minstrell and Van Zee, 2003)

The article Using Questioning to Assess and Foster Student Thinking explores the role of reflective discourse in a high school physics class. This article examines the central purposes and types of questions useful for learning science, as well as how the use of questions can inform instruction.

The document Questioning Strategies for Science Conceptual Understanding includes descriptions and examples of Narrow (Memory and Convergent) questions and Broad (Divergent and Evaluative) questions. How and when to ask these types of questions are included in this matrix.

The presentation Questioning Strategies in professional learning community is geared for a professional learning community focused on improving questioning techniques. This presentation uses video clips of effective science instruction in conjunction with the document Questioning Strategies for Science Conceptual Understanding.

Chapter 5 in Ready, Set, Science! offers structured support for teachers to orchestrate the discourse in their classrooms.

Resources:
  • Minstrell, Jim and Van Zee, Emily. "Using Questioning to Assess and Foster Student Thinking." Everyday Assessment in the Science Classroom. Atkin, J. Myron and Coffee, Janet e., eds. NSTA Press, 2003.

  • Michaels, S., A. Shouse, and H. Schweigruber. Ready, Set, Science! Washington: National Academy Press, 2008. Chp.5, "Making Thinking Visible: Talk and Argument"

Classroom Observations

Description: Classroom observations by peers or knowledgeable others can be useful in helping teachers understand the myriad ways students engage with and interpret the lessons they take part in. It is quite difficult to observe your own classroom objectively while you are teaching. The following tools and strategies provide powerful ways to assist teachers in understanding the dynamics of their classrooms from the learners' perspective, diagnosing student understanding, and finding strategies for revisions to classroom practice.

Lesson Study is a form of professional development grounded in classroom practice that seeks to gradually improve student learning throught structured reflection on teaching. In Lesson Study, teachers plan a lesson collaboratively, observe students during the lesson, and debrief the lesson in order to make improvements to their general practice.

The Science Classroom Observation Guide establishes common language about effective science instruction, helps shape a common vision for science programs, guides individual and group reflection on instruction, and supports administrators and teachers in eliciting the collaborative involvement of their colleagues in examining instructional practices.

The Horizon Classroom Observation and Analytic Protocol is a structured protocol for observing classroom lessons. The tool is broken into four broad categories: lesson design, lesson implementation, content addressed, and classroom culture. Each category is then further broken down into a number of key indicators. These tools can be modified to allow observers to focus on specific attributes of a lesson.

Resources:

Whiteboarding

Description: With erasable markers on 'whiteboards,' groups or individuals record their responses to prompts that elicit initial ideas, apply their thinking to new situations, analyze data, etc. Whiteboard use in a classroom can help to make thinking visible and foster discourse among students. Students are generally asked to record the consensus of their group’s ideas on the whiteboard with an explanation of their reasoning. All group members are responsible for presenting their ideas to the class. This strategy was routinely used in the NCOSP content immersion courses for teachers (see resources at right).

Resources:

Assessments Drawn from Existing Instructional Materials

Description: Many publishers include assessments within their instructional materials. The purpose and quality of these assessments vary from publisher to publisher, but generally include tools for both formative and summative assessment. These materials provide many starting points for creating relevant formative assessment tools within the context of the existing curriculum.

Assessment Resources and Questions Drawn from Research

Description: Sources of questions used with students exist throughout the research literature. These sources offer collections of questions which can be used directly or with modification for formative assessment in your classroom. These questions are effective in eliciting a rich set of student ideas.

Children's Ideas in Science, and Making Sense of Secondary Science contain many questions and summaries of children’s prior ideas about science. These resources can be used to construct assessment probes and to anticipate prior knowledge.

Common misconceptions and articulation of scientific ideas at K-12 levels, and associated research references: The Atlas contains conceptual maps expressing how ideas in science are correlated. Each map has a sidebar discussion which delineates common misconceptions and associated relevant research reference about those ideas.

Statements of expected knowledge/skills by grade band: Benchmark statements can be used to create questions to elicit prior ideas and current understandings.

Resources:
  • Driver, R., Guesne, E. & Tiberghien, A. Children’s Ideas in Science. (1985) Open University Press.

  • Driver, R., Squires, A., Rushworth, P. & Wood-Robinson, V. (Making Sense of Secondary Science. 1994) Routledge

  • AAAS. Atlas of Science Literacy, Vol. 1 available online (2001) & Vol. 2 (2007). Washington: NSTA Press.

  • Benchmarks for Science Literacy (web).

