Making ambitious practice public: A science-focused lesson study conference summary

This blog by Kate Echevarria was originally posted on the Smithsonian Science Center Blog.

The Smithsonian Science Education Center is excited to host guest bloggers Sharon Dotger, Associate Professor of Science Education in the School of Education at Syracuse University, and Jessica Whisher-Hehl, Science Coordinator for OCM BOCES’ Center for Innovative Science Education!

Our biographies:

Sharon Dotger is an Associate Professor of Science Education in the School of Education at Syracuse University. She is a lesson study researcher and a practitioner, hosting or participating in more than a dozen open research lessons with teachers in the last decade. Additionally, she has rewritten her on-campus methods course to embody as many features of lesson study as possible and is always on the lookout for more opportunities to make lesson study come alive for her students. Sharon has presented about lesson study in the United States and abroad and supervised lesson study research studies with five doctoral students.

Jessica Whisher-Hehl is the Science Coordinator for OCM BOCES’ Center for Innovative Science Education. Jessica supports K-12 science in 23 school districts by providing professional development and leading an elementary science curriculum materials program. As New York State is in the process of adopting new science standards based on the Framework for K-12 Science Education and the NGSS, Jessica is tasked with leading the region in the implementation of the new standards. A major component of this effort includes transitioning the elementary science curriculum materials program, which serves over 1000 classrooms, to the new units being developed by the Smithsonian Science Education Center. Jessica is currently a doctoral candidate in Science Education in the School of Education at Syracuse University.

A Vignette: A class of fourth-grade students are using hand generators to make observations of change before and after an “interaction”. Their teacher circulates among them, asking clarifying questions about their thinking and encouraging them to add ideas to their science notebook. Surrounding the perimeter of the classroom, 40 teachers and administrators are carefully taking notes about the students and their thinking. At one table, four children are passing the generator among them: Continue reading

Supporting Instructional Change Through Curriculum Materials

The upcoming New York State Science Learning Standards (NYSSLS) based on the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), like other educational reform efforts will require a shift in instructional practices. The full incorporation of all three dimensions (disciplinary core ideas, crosscutting concepts, and science and engineering practices) increases the complexity of instruction more than previous reform efforts and well-designed science curriculum materials are one mechanism that can support teachers making the associated instructional shifts (Bismack, Arias, Davis & Palinscar, 2014). “Well-designed reform-based materials can be a key component of efforts to support teacher change” (Schneider, Krajcik & Blumenfeld, 2005, p. 287). Curriculum materials, as discussed herein include the materials teachers use in the classroom including published materials (printed or electronic), resources, and artifacts or manipulatives that are designed to facilitate classroom instruction (Davis, Pallincsar, & Arias 2014; Remillard, 2005; Stein & Kim, 2009). Continue reading

Science for all students really means science for ALL.

The New York State Science Learning Standards (NYSSLS) were presented to the Board of Regents in June, with an anticipated adoption this fall. These new standards, based on the NGSS (NGSS Lead States, 2013) and embodying The Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas (National Research Council, 2012), were designed and intended to be for all students. This might not seem new, but in fact it is. The previous science reform initiatives, in the post-Sputnik area, had a focus on creating more engineers and scientists. The new and explicit goal of science standards for all students is articulated frequently in the Framework and NGSS. In fact the topic has a dedicated chapter in the Framework and Continue reading

Developing Scientific Understanding: The Importance of Misconceptions

“There is a great difference between knowing and understanding: you can know a lot about something and not really understand.”
– Charles K. Kettering

Charles Kettering was a prolific engineer and inventor who clearly put his understanding to use in the almost 200 patents he holds. His quote provides us, as science educators, a point of reflection when considering the learning experiences we provide students. Is our goal to facilitate understanding, or add to the list of things students know? The Framework for Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Idea (NRC, 2012) clearly articulates a vision of science learning built around students developing an understanding of core science concepts: Continue reading

The Excitement of the Endless Quest

S. Ossokine , A. Buonanno /W. Benger via

What is our quest as science educators? What is the quest of scientists? What are the science learning quests of students? How are they similar?

