The Framework for Analyzing Video in Science Teacher Education and Examples of its Broad Applicability

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Arias, A., Criswell, B., Ellis, J.A., Escalada, L., Forsythe, M., Johnson, H., Mahar, D., Palmeri, A., Parker, M., & Riccio, J. (2020). The framework for analyzing video in science teacher education and examples of its broad applicability. Innovations in Science Teacher Education, 5(4). Retrieved from

by Anna Arias, Kennesaw State University; Brett Criswell, West Chester University; Josh A. Ellis, Florida International University; Lawrence Escalada, University of Northern Iowa; Michelle Forsythe, Texas State University; Heather Johnson, Vanderbilt University; Donna Mahar, SUNY Empire State College; Amy Palmeri, Vanderbilt University; Margaret Parker, Illinois State University; & Jessica Riccio, Columbia University


There appears to be consensus that the use of video in science teacher education can support the pedagogical development of science teacher candidates. However, in a comprehensive review, Gaudin and Chaliès (2015) identified critical questions about video use that remain unanswered and need to be explored through research in teacher education. A critical question they ask is, “How can teaching teachers to identify and interpret relevant classroom events on video clips improve their capacity to perform the same activities in the classroom?” (p. 57). This paper shares the efforts of a collaborative of science teacher educators from nine teacher preparation programs working to answer this question. In particular, we provide an overview of a theoretically-constructed video analysis framework and demonstrate how that framework has guided the design of pedagogical tools and video-based learning experiences both within and across a variety of contexts. These contexts include both undergraduate and graduate science teacher preparation programs, as well as elementary and secondary science methods and content courses. Readers will be provided a window into the planning and enactment of video analyses in these different contexts, as well as insights from the assessment and research efforts that are exploring the impact of the integration of video analysis in each context.

Identification of the Challenge Within Science Teacher Education

There appears to be consensus that the use of video in science teacher education (either of a teacher’s own practice or of the practice of others) can support the pedagogical development of science teachers (Abell & Cennamo, 2003; Barth-Cohen, Little & Abrahamson, 2018; Kearney, Pressick-Kilborn & Aubusson, 2015; Martin & Siry, 2012). Despite this consensus, and despite the significant amount of research that has been devoted to the use of video in science teacher education from both a theoretical and empirical standpoint, significant questions remain unanswered. For instance, in a comprehensive review of the use of video in teacher education across contexts, Gaudin and Chaliès (2015) identify critical questions that still need to be systematically explored through future research. One of these questions has been the core concern of the science teacher educators collaborating on this article: “How can teaching teachers to identify and interpret relevant classroom events on video clips improve their capacity to perform the same activities in the classroom?” (p. 57).

Our collaborative’s efforts to answer this question in a manner that is simultaneously holistic and practical have been the driving force behind the development of the Framework for Analyzing Video in Science Teacher Education [FAVSTE]. In its essence, FAVSTE focuses on what can be considered a key skillset that science teacher candidates must develop: the capacity to analyze and articulate pedagogical practice. This skillset integrates at least two critical abilities that have been identified within the science teacher education literature: noticing (Barnhart & van Es, 2015; Benedict-Chambers, 2016) and reflecting (Abell & Bryan, 1997; Hawkins & Park Rogers, 2016). A tremendous challenge faced by science teacher educators is how to progressively build such a skillset in teacher candidates across experiences within their teacher preparation programs (Martin & Siry, 2012). Specifically, as our group developed FAVSTE, we were interested in how such a framework might support a continuum of use in teacher candidate coursework and field experiences. Additionally, there was a desire to create a tool that was flexible enough to use across various teacher demographics (e.g. elementary through secondary science methods students; undergraduates and graduates in teacher preparation programs) and that, while developed for science teacher training, could potentially be implemented within other subject areas as well. In this paper, we demonstrate how FAVSTE, as well as other pedagogical tools developed and/or utilized by the collaborative, supports science teacher educators’ work with preservice and early-career teachers across a variety of contexts.

ATLAS and the Video Analysis Framework Group

In 2016, a geographically-distributed group of science teacher educators from across the U.S. was brought together through a project spearheaded by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS). The overarching goal of this collaborative was to identify best practices for using the NBPTS Accomplished Teaching, Learning And Schools™ (ATLAS) video library to support the preparation of science teachers. ATLAS ( provides a collection of authentic video cases that feature National Board Certified Teachers. ATLAS is available as a subscription service, and the cost for this service is based on the size of the subscribing organization and the length of the subscription. Each case within ATLAS includes an uninterrupted video clip from real classroom teaching, instructional materials that supported that teaching, and a commentary written by the teacher about their instructional context, planning process, analysis of the video, and reflection on the instruction. At present, ATLAS includes over 1300 video cases, including 334 cases around science instruction (91 at the elementary level and 243 at the secondary level). The collaborative formed through the NBPTS project sought to identify or develop a viable framework for guiding the use of the ATLAS video library in science teacher education and professional development.

An initial review of the literature highlighted multiple frameworks associated with the use of video analysis for teacher preparation and professional development. For instance, Chan and Harris (2005) developed a framework that outlined the cognitive activities used by teachers as they engaged in video ethnography. Van Es and Sherin’s (2002) framework provided ideas for scaffolding pre- and in-service teachers in “learning to notice” — a skill they argue is central to being able to analyze video. Van Es, Tunney, Goldsmith, and Seago (2014) and Gelfuso (2016) both devised frameworks that focused on the facilitation of video tasks, with the former emphasizing video analysis and its use with in-service teachers and the latter concentrating on video reflection and its use with pre-service teachers. Finally, Kang and van Es (2018) created a framework for addressing design principles for the use of video, including such elements as articulating broad learning goals, selecting a clip, and designing a task.

All of the above frameworks have value in relation to different aspects of using video in teacher preparation and/or professional development and are supported by research. Our collaborative believed, however, that none of these frameworks presented a holistic representation of the most critical elements that science teacher educators need to consider in order to achieve a set of specific outcomes with the use of video. These outcomes include supporting teacher candidates in developing (1) knowledge for teaching (i.e. PCK), (2) professional vision / noticing of teaching practices, (3) reflective and responsive teaching, and (4) capacity to engage in professional conversations around practice. Designing such a framework became a driving force for our collaborative.

Framework for Analyzing Video in Science Teacher Education (FAVSTE)

Our development of FAVSTE drew on existing literature on video analysis (e.g., van Es and Sherin, 2002; Jacobs, Lamb, & Philipp, 2010) as well as a consideration of our collective experiences and expertise as teacher educators. Figure 1 represents our current instantiation of the framework; for the purposes of this paper, we will highlight key aspects of it. FAVSTE has three major segments that can be identified by moving from the top to the bottom of Figure 1. The top segment has two boxes (“Factors That Influence What Teachers Attend To” and “Factors That Teacher Educators Influence Through Instructional Design”) and represents the preparation components of conducting a video analysis / reflection task with candidates. These are the factors that science teacher educators must consider as they lay the foundation for and frame the experience. These factors support the “Aspects of Noticing in Action” — captured in the middle box in Figure 1 — which denote the core set of skills to be developed in teacher candidates. These “Aspects” represent things that, in some explicit manner, need to be scaffolded and facilitated by the science teacher educator during the enactment of the task to promote effective video analysis / reflection. It is not reasonable that all FAVSTE aspects would be given attention in the same video analysis task, so the science teacher educator has to consider which one(s) will be emphasized. We have tried to describe these “Aspects” in terms of very tentative progressions from Novice to Emergent to Expert “Noticer” so that the science teacher educator can look for evidence of candidates’ progress in their capacity to analyze and articulate practice. Finally, the bottom box delineates the desired “Outcomes” if FAVSTE is used holistically and methodically across numerous video-based learning experiences – preferably across an entire teacher preparation program – so that the factors (top two boxes) and the skills (middle box) that enable these outcomes can be meaningfully developed.

(It is critical that the reader understand that the sequence represented by the vertical segments and the linear structure indicated by the arrows connecting the boxes in those different segments are not intended to convey that the relationships between the factors, skills and outcomes is one-directional or that the entire process of planning, enacting, and assessing video analysis / reflection tasks can only proceed from top to bottom. Even in our hypothetical example in the next section, we start by describing intended ‘Outcomes’, go up to the ‘Factors’ boxes to select which ones to emphasis, then move into the ‘Aspects’ (skills) box to think about how to support those during the task. The representation (Figure 1) and the description of it were just presented in this way to simplify our discussion of FAVSTE.)

Figure 1
FAVSTE Video Analysis Framework

Using FAVSTE: A Hypothetical Example

In order to help the reader better understand the framework, we offer the following hypothetical example of how FAVSTE might be used, picking a limited number of elements from the figure to feature. Consider a science teacher educator who, aligned with the professional noticing approach (Gibson & Ross, 2016; Jacobs, Lamb, & Philipp, 2010), is interested in helping her teacher candidates gain a stronger sense of how to interpret student ideas in order to decide what kinds of questions to ask in conversations around scientific phenomena. The hypothetical context for this scenario is a secondary science methods course populated by candidates from different disciplinary backgrounds; we imagine this science teacher educator determining that photosynthesis would be a good content focus from which to draw examples. She locates two ATLAS videos that provide examples of teaching related to this content: Case 2533 — Clarifying Misconceptions About Photosynthesis and Respiration and Case 2540 — Thinking Critically about Photosynthesis and the Transfer of Energy in a System. Then, using FAVSTE as a reference, the science teacher educator considers how to structure the task in which these videos will be used. She decides that, given her desired outcome of improving how candidates interpret student thinking, the Frame of Reference (For) / Lens is an important factor as candidates will need to think about the events in the video through the lens of the secondary students. She makes a note to explicitly include and activate this lens when she introduces the video analysis task. The science teacher educator has selected two cases from ATLAS as this will allow candidates to compare and analyze across cases — i.e. to engage in an Abductive Reasoning approach. In order to better support this form of reasoning, the science teacher educator contemplates Interactivity, and she decides it would be best to split her teacher candidates into two groups and have each group analyze a single case, then present the results of their analysis to the other group to allow comparisons to be made. In order to support candidates in participating more productively making decisions about questions, the science teacher educator chooses to focus on the Perspective aspect of noticing and in her introduction tells candidates to pay attention to not just what the teacher does or what the students say, but to how the interactions between the teacher and the student impinge on student learning. Finally, to push the candidates to articulate their insights from the analysis effectively in their presentations, she scaffolds them to adopt an Interpretive Stance in which they support their assertions about teacher actions and student thinking with observational evidence from the videos.

Using FAVSTE: Real Examples from the ATLAS Science Teacher Collaborative

The previous sections have presented a brief overview of FAVSTE and its application. Here, we want to provide examples of the diverse ways in which the framework has guided our own use of video in science teacher preparation. Table 1 summarizes the broad set of contexts to which we have applied FAVSTE. Included in the table are the names and email addresses of the authors describing each context in case readers want to contact them for additional information. After the table, we present five detailed, real world examples of FAVSTE use to illustrate the potential of this framework for structuring experiences with elementary and secondary science teacher candidates and to show how we have coupled it with other pedagogical tools. The specific cases from Table 1 highlighted in the five examples have the context marked in bold.

Table 1 (Click on image to enlarge)
Examples of the Breadth of Use across Science Teacher Educator Collaborative

Context 1: Elementary Science Methods Course

One of the contexts in which FAVSTE was implemented was multiple sections of an undergraduate elementary science methods course at a large Hispanic-serving public university in the southwest. This course primarily serves teacher candidates seeking their EC-6 generalist certification and ESL endorsement. However, a few K-12 SPED candidates and a few EC-6 generalist candidates with a bilingual endorsement also typically co-enroll. The course is a “floater” class in all three of these programs: for some teacher candidates, this course is the first education course that they complete, while for others, it is the last course that they take before student teaching. The course covers common reform-oriented approaches to inquiry-based elementary science teaching and learning, with an emphasis on the 5E instructional model (Bybee, 2014). Most of the teacher candidates self-report that their prior experiences as science students emphasized direct-instruction models of teaching and led to negative perceptions of their capabilities both as students of science and as teachers of science.

The Task Used to Support Key Learning Outcomes

For this methods course, one major challenge is helping teacher candidates develop a new vision for what elementary science can look and sound like. Most of these candidates have not had previous experiences in classrooms that actively position elementary students as the authors of scientific knowledge. In addition, most also eventually teach in school districts that use the 5E cycle to structure elementary lessons. Consequently, we structure our video analysis sessions around video clips that exemplify transformational teaching practices across the 5E cycle: using anchoring events to engage students’ funds of knowledge, structuring student-led explorations and data collection, supporting small-group construction of evidence-based explanations, and guiding whole-class discussion and revision of explanations.

These video analysis sessions follow a general instructional sequence that we have refined over years of working with different populations of teacher candidates. The five activities within this sequence are described in Figure 2, and each of these activities offers candidates a different entry point into making sense of science teaching and learning. However, we have found that the full 5-step instructional sequence is not essential for every video analysis session. Instead, we use this instructional sequence flexibly to respond to the specific needs of the teacher candidates. For example, when there are significant gaps in the candidate’s science content knowledge, we take time to engage them as “students” in a similar science activity to help address their own preconceptions before we move on to analyzing video. However, when candidates come in with significant prior knowledge about the science content in the video, we often skip this step.

Figure 2
Instructional Sequence for Elementary Methods Course

Use of FAVSTE in Designing the Task

FAVSTE provides a tool for focusing our video analysis sessions with the elementary teacher candidates. We have chosen to emphasize four specific aspects of Noticing in Action in this task: events, perspective, grain size, and chronos. This decision has helped us communicate to our teacher candidates how video analysis sessions support them in identifying and making sense of instructionally pivotal moments from a holistic perspective that is connected to educational themes such as equity and students’ trajectories of learning. In addition, we have used the section of FAVSTE detailing the “Factors that Influence what Teachers Attend To” to better anticipate the experiences and perspectives that our teacher candidates might bring into a video analysis session and adapt our instruction as needed. This section has also helped us reflect on moments when candidates seemed to regress in their noticing trajectory. In many cases, we could connect these moments to broader systems at work, such as how the environmental pressures in their language arts practicum or the local context of other courses they were taking primed candidates to attend to specific aspects of the video clip that we as science instructors considered to be less critical.

