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main criterion for her curriculum organization. In addition to understanding TEKS, the ability to organize integrated science lessons is also important to middle school
science teachers. Emily stated:
I like to start with Chemistry and Physics; and then it’s basically
school — it’s okay. But, here’s a chunk, here’s a chuck here, and they pull from all different areas of science because it’s integration.
The trick is weaving that thread to pull them together. So, I’ve developed my own progression of what that thread is and basically what I do is I start with the Chemistry and Physics, then after that I start out in the universe and I pull it down to inside the human body.
So, I start with the bigger picture — astronomy, weather — and then down to our earth — our planet, geology, that kind of stuff — and then down even further to animals and the humans and trees and everything that lives on planet, down to what are humans made
Making connections between concepts is another skill required for being a good science teacher. Emily looks at students’ learning from the constructivist’s
perspective. She stated:
I think about this concept and what we’ll build after it. I also think about relating to past concepts. For instance, like my kids are learning levers and pulleys now. We studied in the spring the human body and we start talking about the skeleton system and the muscular system and I hope to help them understand that within the human body there are levers and pulleys, too (first interview, 12/3/03).
Emily also considers vertical alignment while organizing curriculum for her classes, because she thinks that middle school science is a foundation for high school
science. For example, she stated:
This unit is important for my students because it sets the foundation for high school biology, [which] they must have, and also it’s part
important for them, so that they can have an understanding to do well in high school biology class (second interview, 5/20/05).
Another element that Emily incorporates into her curriculum organization is alignment her lesson with other subjects. She believes that students’ learning becomes
more meaningful through such alignment. For example:
I was getting ready to move into the cell. That’s why I was looking at some information and I found out that the social studies teacher on the team was going to do things about atmosphere, weather, things like that. And, in social studies, they just touch on it, but I was like, Oh, wow! If that’s the case, then I am going to do all GLOBE atmosphere with sixth grade and the stuff that’s in the book
met the other morning, and I said, “Well, I teach about this,” and he said, “Oh, great! Because I teach about this other part.” Like he’s
from two different teachers, two different viewpoints. So, collaborating with my other teachers that helps me to reinforce the children’s learning (first interview, 12/3/05).
The last element in “knowledge of curriculum organization” is “being flexible.” Emily reported that she builds up her lesson based on students’ response
rather than depending on a solid lesson plan. She stated:
I am constantly planning my lessons because I think it comes with the experience and with time. You get to the point where — as you are delivering the lesson or your students are engaged in a lab — you are constantly assessing what’s going on and I can’t tell you how many times that from day to day, I’ve changed my lesson. This week was an example. My kids just weren’t getting the difference between a second and third class level. And I’m watching them going through the lab and I’m watching them manipulating and asking each other questions and I could see the looks on their face and I am thinking, “Oh, you know what? We can’t move on.” Tomorrow, instead of doing what I was planning, I am going to do blah, blah, blah. So the planning portion takes place all the time.
There’s not a time that I sit down and I say, “Okay, it’s Thursday afternoon. I am going to sit down and plan my lesson. That’s not what happens. For my year, I have a skeletal frame for the year
Emily also readjusts her curriculum based on students’ input. She stated:
I might have a student say, “Hey, Miss, I have this, I saw this really cool thing. Can we build it?” or “Could we investigate it?” or “Could we do it?” And, I will ask the other kids, “Are you interested in that?” “Yeah.” So we might get side tracked and do something else for a little while. So, my lesson planning is continuous. It just never stops (first interview, 12/3/03).
Emily’s component 3-a: knowledge of teaching strategies Based on the results of Emily’s data analysis, “knowledge of teaching strategies” includes several specific elements, including scientific inquiry, a variety of activities, and Cornell note-taking.
Emily thinks that science teachers should help students learn how to do inquiry in their classes, and she believes that this makes science different from other
subjects. She says:
I don’t believe in cookbook lab. I don’t believe in kids coming in
water. I would rather my students develop an idea. I might give them the problem but they have to think everything through — what they are going to do — and that’s what a scientist does (first
When asked to define “inquiry,” she said, “If it is an inquiry lab, students have to think it through and pull it through” (second interview, 5/20/04). Emily prompts students to generate questions in order to engage in scientific inquiry process by
themselves. For example:
I had this box up there that’s just filled with all kinds of different, little cheap toys and in this lab what they have to do is they have to, I mean, really focus. I give them a few minutes at first and it’s crazy. It’s loud in here when they do it. Let them just play with it.
They are children so they can play. And then they have some very focused questions; “How do you make this car move?” “How do you make this toy move?” “What do you have to do?” “How can you make your toys go faster or slower?” What it does is, it really focuses. It makes the kids focus on what I am trying to pull out of them internally without even introducing it at first. It is the idea of force. And from that — and they will come up with the push, the pull, the idea like that. And what they are doing is they’re actually giving me the definition before they ever give me the vocabulary.
