Is This an Authentic Engineering Activity? Resources for Addressing the Nature of Engineering With Teachers

by Jacob Pleasants, University of Oklahoma

Including engineering as part of K–12 science instruction has many potential benefits for students, but achieving those benefits depends on having classroom teachers who are well prepared to effectively implement engineering instruction. Science teacher educators, therefore, have an essential role to play in ensuring that engineering is incorporated into science instruction in productive ways. An important component of that work is developing teachers’ understanding of the nature of engineering: what engineering is, what engineers do, and how engineering is both related to yet separate from science. Teachers must understand these concepts to implement engineering design activities that authentically reflect the field. In this article, I describe a sequence of instructional activities designed to help teachers, either preservice or inservice, develop their knowledge of the nature of engineering. At the core of the instructional sequence is a set of stories that provide teachers with descriptions of authentic engineering work. Surrounding the stories are activities that help teachers draw accurate conclusions about the nature of engineering and draw out the implications of those conclusions for instructional decision-making. I provide an overview of the instructional sequence and also share details from my own work with teachers, including transcripts of classroom conversations and the impact of instruction on teachers’ knowledge.

STEM Teacher Leader Collaborative: A Responsive Professional Learning Network With Radical Hope

by Alison Mercier, University of Wyoming

Many elementary teachers in the United States receive little to no STEM-focused professional learning during an average school year. When elementary teachers do participate in professional learning opportunities focused solely on STEM teaching and learning, they are often positioned as novices in need of improvement or instruction rather than colearners and cocontributors to the learning community. In this article, I describe the STEM Teacher Leader Collaborative as one way to address current challenges in STEM-focused professional learning and as an infrastructure for responsive teacher learning. I highlight the STEM Teacher Leader Collaborative as a model of a responsive professional learning network with radical hope, describing its guiding principles and the meanings teachers make of their experience within the network.

Promoting Understanding of Several Elements of Nature of Science Using an Analogy: A Tangram Activity

by Mansour Vesali, Shahid Rajaee Teacher Training University; Noushin Nouri, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley; & Maryam Saberi, Ministry of Education, Iran

Developing a proper view of the nature of science (NOS) amongst teachers and students has been the goal of science education for decades. This article discusses an innovative activity designed for training preservice science teachers on NOS. We endorse an approach according to which several aspects of NOS can be explicitly discussed and explained. This activity is an extended version of a tangram activity introduced by Choi (2004). Aside from introducing NOS elements covered by Choi, our tangram activity also introduces the following elements: (1) theories are valid products of science, (2) the role of subjectivity and bias in science, (3) the importance of scientific community in science, (4) prediction is part of science, and (5) creativity and imagination are important in science. The activity can be used decontextualized (i.e., as a stand-alone lesson) in science methods classes, but it also has high potential to be contextualized within content related to the history of science. In this article, we provide procedures for using an analogy activity (the tangram activity) and explain how to connect each part to NOS elements. This activity was tested successfully in several science methods courses, a NOS course, and two professional development workshops.

Virtual Tools and Protocols to Support Collaborative Reflection During Lesson Study

by Randall E. Groth, Salisbury University; Jennifer A. Bergner, Salisbury University; Starlin D. Weaver, Salisbury University; & D. Jake Follmer, West Virginia University

Lesson study provides opportunities for teachers to collaboratively design, implement, and analyze instruction. Research illustrates its efficacy as a site for teacher learning. The setting for this article is a lesson study project involving preservice teachers, inservice teachers, and university faculty members. We supported collaborative reflection on practice among these individuals by using asynchronous and synchronous online tools and meeting protocols. Asynchronous online lesson-video review and tagging helped participants prepare to debrief about lessons they had implemented. Midway through one of our lesson study cycles, the COVID-19 pandemic occurred, eliminating opportunities to meet face-to-face for lesson debriefing sessions. In response, we developed and field-tested two protocols for online synchronous lesson study debriefing meetings. The protocols prompted conversations related to pedagogy, content, and content-specific pedagogy. After the debriefing sessions, lesson study group members reported improvements in their knowledge growth, self-efficacy, and expectations for student learning. We describe our use of online virtual tools and protocols to contribute to the literature on ways to support collaborative reflection on practice.

Supporting Inservice Teachers’ Skills for Implementing Phenomenon-Based Science Using Instructional Routines That Prioritize Student Sense-making

by Amy E. Trauth, University of Delaware; & Kimberly Mulvena, Colonial School District

Widespread implementation of phenomenon-based science instruction aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) remains low. One reason for the disparity between teachers’ instructional practice and NGSS adoption is the lack of comprehensive, high-quality curriculum materials that are educative for teachers. To counter this, we configured a set of instructional routines that prioritize student sensemaking and then modeled these routines with grades 6–12 inservice science teachers during a 3-hour professional learning workshop that included reflection and planning time for teachers. These instructional routines included: (1) engaging students in asking questions and making observations of a phenomenon, (2) using a driving question board to document students’ questions and key concepts learned from the lesson, (3) prompting students to develop initial models of the phenomenon to elicit their background knowledge, (4) coherent sequencing of student-led investigations related to the phenomenon, (5) using a summary table as a tool for students to track their learning over time, and (6) constructing a class consensus model and scientific explanation of the phenomenon. This workshop was part of a larger professional learning partnership aimed at improving secondary science teachers’ knowledge and skills for planning and implementing phenomenon-based science. We found that sequencing these instructional routines as a scalable model of instruction was helpful for teachers because it could be replicated by any secondary science teacher during lesson planning. Teachers were able to work collaboratively with their grade- or course-level colleagues to develop lessons that incorporated these instructional routines and made phenomenon-based science learning more central in classrooms.