Evidence of Impact

In this context, we use FAVSTE “behind the scenes” to guide pedagogical decisions about video analysis sessions and do not directly provide it to teacher candidates. As will be seen repeatedly throughout the following examples, one powerful application of FAVSTE is as a communicative tool to support teacher educators in making intentional choices about the design of instruction. For us, the “trickle-down” impact of FAVSTE has been consistently observed in candidates’ self-reflection assignments and course evaluations, where they report on the positive impacts of the video analysis sessions. For example, one candidate reflected:

I also learned that a teacher can learn a lot by listening to student’s ideas and their prior knowledge. When watching case #1845… the teacher presented an opening question and the students discussed with one another of what they knew and what they agreed or disagreed about from their peers. This was a great way for the teacher to see what students know and to tailor the rest of the lesson to developing the aspects of a standard that is missing.

Context 2:  Secondary Science Methods Course with Intensive Field Experiences

This example took place in an undergraduate secondary science teaching program at a Midwest liberal arts university with a university-wide teacher education program. The secondary science teaching program serves majors in various science departments as well as those in science education by faculty in both Colleges of Education and Humanities, Arts and Sciences. The program integrates professional education courses and methods courses with intensive classroom field experiences prior to student teaching. This includes a 2-3 semester sequence with a general science methods course and an upper-level physical and/or life science methods course depending on the major. A module approach to video analysis has been used with teacher candidates in the upper-level methods course for the physical sciences.

The Task Used to Support Key Learning Outcomes

In the methods for teaching physical science course, students complete a number of modules in which they analyze teaching videos from ATLAS and their own teaching videos from their classroom field experiences to provide evidence for effective science teaching practices in alignment with the 5E Learning Cycle (Bybee, 2014) and the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). A set of five modules were developed that incorporated FAVSTE and the pedagogical approach of the course and applied these to instructional strategies introduced within the context of video analysis. These modules were spread out across the semester with the first four modules focused on teaching videos of secondary science teachers from the ATLAS resources and the last module focused on candidates’ own teaching videos from their classroom field experiences. A summary of the module approach implemented is provided in Table 2.

Table 2

Summary of Module Approach to Video Analysis

Use of FAVSTE in Designing the Task

The first module served as an introduction and exploration to the ATLAS resources and video analysis, with an emphasis on looking for evidence within a video case of teaching in alignment with the NGSS. Candidates first explored the various video cases, frameworks, and collections available. They then examined the commentary, background, and instructional materials for an ATLAS video case that focused on building the ability to observe periodic trends in a high school chemistry course. The candidates were asked questions that supported them in being able to attend, interpret, and decide in relation to critical events within the video. In this context, a critical incident is a moment during teaching that either significantly impacted the way that classroom events unfolded or revealed insights about the skills of the teacher. After individually completing this first module, the candidates discussed their ideas in small groups and shared their results from these discussions in class. The second module utilized a similar template but with a different focus (see Table 2). The third and fourth modules focused on effective questioning and used a slightly different format. In the third modules, candidates developed individual, group, and class lists of criteria for effective questioning strategies from the video cases they analyzed.  In the fourth, candidates used the effective questioning list to identify the effective questioning strategies employed in a video case. For the fifth (and final) module, students transitioned from the ATLAS videos to their own teaching video.

Evidence of Impact

Although the candidates had been engaged in intensive field experiences since the beginning of their teacher education program, the analysis of the ATLAS videos provided them with opportunities to observe effective science teaching practices that they have yet to witness in their field experience classrooms. Candidates commented that the teaching videos modeled how the science teacher could facilitate discussions involving both teacher-student and peer-peer interactions. The focus on FAVSTE in analyzing the teaching videos in a modular format provides students with a number of opportunities to help develop proficiency in professional noticing to gain insights on the effective science practices being modeled.

The transition for candidates from analyzing the ATLAS videos to analyzing their own classroom teaching videos using the FAVSTE framework is essential for students to go beyond just evaluating their teaching based on what they have done well and what they need to work on.  Future activities could support candidates’ capacity to incorporate the attending, interpreting, and deciding aspects of the FAVSTE into their reflections on their own teaching outside the use of these modules.

Incorporating video analysis in a module format provides an example of how video analysis can be embedded in a course with alignment to the pedagogical approach of the course. The module format can be applied to any instructional strategy that is being introduced and reinforced in a methods course — and the FAVSTE can help to structure the module design.

Context 3: Secondary Science Student Teaching Seminar

This example took place in a MAT in Secondary STEM Education program at a large Midwest university. The program is designed to last three semesters, with a general STEM methods course in the summer semester, a discipline-specific methods course in the fall semester and a STEM student teaching seminar in the spring. The author for this example (Author 2) had taught the candidates in both the fall and spring methods courses, using FAVSTE to design and implement the video analysis tasks used in each (~6 per course) and the Professional Noticing Template (See Supplemental Material A) to scaffold the skills addressed by the tasks. Author 2 also was the instructor for the spring student teaching seminar, where one of the key outcomes was for candidates to transfer the professional noticing skills they had developed when analyzing others’ videos in the methods courses to reflections on videos of their own teaching in the student teaching seminar.

The Task Used to Support Key Learning Outcomes

In the spring student teaching seminar, candidates regularly video recorded themselves when teaching and selected two videos (one in each half of the student teaching semester) for more formal reflection. The assignment description clarified that the video should be of a learning experience in which students were exploring a scientific phenomenon and that the candidates had the opportunity to facilitate conversation around making sense of a phenomenon. The candidates were to identify a critical incident (Tripp, 2011) in the video, then complete a formal reflection on that event using the Critical Incident Reflection (CIR) form (see Supplemental Material B). Although the CIR form had been used for several years prior to its use in this course, it was modified to better align with the Professional Noticing Template; those modifications were guided by FAVSTE.

Use of FAVSTE in Designing the Task

The Critical Incident Reflection (CIR) form was developed by a group of education researchers at Georgia State University (Calandra, Brantley-Dias, Lee & Fox, 2009). While it can be a powerful scaffold for deeper reflection (Jay & Johnson, 2002), the connections between the reflecting that it supported and the noticing supported by the Professional Noticing Template were not necessarily obvious to the teacher candidates. Thus, the CIR form was revised to make the connections more apparent; FAVSTE was consulted in developing these revisions. For instance, the Position section was re-written to highlight the need to surface candidate’s beliefs that “might be influencing this interpretation [of the critical incident].” This revision was designed to highlight the Stance and Beliefs elements of the ‘Aspects of Noticing’ component of FAVSTE, as well as their inter-relationship.

Evidence of Impact

The candidates in the student teaching seminar struggled initially in transferring their noticing skills to reflecting on their own and each other’s videos. It seems apparent that this was largely a function of the emotional connection to their own practice and the concern with being critical of their peers (Bopardikar, Borowiec, Castle, Doubler, Win, & Crissman, 2019). By the time the second set of CIR discussions took place during the seminar, candidates had overcome these issues and their conversations – and reflections – were more meaningful. As an example of where the candidates were at this point, a statement from Michael during the discussion of his CIR is provided; it came after one of his peers pointed out a flaw in a student’s thinking to which he had not attended in the moment of teaching:

Uh, and I noticed, watching it back, it’s like, man, right after I start talking again … nobody’s quite as engaged as they were before that. And I think it’s probably somewhat due to the fact that there’s a lot being said there, and I don’t really try to digest any of it. [Laughs] I just kind of push forward with my own kind of driving, uh, driving ideas of where I want the conversation to go, rather than letting it play out with what they’ve said and evaluating what’s being brought up.

Michael recognized that he had not attended to a student idea that could have been a useful starting point for a more engaging class discussion. Just as importantly, in the written CIR form submitted after the seminar conversation took place, Michael translated that into beliefs that could better guide his response to and interpretation of students’ ideas in the future:

Science, at its core, deals with answering questions and making sense of the world around us. For students, the notion that science can be questioned, evaluated, and improved is usually something that must be encouraged and developed over a period of time. The competing ideas (as well as the numerous conceptions present in student statements) presented during this incident was something I did not notice in the moment during the lesson. I was simply trying to “keep the ship afloat” as the class conversation progressed. Because of this mindset, I overlooked a real opportunity for a meaningful moment for the entire class to evaluate important ideas from their classmates.

Noticing is a critical part of the professional practice of being a science teacher. A teacher’s beliefs about teaching and learning can either undermine or support the application of skills such as noticing. Michael’s reflection shows that he made that connection and could restructure his beliefs about attending to student ideas as needed.

Context 4: Secondary Science MAT Program

In this example, FAVSTE provided a framework for faculty and external school partners to reconceptualize candidate preparation and graduation expectations in a MAT program for career changers. During the first year of this three-year program leading to 7-12 certification, teacher candidates take courses on adolescent development and subject-area pedagogy. The first year includes 50 observation hours as well as a cross-curricular methods class where teacher candidates present short lessons to faculty and their class colleagues. Years two and three require the candidate to be a classroom teacher of record with college faculty providing onsite mentoring four times each semester; once each semester the candidates video record a lesson they are teaching to be evaluated by faculty proficient in the candidates’ content area.

The Task Used to Support Key Learning Outcomes

Initially, the ATLAS videos were incorporated into the first-year science methods course. The videos served as a model of what to look (i.e. attending) for when completing the 50 classroom observation hours. Without a student teaching component prior to having their own classroom, models of best practice in the content area are critical to candidates’ understanding of how pedagogy informs practice. When the initial cohort of ATLAS users moved to their second year in the MAT program, ATLAS videos became part of the second content methods class. Here the focus became more analytical as candidates became teachers of record responsible for analyzing videos of their own classroom teaching. The ATLAS videos also play a role in the MAT capstone course. The culminating assignment requires candidates to compare teachers in two ATLAS videos to each other as well as to the candidate’s own practice. The reflection must be evidence-based, analytical, connected to issues of pedagogy and practice beyond what is observed in the videos, and be grounded in professional, state, and MAT program standards.

Use of FAVSTE in Designing the Task

Becoming familiar with FAVSTE allowed MAT faculty to use the noticing trajectory to frame candidate expectations for video use across the program. The first-year methods class now focuses on the novice trajectory, the second year focuses on the emergent trajectory, and the capstone experience incorporates the expert trajectory traits with specific emphasis on evidenced-based analysis and relations to broader educational issues.

Evidence of Impact

FAVSTE provides faculty and students, both within the science courses and across disciplines, vocabulary and benchmarks for clear and consistent analysis of candidate progress.  Noticing connotes awareness and awareness becomes more astute with the knowledge and perspective candidates gain as they move through the program. FAVSTE allows analysis of candidates’ pedagogical awareness and praxis within a developmental trajectory. Although currently used in content methods classes and the capstone course, faculty are discussing how FAVSTE can inform clinical courses. By clarifying language and expectations, FAVSTE is a useful tool in meeting program outcomes across secondary certification areas.

Context 5: Secondary Science Student Teaching in a MA and EDD Program

This example took place concurrently in a Masters’ Program which leads to state licensure in Secondary Science Education and a Doctoral Program which leads to preparation in Science Teacher Education at a large east coast university. The program is designed to cover the middle school to high school continuum across two semesters, with disciplinary science coursework and corresponding methods course and fieldwork focusing on middle school in the fall and a parallel coursework focus on high school in the spring along with an intensive student teaching seminar. The Program Director co-taught and mentored the doctoral students in all of the MA courses in this sequence. The doctoral students functioned as master teachers, mentors, and University Supervisors in the student teaching seminar. We approach our work with the assumptions that teacher education is on-going and continuous throughout a teacher’s career.  We see our collaborative team effort among supervisors, faculty, student teachers, and doctoral candidates as one of the first steps in providing positive professional development which is necessary for developing efficacy, identity, and agency in the process of learning to teach (Feiman-Nemser, 2001; Luft, Roehrig, & Patterson, 2003).  Our examination of our roles in the professional learning continuum empowers us to address the lack of cohesion among the stages between and including preservice through inservice teacher learning (Knight et al., 2015; Luft et. al., 2003; Luft, 2007; Luft & Hewson, 2014).

The Task Used to Support Key Learning Outcomes

In the spring student teaching seminar, candidates utilized the video tool Vialogues in tandem with the ATLAS library, as a medium to annotate and reflect on practice as well as prepare for the high stakes edTPA (2013) assessment. In groups facilitated by the doctoral supervisor mentors and the lead faculty member, the student teachers created five video Vialogues, each with a different theme: content knowledge, planning, learning environment, instruction, and professional dispositions. The goal was to find 5 minutes of footage of their own teaching that candidates felt showed some evidence of that theme. Supervisor mentors watched their group’s video and provided annotated feedback in the video tool. After review, the supervisor mentors would collaborate with the faculty lead to discuss themes in the teacher candidates’ work. The faculty lead would then search ATLAS to identify specific cases in that fit as an exemplar to share with the candidates on the areas that needed further development, i.e. collaboration, inquiry, cooperative learning, board work, to name a few examples.

Use of FAVSTE in Designing the Task

One of the critical components of FAVSTE in the design of this activity was to provide teacher candidates a collaborative way to notice and reflect concurrently on one’s own and peers’ work. As we wanted the noticing to be “in the moment”, we felt the Vialogue tool was a necessary adjuvant component to ATLAS to facilitate the process of reflecting. We also wanted to cultivate an online community of practice that could potentially outlive the candidacy period and serve as a platform during induction for continual communication and support with the colleagues and mentors with whom they first developed these skills and trust.

Evidence of Impact

The candidates in the student teaching seminar worked in four groups to document noticing and reflecting on their own and each other’s video in five Vialogues with the themes of content knowledge, planning, learning environment, instruction, and professional development. Table 3 details the incidence of noticing, defined as number comments annotated in the video tool, across each group and theme. It is interesting to see that the area that the student teachers found most comfortable to notice and reflect upon was instruction (mean 16.25) and content knowledge (mean 16.25), followed by learning environment (mean 16.00) and then planning (mean 14.5). Upon reflection, we noted that during the formative stages of this learning activity, the concurrent access to the ATLAS master videos helped the student teachers to see themselves in a way that we were never able to fully explain to them using traditional pedagogy. We found this multi-modal approach useful and look forward to implementing it with our second cohort of student teachers this spring.

Table 3
Incidence of Noticing across each Group and Theme


As the collaborative considers our individual and collective use of FAVSTE, we have found the following: (1) FAVSTE could be applied effectively across a variety of settings, demographics, courses, and goals; (2) when used as an instructional design tool, FAVSTE provided a meaningful scaffold for teacher candidate learning; (3) the use of FAVSTE spurred innovative and varied teacher educational practices; and (4) our use of FAVSTE allowed us to test and refine conjectures regarding teacher candidates’ learning trajectories.

First, as evident in the cases presented, members of the science collaborative conduct their work in a variety of settings (e.g. large state universities and small private universities across the U. S.), work in a variety of different programs (e.g. undergraduate and graduate level programs at the elementary and secondary levels), and are housed in various colleges and departments within the university (e.g. Department of Physics, Department of Teaching and Learning, etc.). Our examples provide evidence of the flexibility of FAVSTE in the continuum of teacher professional learning and the many different contexts of teacher education. The broad utility of FAVSTE across these varied contexts suggest that it is a tool that would be useful for other teacher educators interested in using video analysis to support teacher education.

Second, by bringing together both existing literature on video analysis research (e.g., van Es and Sherin, 2002, Abell & Cennamo, 2003) and the experiences and knowledge of a team of science teacher educators with diverse perspectives and expertise, the design of FAVSTE was grounded in both research and practice. The principled use of FAVSTE allows the teacher educator to focus teacher candidates’ attention to particular elements of teaching (as exemplified by and filtered through different aspects of noticing delineated in the framework), thus breaking down the complexity of teaching into smaller, more manageable pieces that are accessible to the teacher candidate. This targeted focus supports teacher candidates’ ability to develop ways of seeing and talking about teaching practices, thus guiding their learning and development along a structured trajectory. We argue that over time this foundation has the potential to help the teacher candidate build more comprehensive knowledge and skill in relation to specific elements of practice that also simultaneously considers and coordinates the various elements of the framework into a seamless whole.

Third, given the range of instructional purposes and pedagogical structures characterizing FAVSTE use in the cases presented, the framework has been shown to be a versatile tool for structuring and scaffolding teacher candidate learning through video analysis. In addition, FAVSTE use spurred the design and implementation of innovative pedagogical structures (e.g. modules) and strategies (e.g. the explicit building over time) for supporting a teacher candidate’s ability to apply what they are learning through video analysis to their own practice (e.g. as they move from analyzing someone else’s video to analyzing their own). Through consideration of FAVSTE, the teacher educator designed meaningful tasks for teacher learning as suggested by the voices of the teacher candidates in Context 1 and Context 3. We attribute the articulation of the varied facets of noticing (e.g. perspective, stance, grain size, etc.) as being critical to spurring this innovation. As we ascertained and named the various aspects of noticing in action, we were positioned as teacher educators to break down this complex skill into constituent parts that could be more easily learned and applied by the novice. The use of FAVSTE and associated innovations spread through teacher educator programs as seen in Context 2 as well as across the institutions of our group, allowing us to build on each other’s innovations. Our intention is that other teacher educators may also be able to use and build on this work.

Finally, as teacher educators, we make intentional choices regarding which elements of the framework and/or practice to focus on. These choices are shaped by our varied contexts of use and more specifically as our consideration of details of the structure and sequence of our individual programs and where our particular courses are situated in these sequences. Our decisions therefore are implicitly, if not explicitly informed by our own conjectures regarding trajectories of teacher candidate learning (Hundley et al., 2018). As we continue to use FAVSTE as a framework, we could begin exploring which, if any, of the elements of the framework are foundational and might need to be developed by the teacher candidate prior to other elements of the framework that might require more sophisticated, nuanced, and/or contingent thinking and analysis on the part of the teacher candidate. Thus, not only was the design of FAVSTE grounded in research and practice, but the principled use of FAVSTE by teacher educators has the potential to contribute to the generation and refinement of theory and practice related to teacher candidate learning and development.

Supplemental Files



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A District-University Partnership to Support Teacher Development

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Wade-Jaimes, K., Counsell, S., Caldwell, L., & Askew, R. (2020). A district-university partnership to support teacher development. Innovations in Science Teacher Education, 5(4). Retrieved from

by Katherine Wade-Jaimes, University of Memphis; Shelly Counsell, University of Memphis; Logan Caldwell, University of Memphis; & Rachel Askew, Vanderbilt University


With the shifts in science teaching and learning suggested by the Framework for K-12 Science Education, in-service science teachers are being asked to re-envision their classroom practices, often with little support. This paper describes a unique partnership between a school district and a university College of Education, This partnership began as an effort to support in-service science teachers of all levels in the adoption of new science standards and shifts towards 3-dimensional science teaching. Through this partnership, we have implemented regular "Share-A-Thons," or professional development workshops for in-service science teachers. We present here the Share-A-Thons as a model for science teacher professional development as a partnership between schools, teachers, and university faculty. We discuss the logistics of running the Share-A-Thons, including challenges and next steps, provide teacher feedback, and include suggestions for implementation.


As the 2019 school year ends, Tennessee K-12 teachers have completed a full year of implementation with new science standards. While Tennessee did not adopt the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), the newly created Tennessee Science Standards reflect the concepts and layout of the NGSS (NGSS Lead S). The Tennessee Academic Standards for Science provide grade level guidelines that utilize the 3-Dimensional approach of Disciplinary Core Ideas, Science and Engineering Practices, and Crosscutting Concepts (Tennessee State Board of Education, n.d.). This new framework requires shifts in teachers’ pedagogy and practices in the classroom, as well as reconceptualization of science education. While the previous standards stressed science content knowledge with scientific inquiry included separately, the new standards incorporate engagement in scientific and engineering practices as a means of learning science content. Based on the Framework for K-12 Science Education (National Research Council, 2012), the new standards require teachers to not only re-evaluate the content taught, but also how students directly engage with the content. This led the university science education faculty to question and challenge: How can we support local teachers through this shift?

Overview of MAST/Share-A-Thons

With a change in standards and a need for continued support, the Memphis Area Science Teachers (MAST) group was formed. Initially, science administration at Shelby County Schools, the school district surrounding the University and the largest school district in Tennessee, contacted science education faculty at the University to discuss how the two institutions could work together. At the first meeting between faculty and district officials, a variety of topics were discussed, but the primary concern of the school district revolved around supporting teachers as they shift and transition to the new science standards. Meeting with district officials and visiting classrooms showed great things taking place in science across schools. The university faculty suggested building on what was already going well in the district and using the resource of teachers. Instead of trying to develop a formal, pre-determined series of professional development, a more flexible, informal approach might better serve the needs of the teachers. A vision was developed of teachers throughout the district coming together to share ideas and resources with each other. This vision became MAST. The goal of MAST is to establish a community of science teachers across the metropolitan area, from all grade levels, districts, and school types (public, charter, or independent). Both preservice and in-service teachers are invited to participate in MAST; because the local school district has a significant number of teachers in the field who are still earning a teaching credential, this format allows the university to provide additional support for those teachers, and to provide networking among teachers of all experience levels. This community is designed to support science teachers by facilitating the sharing of ideas, lessons, materials, and other resources.

Three pieces were developed at the founding of MAST: a website, a listerv, and regular teaching meetings we call Share-A-Thons. The website was developed as a central location for sharing information about MAST, such as meeting topics and dates, and resources, such as lesson plans or articles. Faculty from the University developed the website for MAST using free website development tools. The website serves several roles for MAST: It is the first place events like the Share-A-Thons are announced, including links to registration; resources from Share-A-Thons are available on the website; there is a section devoted to local phenomena and resources; and state and national science education resources are available. Teachers can also join the listserv and contact science education faculty through the website. The listserv is also maintained by the University, using the university infrastructure. The primary use of the listserv currently is to send out announcements about MAST events and other events or resources that would be of interest to science teachers. Any listserv member is also invited to send questions or relevant announcements to the listserv. There are currently about 150 members of the listserv. The final piece of the MAST community is the Share-A-Thon, a regular meeting of science teachers that occurs 2-3 times per semester to provide informal professional development on a wide range of topics (see Table 1). Teachers were recruited to join MAST, and attend Share-A-Thons, through existing science teaching listservs, the school districts professional development newsletters, emails directly to teachers and principals from the University as well as school district personnel, and word of mouth.

Table 1 (Click on image to enlarge)
Share-A-Thon Topics

Framework for Professional Development

With changes facing science education today, including the adoption of new national and local science standards in most states, there has been a call for flexible and ongoing approaches to professional development (PD) for science teachers (Luft and Hewson, 2014). New views of professional development move away from static presentations of information for teachers and toward dynamic, interactive learning opportunities between teachers and schools (Opfer & Pedder, 2011), where teachers are empowered to control their own development (Kennedy, 1999; Shapiro & Last, 2002; Wilson & Berne, 1999). Research has also pointed out importance of collaboration (Wilson and Berne 1999) and the need to relate PD to local contexts and standards (Supovitz and Turner, 2000). However, districts today are faced with challenges in delivering PD to teachers, including addressing the needs of teachers with varying levels of experience and limited resources and time. A lack of high quality PD can contribute to concerns around teacher retention, achievement, and quality of science instruction. For example, many teachers in the primary grades demonstrate low levels of scientific knowledge (Palmer, 2004), which impacts confidence and self-efficacy beliefs about teaching science (McDuffie, 2001).

Basing our ideas from the NGSS Framework document and the needs of our local school district, an emphasis was placed on creating and cultivating the MAST community, including the Share-A-Thons, website, and listserv, as a flexible professional development network. As the NGSS framework document stated, “The framework and subsequent standards will not lead to improvements in K-12 science education unless the other components of the system—curriculum, instruction, professional development, and assessment— change so that they are aligned with the framework’s vision” (NRC, 2012, p. 17). Our resources as a University allowed us to design and implement a professional development network that would offer continuous opportunities for growth, based on the needs of the participating teachers. With the main components of the new standards leading the way for the first meetings, topics then covered recommendations from teachers, aligning with the NGSS framework ideas on professional development that states, “professional development should not only be rich in scientific and engineering practices, crosscutting concepts, and disciplinary core ideas but also be closely linked to teachers’ classroom practices and needs” (NRC, 2012, pg. 259).

Description of Share-A-Thons

The MAST Share-A-Thons’ initial purpose was to provide professional development and to focus local educators on one topic of the new science standards and/or framework over the course of an academic school year. Another goal for the MAST Share-A-Thon was to connect local K-12 educators experiencing the same struggles and to provide a place to problem-solve together and share ideas on implementing these practices in one’s classroom. The first two Share-A-Thons were in Spring 2018, the semester before the new science standards were implemented across the state. Teachers were recruited primarily through email and word of mouth, as described above. These Share-A-Thons focused on helping teachers understand the new standards and providing a space for sharing lessons and discussing how they align to the new standards. At the Share-A-Thons, teachers were asked to provide suggestions for future topics, through conversation as well as a survey administered at the end of the Share-A-Thon. These suggestions were compiled and at the beginning of each semester, an email was sent to the listserv allowing teachers to vote on topics. The most popular topics are then chosen for the next Share-A-Thons. At each Share-A-Thon, there were between 20 and 60 participants, across all grade levels. The largest groups of teachers are usually elementary (3rd – 5th grade) and middle school. As an incentive for participation, the local school districts offer professional development credit and the University provides door prizes, such as science teaching books, class sets of markers, or classroom equipment.

An initial challenge with conducting teacher professional development experiences like Share-A-Thons is determining the days, times, and frequencies for scheduling workshops that is the most convenient for everyone across the K-12 spectrum. Due to varying time restrictions and commitments during the work week at the different grade levels, professional learning and development opportunities are generally relegated to the weekend when more teachers are available and have greater flexibility with juggling their personal commitments in order to attend. Because of this, we decided all Share-A-Thons would be held on Saturday mornings and would finish by noon so that attendees still had the afternoon free. Therefore, the Share-A-Thons were always offered on a Saturday morning from 9:00am-11:30am and were held about 3 times a semester (or about 6 times over a K-12 academic school year). Each meeting was guided around a similar structure. The meetings began with a 30 minute allowance for breakfast (provided complimentary by the university or a community sponsor), check-in/registration, and a warm up activity where the participants responded to an open-ended question on the topic (often through an online platform such as The meeting would then move into a whole group format with a general overview of that month’s topic and a small group activity which always included discussion and share out. This portion would last about for about 45 minutes. After the whole group overview, participants moved to their grade band breakout session. These small group sessions lasted at least an hour and provided participants with hands-on examples of implementing that session’s topic specifically in the grade level the participant is teaching. Another purpose of these small group sessions was to allow educators to network with other science teachers in the area in a smaller and safe setting. The grade bands included grades K-2,  3-5, 6, 7, 8, biology, chemistry, physics, and other high school level topics as needed (teachers were asked to provide their grade level/content area when registering). Following the breakout session investigations, the whole group would reconvene and share what each group experienced and ways to implement the new knowledge into their classrooms. Each MAST Share-A-Thon concluded with a review of that month’s topic with a wrap-up from a faculty member and a survey on the session.

For example, in September 2018, crosscutting concepts were the topic (see Figure 1 for the agenda from this Share-A-Thon). While checking in, participants responded, using their own laptops or Smartphones via, to the warm-up question: “What questions do you have about the TN Science Standards and Crosscutting Concepts?” This guided the beginning of the whole group discussion and led into the initial learning portion. A faculty member from the university gave an overview of the new standards and 3-dimensional science teaching and learning, based on the Framework for K-12 Science Education and focusing on the role of the crosscutting concepts. Following the overview, participants worked in pairs to sort specific scenarios/K-12 lesson topics on premade cards into the different crosscutting concept categories. Scientific talk was required and utilized during the problem solving process, as faculty circulated and facilitated conversations, and all groups shared their findings at the conclusion of the activity. At this time, participants were given seven color-coded cards, one for each of the crosscutting concepts, that were printed on cardstock to help with durability. Each of these teacher tools listed NGSS’ definition of the concept; usefulness of this concept to scientists and engineers; the science and engineering practices that are closely related; and ended with sentence starters and discussion prompts specific to the relevant crosscutting concept. Next, the meeting transitioned into breakout grade band sessions for an hour. Each session engaged teacher participants in a grade level appropriate lesson (according to student perspectives). The attendees were then provided with a written lesson plan and had to identify which crosscutting concepts were covered and exactly where in the lesson plan did this take place. Participants worked together in discussion groups to identify and explain the crosscutting concepts that were covered in the lesson. The lessons provided were aligned to the district’s pacing guide for each grade, and teachers were invited to share activities or other resources they used for addressing the same topics. Following the small group activities and immersion into that meeting’s topic, members reassembled into a whole group setting for volunteers to share what they learned and for a final review of the topic. Participants also completed monthly surveys to help determine each meeting’s usefulness and relevance.

Figure 1 (Click on image to enlarge)
Share-A-Thon Agenda

Teacher Response to Share-A-Thons

The teacher response to the Share-A-Thons has been overwhelmingly positive. Across the seven Share-A-Thons to date, there have been around 200 attendees, with a range of 11 to 40 attendees per event and many teachers attending multiple Share-A-Thons. At the end of each Share-A-Thon, teachers are asked to complete a six question online feedback survey to indicate how useful the Share-A-Thon was for them, what parts were most useful, what they would like to see in future Share-A-Thons, and any other feedback they would like to offer the organizers (Figure 2). Across all of the Share-A-Thons, 121 surveys were completed. The responses across Share-A-Thons were consistent; i.e., no one Share-A-Thon topic received significantly different responses from any of the others. Most teachers rated the Share-A-Thons “Extremely Useful” (89) or “Very Useful” (29). The Response Scale includes: “Extremely Useful,” “Very Useful,” “Moderately Useful,” “Slightly Useful,” and “Not At All Useful.”  To date, no teachers have rated the Share-A-Thons “Slightly Useful” or “Not at All Useful.”

Figure 2 (Click on image to enlarge)
Share-A-Thon Online Feedback Survey

When asked, “Which parts of the Share-A-Thons were useful?” teachers indicated that “working or talking with other teachers” was the most useful part (67 responses), closely followed by “evaluating example lessons” (60 responses) and “whole-group overviews of the topic” (49 responses);  teachers were able to select multiple responses for this section. When asked to explain why each part was useful, teachers focused on “the practicality of each section” and “being able to access resources.”  Many respondents indicated they most appreciated “having the time to talk to other teachers,” although not always about the topic of the Share-A-Thon. Teachers responded, “When I collaborate with other teachers, I always learn something new that I can implement in my class!” and “I could get ideas from other teachers to make teaching a little easier.”

Some teachers found it interesting to compare what was happening in their school or district with other schools or districts from an overall perspective, saying, for example, “It was nice to discuss with teachers from other districts about what’s working and what’s not working.”  Other teachers indicated they valued learning from other teachers in their areas saying, “It was good to hear new strategies from other teachers,” and “Loved the collaboration in the moment as we processed the resources.”  Most of this discussion with other teachers occurred during the grade band breakouts with example lessons. Teachers also indicated that this part of the Share-A-Thon was valuable as they had access to both district personnel and science education professors to discuss the lessons, further indicating that they valued the, “availability of science advisors to ask questions.”

Another common point teachers made when asked why the Share-A-Thon was useful for them was that the information provided was relevant to their teaching. This was a benefit of working strategically with a local school district in two ways. First, we were able to align the overall topics of the Share-A-Thons with the district’s science focus. Second, the example lessons provided by grade and subject not only demonstrated the overall topic, they were also aligned to the district’s curriculum pacing guide, further enabling teachers to use the lesson in their classroom within a few weeks of the Share-A-Thon. Teachers indicated that this strategic alignment made the Share-A-Thons particularly relevant and helpful noting, “The overview and lesson plans offer insight that can translate directly to classroom practice.” Teachers also said that as a result of attending the Share-A-Thon, “I have information that I can actually use.”

Teachers were also asked to describe what else they would like to see at Share-A-Thons. This information was used to directly inform future Share-A-Thons. For example, in the fall of 2018, teachers indicated that while they appreciated the example lessons provided, they did not always have the resources necessary to implement them in their classroom and asked for information on “how to implement lessons in class with least expensive products” and “how to organize materials for labs, demos, etc.”  This became the topic of a Share-A-Thon the following semester. Teachers also indicated that they wanted more information on incorporating the topics from the Share-A-Thons into their own classrooms, saying “I am struggling to fit everything…. I am curious how the implementation of the full lesson plan would look,” and “I would like to actually plan a lesson. I am responsible for training K-5 teachers on how to create and implement effective Science lessons.” Other teachers said, similarly, that they needed support around balancing the demands of the district’s pacing and testing schedule and the topics presented at the Share-A-Thons. One teacher explained that they would like, “Exploration of how to balance the demands of the 3-D model with the curriculum so that we can stay close to the expected schedule for content.”  This indicated to us that teachers wanted to move beyond learning about the changes in the standards and 3-dimensional science teaching and learning in order to incorporate these changes in their own teaching practice. As a result, we dedicated future Share-A-Thons to lesson planning and unit planning.

This feedback from teachers highlights the importance of allowing time for teachers to interact with each other to process material in professional development sessions, a key feature of the Share-A-Thons. We, as University faculty and “experts” in science education, had to provide resources around the topic and then step back to let the teachers dissect and discuss the material. Another important piece of the Share-A-Thon is responsiveness to teachers: Having district personnel attend the Share-A-Thons meant they could answer teacher questions about, for example, district resources or curriculum. Working together with the district also meant that the resources provided were immediately useful for teachers, such as using example lessons and activities that are timed with the district’s pacing guide.

Role of the School District

Partnering with a local school district was instrumental for the development and sustainability of both MAST and the Share-A-Thons. The role of the school district in this process has been three-fold: providing support, access, and complementary learning activities. First, the school district is a partner in determining topics and planning for each Share-A-Thon. At least one, and usually multiple, district representatives attend each Share-A-Thon, representing both professional development and curriculum and instruction departments in the district. Other district and school administrators, including vice-principals and instructional coaches, have also attended Share-A-Thons. Additionally, the school district is able to provide seamless access to teachers and schools to distribute information about Share-A-Thons. This is accomplished through the district’s weekly newsletters sent to teachers and administrators as well as their online professional development platforms. Finally, because the district helps to plan and attend each Share-A-Thon, they are able to ensure that we are providing consistent support to teachers across learning opportunities. Not only do we ensure that we do not duplicate information, the language used, approaches discussed, and resources provided are likewise consistent and complementary  across learning opportunities. Teachers receive professional development (PD) credit hours for attending Share-A-Thons, and the school district offers follow-up PD sessions to further build on the topics discussed.

It is important to note that even though one district has partnered with the university, other districts are invited to participate and provide feedback on the development of Share-A-Thons. Because of the nature of the metropolitan area, the other districts are much smaller and often do not have the resources to support ongoing professional development for science teachers to the same extent as the larger school district. For the initial Share-A-Thon, other school district personnel (including principals and science coaches) were contacted via listservs and direct communication and asked to share information about the Share-A-Thons with their teachers. Multiple school districts give teachers professional development credit for attending Share-A-Thons and assist in disseminating information about the Share-A-Thons. When we solicit feedback about the usefulness of the Share-A-Thons, teachers from smaller school districts, who are sometimes the only science teacher in their school or at the only high school in the district, have expressed that the value of meeting and working with other science teachers is the most valuable part of the experience. Although they often list similar challenges as teachers from larger school districts, such as adjusting to the new standards and working with limited resources, attending Share-A-Thons also helped to address the ongoing challenge of isolation experienced by teachers in their individual schools.

Role of the University

The call to educate and prepare highly qualified educators to teach STEM content warrants the urgent need to find ways to create learning opportunities and experiences for preservice and inservice teachers with meaningful, real-world applications. This effort includes strategic partnerships with local school districts and community programs (as described above) in ways that maximize teacher preparation experiences, professional development, and learning outcomes. The MAST Share-A-Thon is an alternative to the typical stand-and-deliver, one-shot workshops presented by science experts who lecture while adult learners listen passively (Author, 2011; National Research Council, 2007). The MAST Share-A-Thon actively engages teachers to participate in a long-term scope for change in science teaching and learning that reaches far beyond the careers of individual participants in order to make change that encompasses entire learning communities. To achieve this ambitious goal, the University plays a key role in developing and implementing the STEM professional development (in collaboration with the local school district) according to teachers’ identified areas of “need” or on topics/skills they want to improve in ways that increase learners’ active STEM exploration, investigation and higher order thinking. In this way, Share-A-Thons uniquely begin with what teachers’ “already know and understand” and eventually lead to “ways to expand and improve their current practices.” Teachers share their lesson plans and activities during cooperative group discussions using Socratic dialogue guided by inquiry and problem solving along with constructive feedback and teacher reflection in order to reveal new insights and multiple perspectives.

University science, early childhood, and elementary faculty play a key role in helping to guide and facilitate K-12 teachers’ STEM investigations, activities and discussions to encourage and support sense-making, practicing, modeling, and reflecting on new strategies (Yoon et al. 2007). The university faculty also strive to create a safe space where all voices and perspectives are valued, appreciated, and celebrated as community members work to improve STEM teaching practice (Counsell, 2011; Ingersoll, 2004; Wenger, 1998).

Ongoing Challenges and Next Steps

Several challenges have been identified with the MAST website and listserv. The first is maintenance: after the initial setup of both, they need regular maintenance to ensure that content and membership are up-to-date. Additionally, teachers have hesitated to email the listserv themselves, to ask questions or share information. It is currently primarily a one-way source of communication from the university science education faculty to the teaching community. Additionally, the usefulness of the website to the MAST participants in not known; although they indicate that they do visit the website for Share-A-Thon materials, in the future we would like to collect more information about what teachers would find useful in the website, for example, if they would use discussion boards or links to local resources.

An ongoing challenge experienced with Share-A-Thons pertains to the continued struggle with how to reach a broader and more diverse audience beyond the teachers who initially begin to participate. While word-of-mouth is critical and firsthand testimonies are quite valuable, they largely resulted in additional participants limited to the same schools where current participants teach. Therefore, increasing future teacher participation will include coordinated efforts to invite teacher participation with local school districts by email, flyers, and announcements on the district website and shared during school-level faculty meetings. Broadening the range of educators who serve diverse urban communities entails a need to balance different community needs and school settings in ways that includes everyone while satisfying local challenges (such as less time allocated to science; fewer resources and materials; fewer parent/grandparent volunteers).

In addition to ongoing efforts to increase K-12 teacher participation in Share-A-Thons, next steps also include diversifying the expertise of the University Share-A-Thon faculty. For example,  future Share-A-Thons will include math and English language arts (ELA) faculty to discuss how to integrate math and ELA with science. Instructional time requirements for math and ELA at the elementary levels tend to minimize instructional time allowed for science teaching. Math and ELA faculty can help teachers to see how they can easily connect and address math and ELA standards during science teaching and investigations. This enables teachers to maximize children’s overall learning experiences and learner outcomes by effectively teaching across the curriculum without excluding or prioritizing one content area more than another. Additionally, we have partnered with other on-campus groups to offer supplementary professional development for teachers, for example, the Biology Department offered Project Learning Tree Training to teachers, and will continue to grow that network.

A final challenge is in expanding the “Share” portion of the “Share-A-Thon.”  We would like to increase teacher ownership of both MAST and the Share-A-Thons, ideally developing teacher leaders to plan and facilitate some Share-A-Thons. We have started encouraging this by soliciting teacher ideas and feedback at Share-A-Thons and discussing specific topics with teachers. At the Share-A-Thons, many teachers share wonderful ideas and thoughts on the various topics. However, many teachers are still reticent to present themselves as “experts” and more work is needed to support the development of teacher leaders within MAST.

Suggestions for Implementation

Table 2 presents a general time line for implementation of a partnership like MAST. This partnership started with a brainstorming meeting between University faculty and district personnel. At the initial meeting, we noted the topics that the district seemed most in need of support: the new science standards and providing professional development for a wide range of science teachers. With that in mind, we took inventory of the resources they could offer, in terms of personnel/expertise, space, funding, materials, and technology infrastructure. We also began informal discussions with teachers about their concerns and needs, which largely echoed the conversations with district personnel. The result of this pre-planning was the start of the three pieces of MAST: The university had infrastructure in place to support the listserv and website, and initial plans for the Share-A-Thons began.

Table 2 (Click on image to enlarge)
General Time Line for Implementation

When beginning a program such as the Share-A-Thon, there are many logistical details to consider. As part of our partnership, we secured a space on the University campus. This first step is vital as the space impacts the ease and available resources for the meetings. Our goal for implementation was to make the meetings easily accessible for teachers to attend. This required checking with district personnel for any conflicts with dates and acquiring access to easy parking.

Open communication with district personnel and the attendance of district faculty at the Share-A-Thons is vital in the beginning stages and should continue throughout the program to ensure the alignment to their specific needs. After securing an easily accessible space and aligning the programming to district needs, the available University resources need to be inventoried. These include but are not limited to materials, technology, and other faculty, including graduate assistants. Finally, for teachers to attend the meetings they must first know about the meetings. Create an easy way for teachers to get information, such as a listserv or website.

The partnership with a local school district was crucial to the success of MAST in general and the Share-A-Thons in particular. The school district took several steps to help ensure this success. The first step was similar to that taken by the university: make sure the Share-A-Thons are convenient for the teachers. This involved advertising for the Share-A-Thons through existing district channels and having district personnel attend Share-A-Thons to answer district-specific questions and ensure participants received professional development credit for attending without having to complete any additional steps (district personnel simply take a copy of the sign-in sheet and enter it into their system, so there is no extra work from the teachers required). District officials were also an important piece in ensuring the Share-A-Thons met the needs of the teachers. District personnel interacted with teachers between Share-A-Thons and were aware of district and state-wide initiatives in science education. Knowing what the teachers were saying in the field and what initiatives were coming soon for teachers from the state Department of Education meant the Share-A-Thons could be planned both reactively, to address teacher concerns, and proactively, to help teachers prepare for changes in science standards, curriculum, and assessment. Finally, the school district was able to align their own professional development for teachers to the content of the Share-A-Thons, ensuring teachers received consistent messages around science teaching and learning.

Ongoing work is necessary to sustain and continue to grow this partnership. In particular, at each Share-A-Thon, teacher feedback is solicited about the Share-A-Thons and volunteers are recruited for future Share-A-Thons. Each semester, we meet with school district personnel to confirm the topics and dates for the Share-A-Thons. The website and listserv also require ongoing maintenance to make sure they are providing relevant information and reaching as many teachers as possible.


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Collaborating with Virtual Visiting Scientists to Address Students’ Perceptions of Scientists and their Work

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Grossman, B.T., & Farland-Smith, D. (2020). Collaborating with virtual visiting scientists to address students’ perceptions of scientists and their work. Innovations in Science Teacher Education, 5(3). Retrieved from

by Brandon T. Grossman, University of Colorado Boulder; & Donna Farland-Smith, Ohio State University


The idea that middle school students hold stereotypic representations or impressions of scientists is not new to the field of science education (Barman, 1997; Finson, 2002; Fort & Varney, 1989; Steinke et al., 2007). These representations may match the way scientists are often portrayed in the media in terms of their race (i.e., white), gender (i.e., male), the way they dress (i.e., lab coat, glasses, wild hair), their demeanor (i.e., nerdy, eccentric, anti-social), and where they work (i.e., in a laboratory by themselves). Bringing scientists into classrooms to collaborate with students and teachers has been shown to positively influence students’ perceptions of scientists and their work (Bodzin & Gerhinger, 2001; Flick, 1990). However, the planning and collaboration involved in this in-person work can be challenging, complex, and time consuming for both teachers and visiting scientists. Advances in classroom technologies have opened up new opportunities for disrupting problematic representations and supporting students in developing more expansive perceptions of science and scientists. This paper explores the collaboration between a middle school science teacher, five visiting scientists, and a science teacher educator around the development and implementation of a week long virtual visiting scientist program for middle school students. The impact the program had on the teacher’s ongoing practice and on students’ self-reported perceptions of science and scientists is also examined.

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Angell, C., Henriksen, E., Isnes, K., & Isnes, A. (2003). Why learn physics? Others can take care of that! Physics in Norwegian Education: Content-perceptions-choices. Science Education Perspectives, Research & Development Oslo: Akademisk, 165-198.

Barman, C. (1997). Students’ views of scientists and science: Results from a national study. Science and Children, 35(1), 18-23.

Bodzin, A. & Gehringer, M. (2001). Breaking science stereotypes: Can meeting actual scientists change students’ perceptions of scientists? Science & Children, 38, 24-27.

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Farland‐Smith, D. (2009). Exploring middle school girls’ science identities: Examining attitudes and perceptions of scientists when working “side‐by‐side” with scientists. School Science and Mathematics109, 415-427.

Finson, K.D. (2002). A multicultural comparison of draw-a-scientist test drawings of eighth graders. Paper Presented at the Annual Meeting of the International Conference of the Association of Educators of Teachers of Science, Charlotte, NC.

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Steinke, J., Lapinski, M.K., Crocker, N., Zietsman-Thomas, A., Williams, Y., Evergreen, S.H., & Kuchibhotla, S. (2007). Assessing media influences on middle school-aged children’s perceptions of women in science using the Draw-A-Scientist Test (DAST). Science Communication, 29, 35-64.


Introducing Preservice Science Teachers to Computer Science Concepts and Instruction Using Pseudocode

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Brauer, K., Kruse, J., & Lauer, D. (2020). Introducing preservice science teachers to computer science concepts and instruction using pseudocode. Innovations in Science Teacher Education, 5(2). Retrieved from

by Kayla Brauer, Drake University; Jerrid Kruse, Drake University; & David Lauer, Drake University


Preservice science teachers are often asked to teach STEM content. While coding is one of the more popular aspects of the technology portion of STEM, many preservice science teachers are not prepared to authentically engage students in this content due to their lack of experience with coding. In an effort to remedy this situation, this article outlines an activity we developed to introduce preservice science teachers to computer science concepts such as pseudocode, looping, algorithms, conditional statements, problem decomposition, and debugging. The activity and discussion also support preservice teachers in developing pedagogical acumen for engaging K-12 students with computer science concepts. Examples of preservice science teachers’ work illustrate their engagement and struggles with the ideas and anecdotes provide insight into how the preservice science teachers practiced teaching computer science concepts with 6th grade science students. Explicit connections to the Next Generation Science Standards are made to illustrate how computer science lessons within a STEM course might be used to meet Engineering, Technology, and Application of Science standards within the NGSS.

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American Association for the Advancement of Science. (2000). Project 2061, Science for all Americans.

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Kruse, J., Edgerly, H., Easter, J., & Wilcox, J. (2017). Myths about the nature of technology and engineering. The Science Teacher84(5), 39.

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A Framework for Science Exploration: Examining Successes and Challenges for Preservice Teachers

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Croce, K. (2020). A framework for science exploration: Examining successes and challenges for preservice teachers. Innovations in Science Teacher Education, 5(2). Retrieved from

by Keri-Anne Croce, Towson University


Undergraduate preservice teachers examined the Science Texts Analysis Model during a university course. The Science Texts Analysis Model is designed to support teachers as they help students prepare to engage with the arguments in science texts. The preservice teachers received instruction during class time on campus before employing the model when teaching science to elementary and middle school students in Baltimore city. This article describes how the preservice teachers applied their knowledge of the Science Texts Analysis Model within this real world context. Preservice teachers’ reactions to the methodology are examined in order to provide recommendations for future college courses.

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Arnold, N. (2013). Comment ca marche? Moteurs et voitures. Paris: Gallimard Jeunesse

Croce, K. (2014). Assessment of Burmese refugee students’ meaning making of scientific informational texts. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, 14, 389-424.

Croce, K. (2015). Latino(a) and Burmese elementary school students reading scientific informational texts: The interrelationship of the language of the texts, students’ talk, and conceptual change theory. Linguistics and Education, 29, 94-106.

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Introducing ‘Making’ to Elementary and Secondary Preservice Science Teachers Across Two University Settings

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Rodriguez, S. R., Fletcher, S. S., & Harron, J. R. (2019). Introducing ‘making’ to elementary and secondary preservice science teachers across two university settings. Innovations in Science Teacher Education, 4(4). Retrieved from

by Shelly R. Rodriguez, The University of Texas, Austin; Steven S. Fletcher, St. Edwards University; & Jason R. Harron, The University of Texas, Austin


‘Making’ describes a process of iterative fabrication that draws on a DIY mindset, is collaborative, and allows for student expression through the creation of meaningful products. While making and its associated practices have made their way into many K-12 settings, teacher preparation programs are still working to integrate making and maker activities into their courses. This paper describes an end-of-semester maker project designed to introduce preservice science teachers to making as an educational movement. The project was implemented in two different higher education contexts, a public university secondary STEM introduction to teaching course and a private university elementary science methods course. The purpose of this article is to share this work by articulating the fundamental elements of the project, describing how it was enacted in each of the two settings, reviewing insights gained, and discussing possibilities for future iterations. The project’s instructional strategies, materials, and insights will be useful for those interested in bringing making into science teacher preparation.

Keywords: constructionism; making; preservice; project-based; science education


Over the past decade, there has been a surge of interest in how the field of education can benefit from the tools, processes, and practices of making (e.g., Clapp, Ross, Ryan, & Tishman, 2016; Fields, Kafai, Nakajima, Goode, & Margolis, 2018; Halverson & Sheridan, 2014; Stager & Martinez, 2013). Drawing from a “do it yourself” (DIY) mindset, classroom-based making can be defined as an iterative process of fabrication that allows students to express themselves through the creation of personally meaningful products that are publicly shared (Rodriguez, Harron, & DeGraff, 2018). Like traditional science and engineering practices, making involves the building of models, theories, and systems (NSTA, 2013). However, in contrast to these practices, making explicitly emphasizes the development of personal agency and student empowerment through creative, hands-on learning experiences that are both exciting and motivating (Clapp et al., 2016; Maker Education Initiative, n.d.). A shift towards maker-centered learning provides an opportunity to rethink how we prepare science educators with the aim of bringing more student-driven and personally meaningful experiences to their instructional practice.

Comparable to project-based learning (PBL) and other inquiry-based teaching practices, classroom making involves learning by doing. Maker-centered learning shares many elements found in High Quality Project Based Learning (HQPBL, 2018) which suggests that projects should include intellectual challenge and accomplishment, authenticity, collaboration, project management, the creation of a public product, and reflection. These elements overlap significantly with features of classroom-based making (Rodriguez, Harron, Fletcher, & Spock, 2018). However, maker-centered learning draws specifically on the theoretical underpinnings of constructionism (Papert, 1991), where learners gain knowledge as they actively design and build tangible digital or physical objects. Furthermore, maker-centered learning places emphasis on the originality and personal meaning of creations, the productive use of tools and materials in fabrication, the process of iterative design, and the development of a maker mindset that is growth-oriented and failure positive (Martin, 2015). Thus, in maker-centered learning, the skills of construction and design are acquired alongside the content.

There are several examples of the tools and materials associated with making being used as a way to help students explore the natural world (Bevan, 2017; Peppler, Halverson, & Kafai, 2016). For example, the use of copper tape, LEDs, and coin cell batteries have provided an avenue for science teachers to introduce circuits through the creation of interactive pop-up books and user-friendly paper circuit templates (Qi & Buechley, 2010, 2014). Sewable circuits, which use conductive thread, have been shown to improve student interest in science (Tofel-Grehl et al., 2017) and can be used in conjunction with embedded electronics, such as the Arduino-based Lilypad, to introduce computer science through the creation of e-textiles (Fields et al., 2018). However, not all making is digital. Making also includes traditional work such as welding, sewing, wood working, and other techniques that exist outside of the computational world.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has acknowledged the potential of making to foster innovation, increase student retention, and broaden participation in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) (National Science Foundation, 2017). However, more must be done to prepare future science educators to implement these practices in their classrooms. A national survey found that only half of undergraduate teacher preparation programs in the United States provided an opportunity to learn about maker-education and the associated technologies, and that only 17% had a makerspace available to their preservice teachers (Cohen, 2017). As such, many future educators are not exposed to formal training or professional development related to making. Since science teachers often uptake and implement the inquiry-based practices with which they have personal experience (Windschitl, 2003), a lack of exposure to maker-centered pedagogies may leave future educators unaware of the potential benefits of these innovations for their students.

This paper describes an end-of-semester project designed to introduce students to making as an educational movement. The project was implemented in two different settings. One was an introductory course offered as part of a secondary STEM teacher preparation program at a large public research university. The other was a science methods course designed for preservice elementary teachers offered at a private university. The purpose of this article is to share our work by articulating the fundamental elements of the project, describing the project as enacted in these two settings, reviewing insights gained, and discussing possibilities for future iterations.

The Maker Project

The maker project described in this paper was introduced four years ago in a secondary STEM teacher preparation course for a number of reasons. The first was to expose novice teachers to the practice of using open-ended projects with high levels of personal agency to uncover student ideas. The second was to spark creativity in the preservice teachers and engage them in the act of authentic problem solving. The final reason was to provide an opportunity for preservice teachers to interact with up-to-date educational tools that they may encounter in schools. Two years later, an elementary science methods course housed in a private university adopted this activity for similar reasons, with the additional hope of increasing preservice teacher self-efficacy around science content and tool use – a noted deficiency in the literature (Menon & Sadler, 2016; Rice & Roychoudhury, 2003; Yoon, et al., 2006).

The following section outlines strategies used to implement the project in the two different science teacher preparation settings. The fundamental elements of the project in both settings include: a) an introduction to making; b) a station activity to expose students to new technologies and materials; c) an open-ended construction task; d) extended out of class time to create a personally meaningful artifact; e) the public presentation of work to classmates, instructors, and guests; and f) reflections for the classroom. Table 1 provides description of each setting and an overview of how the project features were enacted.

Table 1 (Click on image to enlarge)
Project Features in Each Context

Context Specific Implementation

Implementation in an introductory secondary STEM teacher preparation course

The introductory secondary STEM teacher preparation course is a 90-minute, one credit hour class in a large R1 university in central Texas. It meets once a week with approximately 25 students in each of five sections. The class is considered a recruitment course and is designed to give STEM majors the chance to try out teaching. In this class, students observe and teach a series of STEM lessons in local elementary schools. Those choosing to continue with the program will go on to teach in middle and high school settings and ultimately earn their teaching certification in a secondary STEM field. In the Fall of 2018, 53% of the students in the course were female and 47% male. 64% were underclassmen, 36% were either juniors, seniors, or post baccalaureate students, and 59% had either applied for or were receiving financial aid. 46% were science majors, 16% were math majors, 11% were computer science and engineering majors, 4% were degree holders, and the remaining students were assigned to other majors or undecided.

In class. The maker project in this course began with a project introduction day occurring approximately three weeks from the end of the semester. To start, students were introduced to the concept of making through a video created by Make: magazine and presented with a prompt, “What is making?”, to think about as they watch the video (Maker Media, 2016). The video describes making as a DIY human endeavor that involves creating things that tell a personal story. After the video screening, students engaged in a Think-Pair-Share activity where they discussed the initial prompt in small groups and shared ideas in a whole class discussion, often describing making as personal, innovative, open-ended, and challenging (See Figure 1).

Figure 1 (Click on image to enlarge). Student ideas about making.

Next, the criteria for the final maker project was provided. The specific prompt for this project asked students to reflect on their teaching experience and to make an artifact that illustrated the story of their growth over the semester. Students were shown examples of what others had created in previous semesters. Some past projects featured traditional construction and craft materials such as woodworking and papier-mâché while others included digital tools such as 3D printing, block-based coding, and Arduinos. Students were also shown examples of maker projects as enacted in STEM classrooms such as activities that have K-12 pupils creating museum exhibits to learn about properties of water, using paper circuits to create illuminated food webs, and creating interactive cell models using a Makey Makey.

After reviewing project examples, time was spent introducing the class to several digital technologies through a stations activity. Though digital technologies were not given preference for the project, this activity was an opportunity to have students explore some of the digital tools that encourage invention in the classroom. The class was broken into groups and each group was given ten minutes to explore various digital tools and resources including Scratch, Instructables, Makey Makey, and Circuit Playground (See Appendix A). Preservice teachers farther along in the teacher preparation program facilitated the stations and helped current students explore the new technologies. A handout of useful websites and a place to make notes at each station was also provided (See Appendix B). Students rotated stations such that by the end of the activity they had briefly explored each of the technologies. The final part of the project introduction day was a reflective table talk that occurred after the station activity. At this time, students talked with their classmates and discussed ideas for their final maker project. They were encouraged to connect their project to something they cared about or a specific interest.

Out of class. Students were given two weeks to independently complete their maker projects. Students were free to incorporate traditional skills such as crafts, sewing, knitting, wood working, or metal working in their creation. They were also free to use the digital tools explored in class, or to combine digital and traditional tools to make something new. There was no additional class time provided however, the instructor and TA were available to help students outside of class. Students were encouraged to upcycle, or creatively reuse materials they already had, in creating their projects. Additionally, students were provided with a list of campus locations where they had free access to fabrication tools such as 3D printers, laser cutters, and sewing machines. The students had access to a workroom with traditional school supplies and a suite of recycled materials. Students could also check out digital tools from the program inventory. All of these items were available to them at no cost.

Presentation and reflection. On the last day of class, students presented their creations via a gallery walk format with half of the class presenting at one time and the other half circulating and serving as the audience. Students in the course produced a wide array of personally significant artifacts each of which told a story about their specific experience. Other preservice teachers, staff, and instructors from the program were invited to the presentations giving each student the opportunity to exhibit their work to a large audience. At the end of the presentation session, students completed a short reflection on making, classroom applications, and the project experience. Complete instructional materials for this maker project can be found at

Implementation in an elementary science methods course

Elementary Science Methods (ESM) is a required course for all students seeking EC-6 teacher certification at a private liberal arts institution in central Texas. ESM is a 75-minute class that meets twice each week on the university campus in a general science lab. It is offered in the fall semester only and typically enrolls 24 students.  Students are predominantly in their final year of the preparation program before student teaching and ESM is one of two science classes required for their graduation from the institution. In the Fall of 2018, there were 23 total students in the ESM course. Twenty-two (96%) of the students in the course were female and one (4%) was male. Two (8%) of the students were sophomores and twenty-one (92%) were either juniors or seniors. Fourteen students (61%) were elementary teaching majors, eight (35%) were special education teacher majors, and the remaining student (4%) was preparing to become a bilingual elementary teacher.

Inspired by the project described above, the ESM maker final project was added to the syllabus three years ago to address specific issues observed from previous semesters of work with elementary science teachers in this context. First, many of the students in prior iterations of ESM had low self-efficacy about their ability to learn and teach science. Thus, one goal for implementing a maker project was to boost student confidence by engaging in a creative activity with a concrete product related to a science concept. Two additional goals relate to the original project from the secondary program: To introduce students to current knowledge around emerging trends in technology and science and to stimulate discussion around the value and challenges of authentic inquiry as a means for student learning and engagement. Since the act of making requires a personal commitment to the production of a product, the instructor hoped that this activity would enliven student curiosity and demonstrate the value of open-ended projects for their own elementary classrooms.

In class. As with the secondary STEM maker project, this project was framed as a culminating experience introduced near the end of the semester. Similarly, the first day of the lesson began with a video introduction to making. The lesson also included a rotating station activity with a supporting handout. Due to resource availability and focus on elementary school outcomes, the instructor modified the content of the stations. For this iteration, a paper circuits station and a bristlebot station were substituted for the Circuit Playground and Scratch stations. Emphasis was placed on exploration and play at each station and developing a sense of wonder around the materials or ideas. At the end of the class, groups shared what they noticed about the various activities in small groups and the instructor introduced the project options to the class. Students were given a choice to either: a) create a product that documented learning to use a tool or product that would demonstrate its possible usefulness in elementary science, or b) investigate an aspect of making, write a summary of the research, and create a visual product highlighting what they learned.

The second day of the lesson began with a recap of the project criteria. The criteria for this project, while open-ended to allow for authentic, personally meaningful work, included specific elements that related to state standards for elementary science, attention to safety, a projected calendar and a pre-assessment of how project goals and outcomes related to available tools, equipment, and resources to complete the work (see Appendix C). Students were given time to consider potential project options and discuss their ideas with their peers and instructor.

Out of class. Students were provided three weeks to complete the project before the culminating presentation. This timeframe included the Thanksgiving holiday and many students worked on their product at home.  During the last week of classes, the students were given an additional class day to share their projects in an unfinished state for feedback, to revise and refine their ideas, and to borrow tools from the supply cabinet for completion.

Presentation and reflection. During the final exam period, student products were set up and shared with peers and instructor in a maker exhibition. As in the secondary setting, the project presentations took place science fair style with half of the students presenting and half serving as the audience at any one time. Students also completed a written reflection discussing challenges, reiterating connections to science standards, and reflecting on lessons learned from the experience.

Insights from Project Implementation

While there was no formal data collection included as part of this project, student products and reflections from each setting provide initial insights. Figure 2 provides an overview of general insights as well as those specific to each context.

Figure 2 (Click on image to enlarge). An overview of maker project insights.

General Insights

The two contexts for maker project implementation differed significantly. However, insights emerged that were common to both settings. First, in both contexts, the preservice teachers developed a wide range of products including both high- and low-tech creations (see Appendix D). Figure 3 shows: a) a DIY water filtration system; b) an interactive neuron model; c) a series of origami swans; d) soldered paper circuit holiday cards e); a fluidized air bed; and f) an interactive model of a new “teacher” with makey makey fruit controls and related story.

Figure 3 (Click on image to enlarge). A range of student-generated maker projects.

The work produced for this project was personally connected to the interests and motivations of the makers and rooted in the students’ own lives. Second, reflections from preservice teachers in both courses indicate that, through this project, many students experienced the importance of persistence and adaptability when encountering challenges. The open-ended nature of the project turned out to be one of its most important elements as it challenged students develop an original idea and then persist and adapt to bring their idea to life. Third, in both contexts, many preservice teachers described a sense of accomplishment and enjoyment stemming from the creation and presentation of their work. Finally, students in both courses made connections between their maker experience and the process of teaching and learning. Table 2 shows comments from student reflections related to these themes.

Table 2 (Click on image to enlarge)
Student Comments From Both Maker Project Settings

Additionally, in both settings, the project encouraged some students to take making further. In the secondary setting, multiple students went on to join the maker micro-credentialing program offered by the teacher preparation program. In the elementary setting, several students completed independent projects in the area of making. For example, two students collected data, worked with university faculty and teachers at local makerspaces, and presented their findings on supporting special needs students in making at a local maker education conference.

Insights from an Introductory Secondary STEM Teacher Preparation Course

Written reflections indicate that many members of the secondary STEM teacher preparation course developed a deeper understanding of the nature of making. As an example, one student wrote that “I thought that making was all about electronics and coding but there is so much more…it generates your own creativity and interests.” Another student wrote, “Making is about putting one’s experiences and passions into a project. Making adds a sense of ownership and differentiation.” This was a first exposure to making for most students and their reflections indicate that the project helped them develop a personal conception of what it means to make.

Second, this project helped model the creation of a safe space for exploration and failure for these students. The class mantra during this project was “You can’t get it wrong” and student reflections illustrated their connection with this part of a maker mindset. For example, one student commented, “Making is about growing as an explorer. Making is not being afraid to fail! At the beginning I thought making was trivial but I now see the importance of hands on learning as a chance to really fail.”  Another student said, “During creating, I asked myself ‘Am I doing it right?’ ‘Is this fine?’ and when I was presenting I realized ‘this is totally fine, there is no right or wrong’.” This positive message about failure is not one that STEM undergraduates at large public universities often hear. Thus, for this group, the project provided an essential model for rewarding effort over the commonly prioritized final product.

Insights from an Elementary Science Methods Course

The elementary preservice teachers in the three-hour course showed increased confidence with a wide array of maker tools and equipment such as soldering irons, electronics, and woodworking equipment. The open-ended nature of the assignment allowed students in this course to make a range of high-level products, from a 2D model of a neural cell that used different colored LED’s to show how a neural impulse moves, to holiday cards, to a fluidized airbed. Reflections indicate that many students felt increased confidence with equipment related to their projects. One student commented, “I never thought I’d be able to solder, but after connecting the LED’s to the paper circuit holiday cards, I can do it!  Thanks for giving me the chance to learn this. I want to try making jewelry next.”

The students in the ESM course also made specific connections to teaching science in the elementary context. Student reflections show that they honed in on ideas of agency and engagement as central features of making that would motivate them to do projects of this kind with their future pupils. For example, one student said, “I am totally going to use making in my science classroom because it makes students take responsibility for their own learning and gives them ownership of their work.” Another student wrote, through making “you can make science fun and creative for students allowing them to take control of creating whatever they can dream of.” These reflections illustrate the potential of this project to influence the classroom instruction of these future teachers.

Finally, one unique outcome was that many members of the elementary group experienced making as an opportunity to create with friends and family. The project implementation in this setting coincided with the Thanksgiving holiday, giving many students the opportunity to work with parents or friends. For example, one student shared the specifics of her maker journey with permission.  When the project was introduced, she considered making something for her father as a holiday gift. She initially wanted to learn how to create fly-fishing flies based on her father’s love of fishing. However, the costs of buying materials were prohibitive. A chance visit to a website that showed a video demonstrating the non-Newtonian nature of a fluidized airbed then excited her to consider making her own model to demonstrate this fascinating phenomenon.  After checking that the proper equipment to make a small model was available in her family garage, she traveled home for Thanksgiving with initial instructions.  She worked with her father over the break to bring her creation to life. Like many maker projects, the initial results required refinement. Challenges included compressor issues as well as using the wrong substrate for the bed material. However, she persisted and was able to present her model at the maker exhibition with pride. The student’s build is documented in this video. It highlights her energy and enthusiasm for the work. She recently shared with Steve that she will be refining her initial attempt again, having secured a bigger compressor and better substrate.

While making is a journey that differs for each maker, many of the students in the ESM class included a significant other in their building process. This was an unexpected outcome and may have led to more collaborative and ambitious creations. This insight highlights the potential of making as a community-building endeavor.

Project Management

It should be noted that some students were challenged by the technical details and time required to produce a working product so it is important to provide extended time and to include out of class support. This might include additional office hours and partnering with more advanced students to provide technical support. Consider working with campus engineering, art, or instructional technology departments to find others willing to help with advice on construction and tool use. In addition, instructors should consult with appropriate university departments concerning risk management strategies to ensure student safety. Requiring students who plan to use equipment with potential risk in their projects (woodworking or metalworking equipment for example) to complete safety training is highly recommended. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration provides guidelines for safe hand and power tool use (OSHA, 2002).

Regular check-ins with students are also useful. Instructors implementing this type of activity might encourage students to complete weekly reflections and upload photos to document the evolution of their process. Including documentation practices of this kind models the use of electronic platforms, such as Blackboard or Canvas, now common in many school districts, as portfolio systems that can be used to capture and share the ongoing work of their K-12 pupils.


The culminating maker project was an open-ended assignment where students were invited to: a) make an artifact related to STEM teaching; b) present their product publicly; c) reflect on their work; and d) consider classroom applications. In the process of creation and making, the students explored new digital, craft, and construction technologies and created a product of personal significance. Through making, students in the class experienced fundamental aspects of creativity, agency, persistence, and reflection.  These attributes are essential elements of 21st century learning and are traits that early-career K-12 science teachers are expected to model and train their own pupils to embody.  Furthermore, when students integrate scientific practices, disciplinary core ideas, and crosscutting concepts in the authentic products they create, then maker-centered instruction can facilitate NGSS three-dimensional learning principles in a personally meaningful way (National Research Council, n.d.).

This open-ended maker project is adaptable to varied contexts thus, the expertise and goals of the instructor or facilitator will likely shape the student experience. For example, in this project, students reflected on their growth as educators but with a different set of criteria in each setting. For the secondary students who were majoring in a STEM field, self-efficacy around science content was not an issue. Because the course was only one-credit hour, creativity and effort producing an open-ended product was emphasized. Additionally, the TA for this course was well-versed in maker-related electronics and provided extra support to students attempting novel projects with these tools. In the Elementary Science Methods course, the instructor focused on connections to science standards and building confidence in the use of basic tools, with which he had extensive experience. Thus, this project can be used to achieve a wide array of outcomes and instructors should be thoughtful about their project aims from the start, paying special attention to providing a wide range of practice, play, and examples from the maker world. Connecting to local makers, artisans, and craftsman can expand the project’s reach.

Furthermore, in both courses, equitable teaching and learning are addressed during other activities. However, because making is often situated in a privileged and gendered paradigm (Vossoughi, Hooper, & Escudé, 2016), future iterations of this activity could include an element that explicitly examines how students can negotiate the opportunities and challenges of the activity in diverse classroom settings. Explicit reflections on equity and readings on these issues as they relate to maker education would be productive additions for future iterations.


Tenacity in the face of adversity is a common trait among successful teachers who must evaluate and adapt their teaching to new situations on a daily basis, and who undoubtedly fail many times but use those failures to learn and grow. In the same way, this culminating maker project was scary, messy, exciting, and inspiring. While student projects rarely turned out as planned, student reflections suggest that the experience helped them to value and embrace this ill structured process. As future teachers, this maker experience may be critical in helping our newest practitioners envision a classroom space where students are personally connected to content, have ownership of their learning, are given the freedom to explore and create without fear, and are encouraged to persist in the face of challenges. In this way, including a project that addresses elements of making and fosters a maker mindset can be a valuable step toward preparing preservice teachers to bring innovative and inspirational practices to science education.


This article was developed in connection with the UTeach Maker program at The University of Texas at Austin. UTeach Maker is funded in part by a Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship grant from the National Science Foundation (1557155). Opinions expressed in this submission are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of The National Science Foundation.


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Piloting an Adaptive Learning Platform with Elementary/Middle Science Methods

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Vick M.E. (2019). Piloting an adaptive learning platform with elementary/middle science methods. Innovations in Science Teacher Education, 4(4). Retrieved from

by Matthew E. Vick, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater


Adaptive learning allows students to learn in customized, non-linear pathways. Students demonstrate prior knowledge and thus focus their learning on challenging content. They are continually assessed with low stakes questions allowing for identification of content mastery levels. A science methods course for preservice teachers piloted the use of adaptive learning. Design and implementation are described. Instructors need to realistically consider the time required to redesign a course in an adaptive learning system and to develop varied and numerous assessment questions. Overall, students had positive feelings toward the use of adaptive learning. Their mastery levels were not as high as anticipated by the instructor. The student outcomes on their summative assessment did not show high levels of transfer of the key content.

Keywords: Adaptive Learning, Science Methods, Pedagogy, Course Design

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Lessons Learned from Going Global: Infusing Classroom-based Global Collaboration (CBGC) into STEM Preservice Teacher Preparation

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York, M. K., Hite, R., & Donaldson, K. (2019). Lessons learned from going global: Infusing classroom-based global collaboration (CBGC) into STEM preservice teacher preparation. Retrieved from

by M. Kate York, The University of Texas at Dallas; Rebecca Hite, Texas Tech University; & Katie Donaldson, The University of Texas at Dallas


There are many affordances of integrating classroom-based global collaboration (CBGC) experiences into the K-12 STEM classroom, yet few opportunities for STEM preservice teachers (PST) to participate in these strategies during their teacher preparation program (TPP). We describe the experiences of 12 STEM PSTs enrolled in a CBGC-enhanced course in a TPP. PSTs participated in one limited communication CBGC (using mathematics content to make origami for a global audience), two sustained engaged CBGCs (with STEM PSTs and in-service graduate students at universities in Belarus and South Korea), and an individual capstone CBGC-infused project-based learning (PBL) project. Participating STEM PSTs reported positive outcomes for themselves as teachers in their 21st century skills development and increased pedagogical content knowledge. Participants also discussed potential benefits for their students in cultural understanding and open-mindedness. Implementation of each of these CBGCs in the STEM PST course, as well as STEM PST instructors’ reactions and thoughts, are discussed.

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Science Units of Study with a Language Lens: Preparing Teachers for Diverse Classrooms

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Heineke, A.J., & McTighe, J. (2019). Science units of study with a language lens: Preparing teachers for diverse classrooms. Innovations in Science Teacher Education, 4(3). Retrieved from

by Amy J. Heineke, Loyola University Chicago; & Jay McTighe, McTighe & Associates Consulting


Recent educational policy reforms have reinvigorated the conversation regarding the role of language in the science classroom. In schools, the Next Generation Science Standards have prompted pedagogical shifts yielding language-rich science and engineering practices. At universities, newly required performance-based assessments have led teacher educators to consider the role of academic language in subject-specific teaching and learning. Simultaneous to these policy changes, the population has continued to diversify, with schools welcoming students who speak hundreds of different languages and language varieties at home, despite English continuing as the primary medium of instruction in science classrooms. Responding to these policy and demographic shifts, we have designed an innovation to prepare teachers and teacher candidates to design instruction that promotes students’ disciplinary language development during rigorous and meaningful science instruction. We add a language lens to the widely used Understanding by Design® framework, emphasizing inclusion and integration with what teachers already do to design science curriculum and instruction, rather than an add-on initiative that silos language development apart from content learning. This language lens merges the principles of culturally and linguistically responsive practice with the three stages of backward instructional design to support educators in designing effective and engaging science instruction that promotes language development and is accessible to the growing number of students from linguistically diverse backgrounds.


In science classrooms spanning urban, suburban, and rural regions, students enter with ever diversifying cultural and linguistic backgrounds (National Clearinghouse for English Language Acquisition, 2010). In the context of the United States, 20% of students speak a language other than English at home, with half of these students considered English learners (ELs) due to still-developing English proficiency as measured by standardized tests of listening, speaking, reading, and writing (Linquanti & Cook, 2013; National Center for Educational Statistics, 2015). Despite the benefits of linguistic diversity in schools, these demographic shifts provide unique challenges for science teachers, who typically mediate students’ scientific learning, understanding, and achievement using the English language (Lee, Quinn, & Valdés, 2013). To ensure that students have equitable access to science content, teachers must consider and account for language in their daily classroom instruction (Heineke & McTighe, 2018).

Concurrent to the diversification of schools, science education as a field has embraced a vision of students learning and doing science through language-rich scientific and engineering practices, as evidenced by the Framework for K-12 Science Education (National Research Council [NRC], 2013) and Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS; NGSS Lead States, 2013). Indeed, the shift to the NGSS has resulted in instructional foci on science and engineering practices that simultaneously involve both scientific sense-making and language use (e.g., asking questions, constructing explanations, communicating information; Quinn, Lee, & Valdés, 2010). The resulting practice-oriented classroom thus serves as a rich language-learning and science-learning setting where science teachers are not perceived as language teachers but rather “supporters of the language learning that occurs in a content-rich and discourse-rich classroom environment” (Quinn et al., 2010, p. 1). Since the shift to the NGSS, scholars have indicated that explicit emphasis on language development is indicative of high-quality science instruction that effectively supports all students’ learning, including ELs (e.g., Lee, Llosa, Jiang, Haas, O’Connor, & Van Boonem, 2016; Maerten, Rivera, Ahn, Lanier, Diaz, & Lee, 2016; Zwiep & Straits, 2013). But achieving this practice requires concomitant teacher education that prepares science teachers to integrate language in instructional design and implementation (e.g., Stoddart, Solís, Tolbert, & Bravo, 2010; Tolbert, Stoddart, Lyon, & Solís, 2014).

Seeking to respond to the diversifying student population and changing educational policy context of teaching content and language in disciplinary classrooms, we have added a language lens to Understanding by Design® framework that already supports the design of effective instruction in thousands of schools across the country and world. Understanding by Design (UbD) prompts educators to design rigorous and authentic instruction that deepens students’ learning and understanding by beginning with the end in mind (Wiggins & McTighe, 2005). Curriculum designers progress through stages of instructional design – defining learning goals in Stage 1, designing assessments in Stage 2, and planning instruction in Stage 3 – as a means to promote meaningful learning that transfers to contexts beyond the classroom. In this article, we introduce the UbD framework with a language lens in the context of science teacher education. We (a) sketch the components of UbD with a language lens, (b) detail the integration of this approach to prepare teachers, (c) introduce the learning and application of two science teachers, and (d) share recommendations for implementation in science teacher education.

Backward Design for Learning and Language Development

UbD with a language lens uses the existing design framework, but adds a language lens using principles of culturally and linguistically responsive practice to prioritize diverse students while planning instruction that mediates the disciplinary learning and language development of all students (Heineke & McTighe, 2018). In this way, we begin with students, embracing and responding to their unique backgrounds, abilities, strengths, and needs. Grounded in culturally responsive pedagogy (Gay, 2010) and linguistically responsive teaching (Lucas, Villegas, & Freedson-González, 2008), the pre-planning component centers on getting to know learners to prompt dynamic instructional design that taps into students’ background knowledge and experiences, including language backgrounds and proficiencies. Reflecting the foundational basis of responsive and rigorous science instruction, practitioners need to recognize the diversity of students, including students’ language backgrounds, cultural background knowledge, and previous science learning and experiences. In this way, pre-planning involves amassing and analyzing data on students, including formal data (e.g., cumulative files, standardized test scores) and anecdotal data (e.g., observations, conversations).

Following pre-planning, Stage 1 begins with the end in mind by prompting educators to identify the desired results of the unit, including goals for transfer, meaning, and acquisition. Based on established goals (i.e., NGSS), transfer goals prompt students to transfer and use scientific learning beyond focal units of study, meaning goals involve students grappling with essential questions to build deep understandings about scientific concepts, principles, and processes, and acquisition goals focus on related knowledge and skills, which serve as building blocks to achieve larger transfer and meaning goals.

When adding the language lens to Stage 1, we maintain the rigor of scientific learning goals, which promotes the high expectations for all students at the heart of this approach. But science prompts complex and nuanced uses of language, including discipline-specific words, phrases, sentence structures, and text features (see Table 1). In this way, while upholding the high expectations for all students’ disciplinary learning, we want to explicitly target the development of pertinent scientific language, which fosters students’ academic language development and ensures equitable access to content. To accomplish this in instructional design, we (a) analyze the complex and demanding language that students need to achieve the unit’s transfer and meaning goals and (b) target the development of that language by writing objectives focused on language functions (e.g., analyze, critique) and language features (e.g., vocabulary, sentence structures, text features), as well as involving multiple language domains (i.e., listening, speaking, reading, writing; see Heineke & McTighe, 2018 for more information).

Table 1 (Click on image to enlarge)
Examples of Language Designs in Science

Stage 2 of UbD centers on designing assessments for students to demonstrate progress toward the unit goals defined in Stage 1. The focal point of unit assessments, performance tasks prompt students to engage in authentic situations that require transfer of scientific learning to real-world problems and practices. As a part of these experiences, students take on particular roles (e.g., scientist, meteorologist, engineer) and use understandings of scientific concepts and processes in simulated situations aligned to the unit’s learning goals. In addition to performance tasks, supplementary evidence involves students demonstrating learning across units via various measures (e.g., tests, quizzes, academic prompts; Wiggins & McTighe, 2005).

When adding the language lens on Stage 2, the goal is to design and integrate assessments that (a) capture data on both scientific learning and language development, and (b) provide equitable access for all students to demonstrate understanding (Heineke & McTighe, 2018). In this way, units should include performance tasks that are language-rich, culturally responsive, and linguistically accessible. When designed for authenticity, scientific performance tasks are naturally language-rich, as students interact with peers to discuss and solve problems (i.e., listening, speaking), as well as research and share findings via presentations, proposals, dioramas, or other products (i.e., reading, writing). To ensure all students can actively participate, tasks should (b) be culturally relevant to engage learners and not require prerequisite background knowledge, and (b) have linguistic scaffolds to ensure all students can contribute and demonstrate progress regardless of language background or proficiency. In addition to performance tasks, supplementary assessments are integrated to holistically capture students’ abilities, strengths, and needs in both science and language learning.

Table 2 (Click on image to enlarge)
GRASPS Task Framework with Language Lens

In Stage 3 of UbD, teachers design learning plans that authentically facilitate student learning and understanding as aligned to Stage 1 goals and Stage 2 assessments. This includes the learning plan, which involves hands-on experiences with real-world application and differentiation based on students’ backgrounds, abilities, and needs, as well as formative assessment embedded in instruction to glean students’ learning across the unit of study. When adding the language lens to Stage 3, we strategically plan instruction to achieve unit goals, including those for disciplinary language development, while responding to the unique and diverse needs of students (Heineke & McTighe, 2018). When planning the learning trajectory of science units, the language lens prompts consideration and purposeful integration of (a) students’ cultural and linguistic background knowledge, (b) collaborative, cognitively demanding tasks that involve listening, speaking, reading, and writing in English and students’ home languages, (c) complex texts that are culturally relevant and linguistically accessible, and (d) differentiated scaffolds and supports based on students’ language backgrounds, proficiency levels, and learning preferences (Herrera, 2016; Walqui & vanLier, 2010).

Preparing Teachers for Backward Design with a Language Lens

In addition to serving as a template to design instruction for K-12 students, UbD with a language lens provides teacher educators with an approach to prepare teachers to support diverse students’ language development in science instruction. In this section, we share ways to tackle this work with teachers in training, including in-class activities and resources for building the language lens on instructional design (for more detailed information, see Heineke, Papola-Ellis, Davin, & Cohen, 2018a).

Introducing science teachers to UbD with a language lens begins with buy-in. Science teachers are typically prepared as content experts with the pedagogical content knowledge to mediate students’ scientific learning (Shulman, 1986). Because of the very nature of schools, where English as a Second Language (ESL) and English Language Arts teachers maintain the primary responsibility for teaching language, science teachers might need convincing of their role in supporting students’ language development. We have found the most poignant way to achieve buy-in is having teachers begin by exploring data related to students’ linguistic diversity. When looking at formal data like home language surveys and English proficiency scores (e.g., ACCESS), teachers recognize students’ diverse backgrounds and proficiency levels. We then have them probe the multi-faceted nature of individual learners by collecting formal and anecdotal data on students’ background knowledge, cognitive strategies, language preferences, and scientific knowledge and self-efficacy (Collier & Thomas, 2007; Herrera, 2016). Our goal is for teachers to recognize diversity, paired with the need to maintain high expectations for all.

In Stage 1, we center efforts on deconstructing teachers’ and candidates’ linguistic blind spots. Science teachers are experts within particular disciplines, such as physics, chemistry, or biology, and in the context of the United States, many are also native English speakers. Taken together, teachers may not recognize the demanding, discipline-specific language that students need to access and engage in learning and understanding. To develop teachers’ understandings through empathy, we begin by simulating what students might experience linguistically in the science classroom, asking teachers to read highly complex articles from peer-reviewed journals (e.g., Journal of Chemical & Engineering Data) and use them to engage in a particular task (e.g., making a scientific argument using text-based evidence). We then provide specific tools and examples of disciplinary language demands to help teachers uncover linguistic blind spots, such as WIDA’s framework (2012) for academic language at word, sentence, and discourse levels, WestEd’s detailed taxonomy of academic language functions (AACCW, 2010), and Understanding Language’s overview of NGSS language demands (Quinn et al., 2010). Finally, after building empathy and awareness for the language lens in science teaching and learning, we move into analyzing unit-specific language demands and selecting those that are important, aligned, prevalent, and versatile to scientific content to then draft language-focused objectives.

In Stage 2, we want to teachers to embrace the value of performance tasks in promoting and measuring learning, understanding, and language development (Heineke & McTighe, 2018; Wiggins & McTighe, 2005). This begins by getting teachers to critically evaluate the traditional testing tools that may dominate their current repertoires. We use actual assessments, such as a summative paper-and-pencil test for a unit provided in the science textbook, to analyze for cultural and linguistic biases based on pre-planning data. Once biases are determined, we discuss the need to assess students’ scientific knowledge and skills without requiring a set level of language proficiency or privileging any particular cultural background knowledge. This then springboards into the exploration of performance tasks as the preferred approach to unit assessment, specifically probing ideas within three language-rich categories (i.e., oral, written, displayed). We then use the GRASPS framework with a lens on language (Heineke & McTighe, 2018; Wiggins & McTighe, 2005) for teachers to design performance tasks that align with students’ cultural background knowledge and scaffold access based on learners’ language proficiency (see Table 2). We use WIDA tools to determine developmentally appropriate language functions (i.e., Can-do descriptors; WIDA, 2016) and integrate authentic scaffolds (i.e., graphic, sensory, interactive; WIDA, 2007) to provide students’ equitable access to participate in the performance task.

For Stage 3, we want to build from what educators already know, such as inquiry-based science activities or EL-specific instructional strategies. In our experience working with teachers and candidates, this facet may be familiar based on previous coursework or professional preparation. The key is emphasizing not using a strategy for strategy’s sake, but selecting, organizing, and aligning instructional events and materials based on pre-planning data, Stage 1 goals, and Stage 2 assessments. Flexible based on the professional expertise and experience of the participants, adding a language lens to this stage centers on educators exploring the above facets (e.g., background knowledge, collaborative tasks, complex and relevant texts, differentiated supports) with the primary aim to build awareness of available approaches and resources that can enhance their current pedagogy and practice as science teachers (e.g., bilingual resources, amplification of complex texts). In addition to providing the space to explore high-quality, language-rich approaches and resources for various scientific disciplines, we model how to apply and integrate tools that align to the learning goals of instructional units of study.

The Language Lens in Action: A Closer Look at Two Science Teachers

Let’s exemplify this approach by looking at the instructional design work of two focal science teachers, who participated in a grant-funded professional development series on UbD with a language lens (see Heineke et al., 2018a, 2018b). Using the activities and resources detailed above, these teachers collaborated with colleagues across grades and disciplines to learn about UbD with a language lens and apply learning to their science classrooms.

Bridget, Elementary Science Teacher

Bridget was a sixth-grade science teacher at Wiley Elementary School, a K-6 elementary school with 1200 students in the urban Midwest. With the support of her assistant principal, she secured data to understand the culturally and linguistically diverse student population, including home language surveys and language proficiency tests (i.e., ACCESS). By exploring these data, Bridget learned that the majority of Wiley students spoke another language and approximately 45% of students were formally labeled as ELs. She was not surprised to see that Spanish was the majority language spoken by families, followed by Arabic, but learned about the rich array of linguistic diversity in the community with languages including French, Urdu, Tagalog, Bosnian, Hindi, Bengali, Farsi, Yoruba, Serbian, Romanian, Malay, Gujarati, Korean, Mongolian, and Burmese. Bridget also discerned that 50 of her 54 sixth graders used another language at home, including 10 labeled as ELs with 5 dual-labeled as having special needs.

Bridget chose to work on the first science unit of the school year on space systems, which merged science, engineering, and mathematics principles with the goal for sixth graders to use data and models to understand systems and relationships in the natural world. Per the suggestion of the instructor, she brought a previous unit draft to apply her evolving understandings of UbD with a language lens. Having already deconstructed her expert blind spot to flesh out the conceptual understandings pertinent to science standards and transfer goals, she considered her linguistic blind spot with the support of the instructor and other science educators. Bridget found having examples of science language demands (see Table 1) to be helpful in this process, using the categories and types of word-, sentence-, and discourse-level demands to analyze the disciplinary language her students needed to reach Stage 1 goals, including vocabulary (e.g., gravitational pull), nominalization (e.g., illuminate/illumination), idioms (e.g., everything under the sun), sentence structures (e.g., compare/contrast), and informational text features (e.g., diagrams). After pinpointing these knowledge indicators, she used data on her students’ language proficiency to draft skill indicators with attention to particular language functions (e.g., explain, compare) and domains (e.g., reading, writing).

After adding specific knowledge and skill indicators for language development in Stage 1, Bridget then shifted her attention to Stage 2 assessments. Following exploration of a multitude of language-rich performance task options, including those that prioritize oral, written, and displayed language (Heineke & McTighe, 2018), she decided to redesign her primary unit assessment using the GRASPS framework with a language lens (see Table 2). The resultant Mars Rover Team task (see supplemental unit) aimed to engage her sixth graders in authentic and collaborative practice with components strategically designed to promote disciplinary language use across domains (e.g., listening and speaking in teams, reading data tables, writing presentations) and scaffold for students’ language proficiency (e.g., drawings, technology, small groups). She planned to evaluate the resultant tasks for precise disciplinary language, including the vocabulary, nominalization, and other language features pinpointed in Stage 1 goals. In addition to the performance task, Bridget also added the collection of supplemental evidence to the unit of study, specifically aiming to collect and evaluate data on students’ scientific language development via journal prompts, personal glossaries, and resultant artifacts.

The final facet of the professional development focused on Stage 3, where Bridget revised the unit’s learning plan to target demanding disciplinary language, integrate students’ cultural backgrounds, and differentiate for multiple language proficiencies. Having embraced an inquiry-based approach to teaching science, she already had frequent opportunities for students to collaboratively engage in hands-on exploration and application of scientific concepts. By participating in language-focused professional development, she enriched students’ inquiry by adding opportunities for them to use their home languages as resources for learning, as well as tap into culturally specific background knowledge. For example, she modified her use of space mission notebooks to include personal glossaries for students to document pertinent scientific language, including translations into their home languages. Bridget also sought out and incorporated complex and culturally relevant texts, such as space-related myths, legends, and folktales from students’ countries of origin in Asia, Africa, and South America. Designed with her unique and diverse students in mind, the Stage 3 learning plan outlined her instructional trajectory for students to successfully achieve unit goals.

Jillian, Secondary Science Teacher

Jillian was a science teacher at Truman High School, a neighborhood public high school situated in a vibrantly diverse community in the urban Midwest. She began by exploring the rich diversity of her workplace, learning that 80% of the 1350 students use a language other than English home, representing 35 different languages. Spanish was the primary home language spoken, and 75% of the student body identified as Latina/o, but from countries spanning North, South, and Central America, as well as the Caribbean. Jillian also discovered that of that larger group of bilingual students, 25% are labeled as ELs, spanning a range of proficiency levels across language domains and including both newcomers to the United States and long-term ELs who had enrolled in neighborhood schools since the primary grades.

Jillian decided to focus on a weather and climate unit previously drafted for her earth and space science class. Working with other secondary teachers and using graphic organizers of academic language functions (AACCW, 2010) and features (WIDA, 2012), Jillian analyzed the unit’s transfer and meaning goals for language demands. She noted that her students would need to (a) interpret scientific evidence requiring diverse text features like maps, graphs, and charts, (b) describe weather using words that may be familiar from other contexts (e.g., humidity, temperature), (c) compare climates between local and global settings using distinct measurement systems (i.e., Fahrenheit, Celsius). From that analysis, she pinpointed the linguistic knowledge that her students would need to develop to access the larger learning goals, including weather-based text features and vocabulary terms and comparative sentence structures. She then refined skill indicators to target her students’ language development simultaneous to content, including analyzing weather-related data, interpreting weather patterns, and comparing climates. In this way, Jillian maintained the rigor of scientific learning while adding a lens on disciplinary language development to the Stage 1 goals.

Jillian wanted to design a performance task aligned to unit goals. After analyzing the paper-and-pencil test used by the previous earth science teacher, she realized the need to design an authentic, language-rich task that actively engaged her students in listening, speaking, reading, and writing focused on the disciplinary topics of weather and climate. Reflecting the instructor’s consistent messaging regarding responsive practice, she aimed to tap into her students’ rich sources of background knowledge, including their various global experiences and multilingual backgrounds. Using the GRASPS framework, she drafted a performance task where learners take on roles as potential weather reporters who use multiple sources of evidence to describe how weather affects human life around the globe. Students needed to use disciplinary language (in English and home languages) to compare and contrast how weather and climate influenced one facet of human life in various contexts. To ensure she had data to measure progress toward all Stage 1 goals, Jillian integrated opportunities to collect supplementary evidence throughout the unit.

After refining her goals and assessments with a language lens, Jillian wanted a learning plan that was rigorous, engaging, and interesting for her diverse students. Based on pre-planning data, she wove in students’ cultural and linguistic background knowledge. She began with a context-specific hook, prompting students to compare their city with other locations they had lived or traveled, and continued this strand by using global inquiry teams to analyze weather by continent and expert groups based on learners’ various countries of origin. Jillian then used approaches and resources explored during workshops to attend to disciplinary language, including consistent teacher modeling and student application with strategic scaffolds, such as sentence frames and graphic organizers. Having used the UbD template throughout the process of learning and applying the language lens, she completed a unit with a consistent and deliberate lens on scientific language. In this way, Jillian strategically designed experiences to support learners in reaching unit goals for learning and language development.

Conclusions & Recommendations

UbD with a language lens aims to provide all students with equitable access to rigorous learning and language development (Heineke & McTighe, 2018). By adding a language lens to the widely used UbD framework, educators learn to maintain the rigor of science teaching and learning while attending to disciplinary language demands (Heineke & McTighe, 2018; Lee et al., 2013). This timely innovation in science teacher education corresponds with current policy initiatives in K-12 schools and universities, including the NGSS that emphasize language-rich scientific and engineering practices (NGSS Lead States, 2013) and the Teacher Performance Assessment (edTPA) that prioritizes academic language embedded in content instruction (SCALE, 2018). In line with these broad policy shifts that bolster the role of language in science teaching and learning, this framework can be used with K-12 in-service and pre-service teachers, whether approached through professional development or university coursework.

Application in Practice

We originally designed and implemented this approach through a grant-funded, professional development project with in-service teachers working in 32 public schools in the urban Midwest, which included Bridget, Jillian, and other teachers spanning elementary, middle, and high schools in culturally and linguistically diverse communities (see Heineke et al., 2018a for more details on the project). Findings indicated that teachers, as well as participating school and district leaders, developed awareness and knowledge of discipline-specific language development, pedagogical skills to effectively integrate language in content instruction, and leadership abilities to shape implementation in their unique educational settings (Heineke et al., 2018b). By integrating the language lens into the existing UbD template, of which they were already familiar and comfortable in using, teachers embraced language development as a part of their regular teaching repertoires, rather than an add-on initiative.

We are currently integrating this approach into a university pre-service teacher education program, and our preliminary work indicates close alignment between the edTPA and UbD with a language lens. Of the many rubrics that are used to assess teacher candidates on the edTPA, over half directly relate to the components of the approach shared above, including planning for content understandings, knowledge of students, supporting academic language development, planning assessment, analyzing student learning, analyzing students’ academic language understanding and use, and use of assessment to inform instruction (SCALE, 2018). In addition to our previous research with in-service teachers, we plan to collect data on the implementation of UbD with a language lens with pre-service teachers, investigating how the approach and related professional learning experiences facilitate understandings, knowledge, skills, and dispositions for supporting language development in the science classroom.

Suggestions for Implementation

Based on our experiences in designing and implementing this approach, we have suggestions for science teacher educators who endeavor to prepare teachers and candidates for instructional design with a language lens. First, use the UbD template as a common tool to mediate both learning and application, adding the language lens to what educators already know and understand as sound instructional design (see Heineke & McTighe, 2018 as a potential resource to mediate teachers’ learning). Next, utilize the expertise of the educators themselves and build capacity more broadly across schools and programs, prompt collaborative learning and application in science-specific groups of teachers and candidates, as well as more diverse conglomerations of educators to promote co-planning and co-teaching with ESL, special education, or STEM teachers (see Heineke et al., 2018a). Finally, to avoid the conceptualization of language as an add-on initiative, integrate the language lens into science methods coursework and professional development for teacher candidates and teachers, respectively.

When approaching this professional learning in either coursework or professional development, we recommend expending ample efforts to initially build the needed buy-in that science teachers indeed play a role in supporting students’ language development. Since the educational institution has long maintained silos that separate language and content, those need to be broken down for educators to embrace learning and application to practice. Awareness of the role of the language in scientific learning can support these efforts, which can be effectively developed via simulations that build educators’ empathy for students’ interaction with discipline-specific language. When teachers are put in the position of students, such as needing to maneuver complex journal articles, they begin to recognize the need to attend to language in science teaching. Finally, emphasize the importance of students’ assets and teachers’ high expectations. The purpose of the language lens is not to reduce rigor in the science classroom, but rather to enhance instruction and provide equitable access for all learners.


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Scaffolding Preservice Science Teacher Learning of Effective English Learner Instruction: A Principle-Based Lesson Cycle

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Roberts, S.A., & Bianchini, J.A. (2019). Scaffolding preservice science teacher learning of effective english learner instruction: A principle-based lesson cycle. Innovations in Science Teacher Education, 4(3). Retrieved from

by Sarah A. Roberts, University of California, Santa Barbara; & Julie A. Bianchini, University of California, Santa Barbara


This paper examines a lesson development, implementation, revision, and reflection cycle used to support preservice secondary science teachers in learning to teach English learners (ELs) effectively. We begin with a discussion of our framework for teaching reform-based science to ELs – four principles of effective EL instruction and three levels of language – that shaped both our science methods course, more generally, and the lesson cycle, in particular. We then present a model lesson implemented in the methods course that highlighted these principles and levels for our preservice teachers. Next, we describe how preservice teachers used their participation in and analysis of this model lesson as a starting point to develop their own lessons, engaging in a process of development, implementation, revision, and reflection around our EL principles and language levels. We close with a description of our course innovation, viewed through the lens of the preservice teachers. We attempt to provide practical insight into how other science teacher educators can better support their preservice teachers in effectively teaching ELs.

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