D. Making Sense of Students' Initial Ideas

The data that are generated through assessment can be difficult to interpret. These resources provide guidance for making sense of student responses or other types of evidence of student thinking (Sub-section (C) lists elicitation strategies). In the day-to-day practice of classroom assessment, teachers may often use these resources individually. However, discussion in collaborative groups can increase the depth to which student thinking can be understood. Some of the tools below are designed expressly for use in peer groups.

Strategies and Tools for Interpreting Observation Evidence

Description: Evidence of student learning doesn't always come in written form. Observations of student-student and student-teacher discourse are a rich source of evidence of student thinking. Listening, diagnosing, and responding to this evidence in the moment is a critical form of formative assessment. What are students doing? What are they thinking? The tools and resources from this sub-section support planning and debriefing for observing students in the classroom.

Resources:

Strategies and Tools for Interpreting Written Evidence

Description: The resources described here provide guidance for making sense of student written responses. Working collaboratively to analyze student work from strategically-selected lessons or units can support teachers' real-time interpretation of student work in the classroom.

Two sections of the NCOSP website provide ample resources for interpreting student work. The two sections are 'Protocols for Looking at Student Work,' and 'Using Science Notebooks to Examine Student Thinking.'

Resources:

E. Strategies for Responding to Students' Initial Ideas

Once assessment data is collected and analyzed, the results can be used to guide the modification of instruction. If this step is absent, then gains in student learning are likely to remain elusive. A cycle of assessment, improvements to instruction, and further assessment can support a positive spiral of increasing student learning. (Sub-section (C) lists elicitation strategies).

Changes to instruction may take many forms, from providing additional time for students to assimilate and reflect on new ideas to redesigning an entire instructional sequence. Making decisions about instructional change can be challenging. This section helps make connections between assessment data and instructional decisions, linking back to the 'Content' resources in Section II.

Questioning & Orchestrating Discourse

Description: Research-based resources help teachers prepare for the dynamics of in-the-moment science discourse. These resources include research on questioning and formative assessment.

Resources:

Feedback for Students' Written Work

Description: "Working Inside the Black Box..." contains research and strategies for providing effective feedback for students written work.

Resources:

IV. Constructing Understanding

In order to have lasting, deep understanding of a subject, students must be provided with opportunities to construct their own understanding. This requires teachers to teach a subject with sufficient depth while providing a foundation of factual knowledge and opportunities for conceptual understanding. When relevant content is taught in the proper framework and at sufficient depth, students will then be able to apply what was learned in new situations and learn related information more rapidly.

The Science Classroom Observation Guide describes and inventories many classroom actions where science understanding is being constructed.

A. High Quality Instruction

This set of strategies and tools highlights the characteristics of high-quality instruction, research on how people learn, and examples of effective curricula.

Constructing understanding (video)

Description: Private Universe and Minds of Our Own have video clips showing how little learning occurs when instruction does not attend to the Key Findings of How People Learn.

The Private Universe/Minds of Our Own Descriptor Matrix provides annotations and descriptions of the videos. Use it to select appropriate clips for your work.

Resources:

Identifying high-quality instruction

Description: Materials from Horizon Research, Inc. can be used to develop a common understanding of what constitutes high quality science instruction.

Constructing understanding

Description:

How People Learn - An exploration of the three Key Findings from How People Learn centered on the instructional requirements for developing student competence in an area of inquiry and content understanding.

Making Sense of Secondary Science - Two vignettes that illustrate approaches by which teachers can build students' understanding, given the students' initial ideas.

Resources:
  • Donovan, M.S., Bansford, J.D. & Pellegrino, J.W. How People Learn (pdf). (1999) National Research Council, National Academy Press, pg. 16-17.

    How People Learn is also available online.

  • Driver, R., Squires, A., Rushworth, P. & Wood-Robinson, V. Making Sense of Secondary Science. (1994) Routledge,
    Introduction pg. 10-12.

Constructing understanding (PowerPoint)

Description: A presentation that explains constructivism and discusses one key finding from How People Learn.

Resources:

Biological basis for how people learn

Description: A video that features Dr. Larry Lowery, Professor Emeritus at the University of California at Berkeley, explaining brain function as it relates to learning. Cognitive development from kindergarten through high school is discussed in a clear and concise way. This is a great tool for discussing the biological basis for using effective teaching strategies.

Constructing understanding (content immersion)

Description: Many of the content immersions during the NCOSP Summer Academies employed best practices from How People Learn. Select a section of this content, or some other high quality content that you can use, to explicitly link to the Key Findings of How People Learn.