That’s another reason why I love the FOSS kits so much — like we’re doing levers and pulleys right now — is because it pulls that from the kids. It engages and it pulls them. It makes them think
She also believes that there are many alternative ways of teaching a concept, and that a science teacher should consider his or her students and available resources in order to select the best teaching strategy for a lesson. The following quote shows
her underlying assumption in making decisions about her teaching strategies:
subject. It’s a verb. You have to do science. You have to experience science. If you don’t, if you just read about science, you are not learning anything about science. You may be getting some background information, but — I mean — I could have my kids read all day long about levers and pulleys and look at pictures and everything but my kids would not have been able to relate. They had to feel it. They have to have the science first (first interview, 12/3/03).
Emily also listed Cornell note taking as one of her teaching strategies. She
“Cornell notes” is a style of note taking developed by Cornell University and basically what you do is you do your note taking on the right hand side. You fold your paper and you do your note taking on the right hand side. After you take your notes on the left hand side, you develop your own study questions. And then that helps you get ready for tests or pre-labs or whatever because you have your own focus questions. And, because it was developed by you, it is a more internal thing. It’s more meaningful, and then the kids hold on to it (second interview, 5/20/04).
Emily often uses these questions developed by students as a springboard for student discussion. By doing so, she connects her teaching strategies with assessment strategies.
Emily’s component 3-b: knowledge of assessment strategies Emily stated that assessment strategies are intertwined with teaching strategies, in that “what and/or how to assess” should be considered based upon “how to teach” in order to achieve the goals for her lessons (third interview, 3/23/05). This component includes the following three specific elements: various strategies of assessment, “how” types of questions, and laboratory journals.
Emily uses a variety of assessment strategies to examine students’ understanding either explicitly or implicitly. She also believes that a science teacher should perform ongoing assessment to help students understand of science concepts.
When asked how she determines whether students understand, she said:
There are several different ways that I do it. I do teacher observation, walking around asking the kids, questioning and checking their responses checking for understanding. My kids know that the lab conclusion is an integral part. If I don’t understand it, I tell them, “If you don’t do a good conclusion, then I don’t think you really know it and you need to learn it. You need further understanding. The way that scientists express themselves is through their conclusions. So, I am kind of forgiving for other parts of the lab report, except conclusion. To me, it’s the summary and it’s the test. So, I look at the conclusions very hard because lab conclusions are a big part of how I analyze them [the students]. We also have question and answer time and review sessions near the
laboratory assessment type. For instance, today I had them investigate different toys and decide whether they were first, second or third class levers and they thought they were just going to another lab. What I was doing, it was their test. I just don’t tell them it’s a test (first interview, 12/3/03).
One of Emily’s favorite ongoing assessment strategies — that also happens to be very effective in determining whether to adjust a lesson — is “how” types of questions, such as, “How do your body’s systems interact with each other?”, “How does your body use food?”, “How can you receive blood from somebody else?” (second interview, 5/20/04). Emily reported that she can confirm students’ understanding based on their explanation of the responses, while students have a chance to reflect on what they have learned. She said that both she and her students benefit from this form of questioning.
Another assessment strategy is to use students’ science journals. She thinks
that this assessment strategy helps her to achieve her teaching goals. She stated:
A scientist has to be disciplined and accurate in how they report
graph properly. I make them use composition books because that’s what I used when I was doing research. While they are doing this, they reason why and I used this in research, too, because the pages are sewn in — you can’t lie or fudge when you are a scientist. You are recording your information, you date them, you time them, everything that you have page by page. With my students, I feel
used by a scientist. If you make a mistake, you don’t rip out the page. Mistakes are part of science. You can just put an X through the page, move on to the next. So, it really teaches them that this is how scientist works in the real world (first interview, 12/3/03).
Emily’s component 3-c: knowledge of resources As other participants addressed the importance of knowing resources, Emily also reported that knowledge of resources facilitates lesson planning and teaching practices. This component includes three specific elements: information on activities and materials, multimedia, laboratory technology, and campus resources.
Emily usually gains information on activities and materials that she can apply to her lessons by participating in workshops. When asked to further explain this, she
It comes from professional development, especially all the professional development I received at the Lake University. It helps
We also share this information. I like pulling in other different things because then I don’t get bored. (second interview, 5/20/04) She also reported that knowing how to use multimedia is useful in effectively presenting science content. She also makes an effort to use as many types of laboratory technology equipment as possible. She thinks that this generation of students needs to know how to use these instruments in
Another element within “knowledge of resources” is “campus resources.” According to Emily, she is unable to plan laboratories and activities in her science classes without this specific knowledge.
Emily’s Conceptualization of Seven PCK Components Emily agreed upon the seven components and elements, with the addition of a couple elements within “knowledge of resources.” In the third interview, she was excited about seeing the visualized knowledge components that had emerged from her data. When asked to show how the components are interrelated within teaching science, Emily first categorized the seven components into the three groups and then drew linking lines between groups (Figure 12).