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 NPR.org

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