Resources:

Constructing understanding (activity)

Description: The “Pendulum Activity” is an excellent way to engage in a compact, hands-on activity that has a content focus and quality instruction.

Resources:
  • Pendulum activity (activity from FOSS Measurement kit)

Inquiry Boards

Description: Inquiry boards are a tool that uses post-it notes and a series of poster boards as a planning organizer for teaching a process of conducting a scientific experiment. They can help students identify the variables tested in a multi-step procedure and focus on controlling those variables.

Resources:

B. Questioning Techniques

Questioning is a powerful classroom tool that can be used to foster student thinking as well as a probe for understanding and initiating inquiry. Questioning can also be used for teacher professional growth.

Questioning as a teaching tool

Description:

Using Questioning to Assess and Foster Student Thinking: This article provides an introduction to the effective use of questioning as a teaching tool. It also illustrates the importance of questioning as a teaching and learning strategy.

Ready, Set, Science!: This book clearly describes scientific discourse among students, and uses vignettes to illustrate tools and strategies that teachers use to facilitate classroom conversations around scientific problems.

Resources:
  • Michaels, S., A. Shouse, and H. Schweigruber. Ready, Set, Science! Washington: National Academy Press, 2008. Chp.5, "Making Thinking Visible: Talk and Argument." Chp.6, "Making Thinking Visible: Modeling and Representation." Chp.7, "Learning from Science Investigations."

Questioning strategies (video)

Description:

NCOSP Teacher Leader Video Clips: Two NCOSP affiliated teachers, one high school and one elementary, make effective use of questioning strategies in these videos.

Private Universe and Minds of Our Own have video clips showing how little learning occurs when instruction does not attend to the Key Findings of How People Learn. Minds of Our Own contains clips of one-on-one questioning sessions.

The Private Universe/Minds of Our Own Descriptor Matrix provides annotations and descriptions of the videos. Use it to select appropriate clips for your work.

Resources:

Embedded questions

Description: Established curricula, such as Physics by Inquiry, uses extensive embedded questioning to facilitate student thinking.

Resources:

Reform-based instructional materials

Description: Many reform-based instructional materials have example questions that can be used to promote student thinking.

The Washington State Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction's Instructional Materials Review analyzes many curriculum materials with rubrics based on How People Learn, inquiry, and the new Washington State Science Standards (2009).

Resources:

C. Assessment and Learning

Description: Many strategies and tools can be used to reveal student thinking at many points in the learning process: common techniques, assessment probes, science notebooks, questioning, observation, whiteboarding, assessments from instructional materials or research (see Section III. C., above). The tight relationship between instruction and [formative] assessment is evident when these tools and strategies are routinely used.

Resources:
  • Page Keeley, Science Formative Assessment: 75 Practical Strategies for Linking Assessment, Instruction, and Learning. Corwin Press, 2008.

V. Metacognition

Metacognition is the ability to monitor one's own understanding; evaluating when new information is consistent with current understanding and identifying when additional information is needed to further learning. Although it often takes place as an internal dialogue, children can be taught metacognitive skills. As they become more adept at monitoring their own comprehension, they rely less on teacher support and become more independent learners.

The Science Classroom Observation Guide represents and inventories many classroom actions where students are given metacognitive opportunities.

A. Incorporating Metacognition into Teaching and Learning

The last of the three key findings in "How People Learn" addresses the importance of incorporating metacognition into classroom instruction. This set of strategies and tools offers readings and video that support this research.

Metacognition (text)

Description: Use these short readings as a basis for discussion about the importance of providing students an opportunity to monitor their own learning. These readings make the case for incorporating metacognition into learning activities.

Note: If new to SCTS, you may want to start with the Introduction to SCTS under NCOSP Tools in this website.

Resources:

Metacognition (video)

Description: This short video clip shows a boy in a “metacognitive moment.” Use in combination with How People Learn reading, above.

Teacher Metacognition

Description: In 2007-08, NCOSP Teacher Leaders wrote case studies that represented and examined their own learning experiences as classroom teachers, collaborators, or teacher leaders. Three kinds of resources are available from this work:

  • Using case studies to foster professional learning
  • Resources to support case writing
  • Finished NCOSP teacher leader cases

Resources:
  • In the Collaboration drop down menu of this website, go to the Case Studies sub-section of "III. Strategies that Support Effective Collaboration."

B. Facilitating Metacognition in the Classroom

This set of strategies and tools can be used to help students learn to monitor their own thinking.