The recent detection of gravitational waves proved Einstein’s theory that was postulated in 1916. This detection was a very big deal in the science community. Scientists are on a tenacious, never ending quest to Continue reading

Let your voice be heard – Complete the draft NYSSLS survey

The draft New York State Science Learning Standards (NYSSLS), were released for public review, on November 19, 2015. A survey to collect feedback on the draft NYSSLS is open until February 5, 2016. It has been approximately 20 years since we have had the opportunity to welcome new science standards. The adoption of new science standards to incorporate the most recent research related to how students learn science and prepare students for their future is overdue. The opportunity new science standards provide occurs infrequently. We need to maximize this opportunity by taking the time to understand the draft NYSSLS and respond to the survey.

The OCM BOCES Center for Innovative Science Education has developed a resources page to support Continue reading

Learning Progressions: Supporting Improvement in Science Education

As articulated in A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas (NRC, 2012) a foundation of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) is providing a K-12 science learning experience that allows students to build an understanding of scientific concepts overtime:

“To develop a thorough understanding of scientific explanations of the world, students need sustained opportunities to work with and develop the underlying ideas and to appreciate those ideas’ interconnections over a period of years rather than weeks or month.” (NRC, 2012, p. 26).

The idea of building an understanding overtime is referred to as a learning progression. The development of understanding over time is a foundation for Continue reading

The wait is over. The new science standards are here.

The draft New York State Science Learning Standards (NYSSLS), were released for public review, on November 19th. A survey to collect public comments on the draft NYSSLS is expected to be released on December 2, 2015. Here are OCM BOCES Center for Innovative Science Education’s top ten things to consider when reviewing the NYSSLS:

  1. Review the process by which NYSED went through to create the NYSSLS from the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The process began in 2013 with a public survey that asked respondents to compare the NGSS to the current New York State science standards. Two sets of standard writing teams made edits to the NGSS to develop the NYSSLS. The Science Education Steering Committee reviewed the preliminary drafts after the first round of edits and provided SED with feedback.

Continue reading

Crosscutting Concepts: The Unifying, Pervasive, and Powerful Concepts in Science

There exists unifying, pervasive, and powerful concepts that provide coherence as well as deep conceptual understanding across all disciplines of science. These concepts are not new; they have always existed and been fundamental aspects of science. From time to time these concepts have also been present in K-12 science learning experience. A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas (NRC, 2012) names these crosscutting concepts and identifies their importance in K-12 education. Thus, crosscutting concepts are one of the three dimensions of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) (Lead States, 2013). This explicit identification and inclusion of crosscutting concepts is one of the many aspects that make the NGSS substantially different from our current standards. Cross cutting concepts will also be one of the three dimensions in the New York State Science Learning Standards (NYSSLS) that are expected to be released in draft form in the near future. Continue reading

Starting to Understanding the beauty and wonder of our universe

This has been an important week in science and further points to the importance of the impending new New York State Science Learning Standards (NYSSLS), based on the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) (Achieve, 2013). On Sunday, September 27th we were lucky to witness the beauty of the universe in the supermoon lunar eclipse. Then on Monday, September 28th NASA reported evidence of water flowing periodically on Mars. We were awed by the eclipse one day and reminded of the ever expanding understanding of the universe the next.

Science and science education are vitally important to our understanding of our world. This fundamental connection between science and each of our lives is the cornerstone of the NGSS. The part of the goal of K-12 science education articulated in A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas (NRC, 2012) is “to ensure that by the end of 12th grade, all students have some appreciation of the beauty and wonder of science; possess sufficient knowledge of science and engineering to engage in public discussions on related issues…” (p. 1). Our current and past K-12 science education has not prepared students to fundamentally understand science phenomena related to their world. This is evident in the fact that the majority of the people whom I have asked to explain the lunar eclipse are unable to provide a full and correct explanation. Many are able to identify that it has something to do with the Earth, moon, sun, and shadows in general, but few are able to correctly and completely explain the phenomena.

The good news is that in the future students will develop an understanding of the phenomena that explains the occurrence of lunar eclipses. This understanding is included in the NGSS, specifically in a disciplinary core. In the previous blogs we have been talking about the Framework and building an understanding of the three dimensions (science and engineering practices, disciplinary core ideas, and cross cutting concepts) of the NGSS. Here we will focus on the disciplinary core ideas.

The Framework clearly articulates the importance of focusing K-12 science education on core scientific phenomena: “an important role of science education is not to teach ‘all the facts’ but rather to prepare students with sufficient core knowledge” (NRC, 2012 p. 31). Furthermore, the goal is for students to develop a sufficient depth of knowledge such that the knowledge is usable (NRC, 2012). These core and relevant scientific concepts make up the disciplinary core ideas in the NGSS. The Framework specifies that a disciplinary core idea should meet at least two (more is preferred) of the follow:

  1. Have broad importance across multiple disciplines or be fundamental to one discipline
  2. Be important for understanding or investigating more complex phenomena
  3. Be related to the students’ life or a societal concern
  4. Can be learned at greater depth across multiple grades

The disciplinary core ideas are divided into four disciplinary categories: physical science, earth and space sciences, life sciences; and engineering, technology. Each of the four categories includes three or four core ideas. The disciplinary core ideas are based on one of the corner stones of the Framework, the learning progression theory. Thus, the disciplinary core ideas progress throughout K-12 science education, allowing students to develop a more complex, coherent, and deeper understanding of key phenomena.

Now let’s consider the lunar eclipse and how this relates to disciplinary core ideas included in the NGSS. First, it is included in the earth and space science in the core idea ESS1: Earth’s Place in the Universe. More specifically it is in the subcategory ESS1.B: Earth and the solar system. Students first begin to develop an understanding of this disciplinary core idea in first grade by making observations to describe the predicable patterns of motion in the sun, moon, and stars. Once students observe the patterns they build on this understanding in fifth grade to include daily changes in the length and direction of shadows, day and night as well as seasonal appearances of some stars. This helps students understand orbital relationship of the Earth around the sun and the moon around the Earth. In middle school students are asked to develop and use a model to explain the patterns of lunar phases, eclipses, and seasons. Then in high school students further their understanding to include complex phenomena related to elliptical orbits and Kepler’s Laws.

So what does this mean? This means that with the upcoming NYSSLS based on the NGSS students will be able to explain and understand the phenomena related to the lunar eclipse by the end of middle school. Yes, this is absolutely possible. I have had the pleasure of working with 6th grade students as they used a hula hoop, a larger marble to represent the Earth, a smaller marble to represent the moon, and a flashlight for the sun to model the cyclic patterns in the lunar phases and eclipses represented in several years of data.

You might still be wondering about the recent eclipse and how the orbits of the Earth around the sun and the moon around the Earth relate to this phenomenon. To understand this phenomenon first consider the patterns in the lunar phases – there is a new moon about once every 28 days. Then consider the occurrence of lunar eclipses over at least several years (the fact lunar eclipses don’t happen as regularly as the lunar phases is important). Also notice the differences in the shadow pattern on the moon between an eclipse and the lunar phases. When considering the pattern of the lunar phases and lunar eclipses use a model to explain the data. I used a flashlight, lacrosse ball, and golf ball on Sunday night to have my family members use a model to explain this phenomenon. The key is the moon’s orbit around the Earth at a five degree tilt to the plane on which Earth orbits the sun. These animations by NASA help explain this phenomenon.

OCM BOCES Center for Innovative Science Education is positioned to support the region’s transition to the upcoming NYSSLS. We are offering professional development opportunities this fall to prepare the region for the new standards.

Hehl_Jessica_150pxJessica Whisher Hehl
OCM BOCES Center for Innovative Science Education