Eliciting and Refining Conceptions of STEM Education: A Series of Activities for Professional Development

by Emily A. Dare, Florida International University; & Elizabeth A. Ring-Whalen, St. Catherine University

Integrated STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education is becoming increasingly common in K–12 classrooms. However, various definitions of STEM education exist that make it challenging for teachers to know what to implement and how to do so in their classrooms. In this article, we describe a series of activities used in a week-long professional development workshop designed to elicit K–12 teachers’ conceptions of STEM and the roles that science, technology, engineering, and mathematics play in STEM education. These activities not only engage teachers in conversations with peers and colleagues in a professional development setting but also enable teachers to reflect on their learning related to STEM education in the context of creating lesson plans and considering future teaching. In addition to describing these activities, we share suggestions related to how these activities may be used in venues outside of professional development.

Reflection in Action: Environmental Education Professional Development with Two Cohorts

by Lauren Madden, The College of New Jersey; Louise Ammentorp, The College of New Jersey; Eileen Heddy, The College of New Jersey; Nicole Stanton, The College of New Jersey; & Suzanne McCotter, The College of New Jersey

This article shares lessons learned from a 2-year environmental education professional development initiative with two cohorts. Each cohort consisted of school-based teams of elementary teachers. The professional development included a series of five workshops aimed at integrating environmental education across the curriculum, and each teacher team developed and implemented a school-based project to put these ideas into practice. The project team modified their approach between Cohorts 1 and 2 based on strengths and shortcomings of the first experience. Key takeaways to inform future professional development efforts include ensuring the timeframe of the project allows teachers to build momentum in their work, recruiting teams of teachers with diverse classroom experiences, and including presenters who can offer tangible and actionable ideas to use in the classroom.

From Theory to Practice: Funds of Knowledge as a Framework for Science Teaching and Learning

by Tyler St. Clair, Longwood University; & Kaitlin McNulty, Norwood-Norfork Central School

The phrase "funds of knowledge" refers to a contemporary science education research framework that provides a unique way of understanding and leveraging student diversity. Students’ funds of knowledge can be understood as the social relationships through which they have access to significant knowledge and expertise (e.g., family practices, peer activities, issues faced in neighborhoods and communities). This distributed knowledge is a valuable resource that might enhance science teaching and learning in schools when used properly. This article aims to assist science methods instructors and secondary classroom teachers to better understand funds of knowledge theory and to provide numerous examples and resources for what this theory might look like in practice.

Supporting Middle and Secondary Science Teachers to Implement Sustainability-Themed Instruction

by Sheron L. Mark, PhD, University of Louisville, College of Education and Human Development, 1905 S 1st Street, Louisville, KY 40292

In today’s society, we face many complex environmental, social, and economic challenges that can be addressed through a lens of sustainability. Furthermore, our efforts in addressing these challenges must be collective. Science education is foundational to preparing students with the knowledge, skills, and dispositions to engage in this work in professional and everyday capacities. This article describes a teacher education project aimed at preparing middle and secondary preservice and alternatively certified science teachers to teach through a lens of sustainability. The project was embedded within a middle and secondary science teaching methods course. Work produced by the teacher candidates, including case-study research presentations and week-long instructional plans, is described.

Using Critical Case Studies to Cultivate Inservice Teachers’ Critical Science Consciousness

by Lenora M. Crabtree, University of North Carolina Charlotte; & Michelle Stephan, University of North Carolina Charlotte

Culturally relevant and responsive science instruction includes support of students’ socio-political, or critical, consciousness. A lack of experience with marginalization, and limited attention to critical perspectives in science content and methods courses, however, may leave educators ill-equipped to address intersections of diversity, equity, and science instruction. Curriculum is needed that supports critical consciousness development among science teachers and their students. We describe an innovation, a critical inquiry case study, designed to address this essential facet of culturally relevant pedagogy. Design research methodology guided our development of an interrupted, historical case study employed as part of a four-day professional development workshop for secondary science teachers. In addition to provoking critical awareness and agency, the case study was designed to highlight ways that science itself may create or perpetuate inequities, or serve as a tool for liberation, a content-specific construct we call critical science consciousness. Implementation of the critical case study and participating teachers’ interactions with case materials are described. In addition, we highlight learning goals developed to support critical science consciousness and provide insights into ways teachers exhibited growth in each area. Teachers report heightened understanding of the role science plays in perpetuating inequities, transformations in ways they think about systemic inequities that impact students and families, and growing awareness of the possibilities inherent in teaching science for liberation.