Questioning

Description:

Using Questioning to Assess and Foster Student Thinking: This article has an excellent discussion of how to use questioning to help students monitor their own learning.

Ready, Set, Science!: The vignette on pages 142-149 contains a chart, "Increasingly Sophisticated Metacognition," which represents a progression of students' and teachers' roles in developing metacognitive abilities.

Resources:
  • Michaels, S., A. Shouse, and H. Schweigruber. Ready, Set, Science! Washington: National Academy Press, 2008. Ch. 7, "Learning from Science Investigations."

Notebooking

Description: This PowerPoint presentation has slides associated with using notebooking to facilitate student metacognition. It also has examples of student work to illustrate the point.

Resources:
  • NCOSP Science Notebooks Introduction (ppt)

Immersion curricula

Description: Use parts of immersions curricula to illustrate how metacognition is incorporated into learning experiences.

Resources:

C. Assessment and Metacognition

Description: Many strategies and tools can be used to reveal student thinking at many points in the learning process: common techniques, assessment probes, science notebooks, questioning, observation, whiteboarding, assessments from instructional materials or research (see section III. C., above). The tight relationship between instruction, [formative] assessment, and metacognition is evident when these tools and strategies are routinely used.

Resources:
  • Page Keeley, Science Formative Assessment: 75 Practical Strategies for Linking Assessment, Instruction, and Learning. Corwin Press, 2008.

Making the Case for Science Education Reform

Since the National Commission On Excellence In Education released its report, A Nation at Risk in 1983, there has been continued interest among researchers, policy makers, and educators at all level as to how to remedy the "rising tide of mediocrity" in our nation’s schools. The interest in educational reform did not begin with A Nation at Risk, but the report did serve as a catalyst for many interested in providing the best academic opportunities for American students.

In this section are research articles and commentaries which provide a rationale for moving our current science education efforts toward more rigorous expectations for students and teachers, deeper rather than broader coverage, collaborative practices among educators, and a focus on formative assessment as a means to drive changes in instructional practices.

In Opportunities to Learn in American Elementary Classrooms, Robert C. Pianta and his colleagues deliver a ‘multistate observational and longitudinal study’ of U.S. elementary classrooms. The study, published in 2007, echos the findings of A Nation at Risk, concluding that most instructional support for students is “mediocre” and that the “patterns of instruction” observed were inconsistent with “aims to add depth to students’ understanding, particularly in mathematics and science.” The report states that “students most in need of high quality instruction are unlikely to experience it consistently,” in our schools.

In The Gift of Bleak Research, Mike Schmoker and Richard Allington examine Pianta’s study and plead that we not squander the opportunity the study affords us. They identify three specific “ingredients” for us to embrace in our reform efforts: 1) be willing to establish clear expectations for instruction; 2) restructure the school environment to allow teachers to work collaboratively to meet and exceed expectations; and 3) monitor teaching to ensure its effectiveness.

Inside the Black Box, by Paul Black and Dylan William, looks at education from a systems engineering perspective. This study examines 250 educational articles or chapters and concludes that standards of achievement can be raised through ongoing formative assessment, in other words, using evidence to “adapt the teaching work to meet the needs” of students.

In Depth Versus Breadth, Marc S. Schwartz and his colleagues examine the relationship between the performance of 8,310 students in college level introductory science courses to the amount and rigor of the content covered in their high school science courses. They conclude that teachers should reduce the coverage in high school science courses and aim for mastery of fewer topics.

Resources:

'Making the Case' - Presentation

Description: These PowerPoint Presentations provide viewers with a strong argument for reforming current practices in science education. There are two similar presentations, one using the topic of 'photosynthesis,' the other using the topic of 'vision,' to make the case for effective, high-quality instruction. Includes PowerPoint presentations for PD use with accompanying resources.

Purpose: 1) To understand the persistence of misconceptions and the need to change instructional practices. 2) To become familiar with resources to “Make the Case” for the need to change instructional practices in science.

Preparation Time: 90 min

Presentation Time: 90 min

Resources:

Supporting Change

Description: This PowerPoint presentation and supporting documents provide an introduction to the Concerns-Based Adoption Model (C-BAM), for understanding and supporting change within educational institutions.

Purpose: This presentation provides individuals and groups guidance and support for four goals:

1) Understand the stages people move through as they face change.

2) Learn appropriate strategies to help people depending on their stage of concern.

3) Learn about the different types of “adopters.”

4) Understand resistors and learn strategies to work with them.

Preparation Time: 90 min

Presentation Time: 90 min

Resources: