Sunday, February 28, 2010

Science Council

At my last Coaches Academy, I had the opportunity to participate, as a student, in a Fifth grade science lesson. I not only participated as a student, but throughout the process thought about the implications to teachers, and the training required to give teachers solid ground to move further into inquiry instruction. At Science Council last week, I wanted to give our six Chets Creek lead teachers who facilitate science professional development, an opportunity to experience the same thing.

I challenged them throughout our 1 1/2 hour session to keep today's essential question in mind: How will we offer teachers professional development that will prepare them for teaching the New Generation Standards with rigor in an inquiry based format?

For this Council meeting, I planned for teachers to complete an engage and explore from a 5th grade unit on weathering and erosion. I didn't want to tell them about it, or have them read about it, I wanted them to participate in the lesson just as the children would. And, throughout the process to think about the implications on teachers' professional development. So, I prepared the materials ahead of time and solicited the help of an experienced Science teacher, Rick Pinchot. We co-taught the lesson by first presenting the essential question--How does the Earth’s surface change by weathering and erosion? To read the Wind Weathering lesson, please read Day 1 of this five day inquiry.

As part of the lesson teachers participated and then later discussed the following implications.
  • The engage part of the lesson is the perfect opportunity for discussion and to activate prior knowledge on a topic. Charting the student responses and posting them in the classroom allows frequent revisiting of the students' knowledge, permits the easy addition of responses as new learning occurs throughout the unit. In addition, it gives the teacher the opportunity to confer with students about misconceptions.

  • Teachers must build their content knowledge to offer this depth in instruction. Having probing questions readily available after students complete their experiment is helpful in taking the conversation to the necessary depth and to make connections in the content.
  • Teachers should post the testable question before each experiment and have students answer the testable question after completing the explore.

  • Teachers should always remind students to stick to the procedures of the lab as closely as possible, focus on their observations, and record their data accurately.
  • Students should work in small groups and record their data on chart paper for ease in posting so the class can compare data after the explore. Student dialogue is critical instead of recording data on an individual lab sheet to be put in a student's binder. Posting of large data done in small groups would make it easy for students to see if the experiment was conducted with validity and recorded consistently. If there are inconsistencies, it would be easy to launch into a discussion on which variables changed.

  • During the investigation, teachers should take notes on their observations. They will use these observations during follow up questioning later in the lesson.
  • After the explore, teachers should ask students probing questions to make sure they connect their learning between the experiment and wind weathering.
  • Students should answer the testable question and then you should ask four questions:
    What did I change? (independent variable) What did you enter as data? (dependent) What remained the same for each set up? (constants) What did we use as the control? (control)

  • After the explore and discussion of the variables, the teacher should ask students what could be done to improve the investigation. Students can then think deeply about variables and what could change to limit the variables. It allows them to reflect on good scientific procedures and gives them the opportunity to think about scientific precision.

Unfortunately, due to limited time, we did not, as the lesson called for, go back to two of the pictures from the Engage portion to discuss wind weathering. But, we could see how this would be a powerful way to conclude the day's learning.

In closing, I asked the lead teachers to consider the following questions;
--What cognitive demand expectations are teachers not teaching?
--Where do you see any misalignment in the cognitive demand expectations?
--Are teachers teaching the learning of facts or developing understanding?
--Is the emphasis on textbooks & explaining or on active scientific inquiry & discussion?

And, I asked them to reflect on our essential question of the day, How will we offer teachers professional development that will prepare them for teaching the New Generation Standards with rigor in an inquiry based format? I don't feel like we left with answers to this question, but we certainly have begun to explore the possibilities. Our next Science Council Meeting, held in a little over a month, will launch with me asking them their thoughts on this essential question.

Until next time...

1 comment:

dayle timmons said...

What a powerful lesson. I just wish ALL the Science teachers could have participated in this lesson. This really is professional development at its best.