A former college physics instructor; cognitive science researcher; and curricula developer for Biological Sciences Curriculum Study, the U.S. Space Foundation, and the Wild Goose Company, Bill Robertson is the author of NSTA’s award-winning book series Stop Faking It! Finally Understanding Science So You Can Teach It. In addition, he reviews and edits science materials, takes on various writing projects, and performs teacher workshops across the country. His column, “Science 101,” appears monthly in the journal Science and Children.
Bill earned a bachelor’s in physics from Occidental College, a master’s in physics from the University of Illinois, and a doctorate in science education from the University of Colorado. He works from his home in the mountain town of Woodland Park, Colorado, and has one child in high school and another in college, plus two very large dogs who shed quite a bit. His wife holds down a real job and is respected in the community. She’s a judge. Bill knows many of the local grocery store cashiers but is unsure of their respect.
Bill’s career has focused mainly on the difference between understanding science and math and memorizing them. Through his own research and the work of others, he has come to realize that there are measurable differences in performance based on how one approaches the subject matter: Those who understand can address a wide variety of situations and concepts, while those who memorize are limited. Suffice to say that Bill’s workshops also concentrate on understanding. That means using hands-on activities as a prelude to the presentation of concepts, and not rushing through the material for the sake of coverage. And lame jokes can’t hurt.
Professional Development Sessions
Robertson gives professional talks, from one to two hours, on various topics in science and education. His primary focus is on the difference between memorizing and understanding science concepts, but he can also address topics such as the reasoning behind the rules in math, integrating science concepts across disciplines, the role of model building in science, and the processes involved in curriculum development. Robertson has been a featured speaker at several state science conventions and for the Mickelson-Exxon/Mobil Teachers Academy.
Robertson performs half-day, full-day, and multi-day workshops for elementary, middle, and high school teachers. The primary focus of the workshops is on helping teachers develop a deep understanding of basic science concepts in physics and chemistry. Each workshop begins with a simulation that introduces constructivism and the Learning Cycle (or Five Es). The rest of the workshop models the Learning Cycle, using hands-on activities as precursors to the introduction of concepts. Thus, while the focus is concept learning, pedagogy appropriate for the teachers’ learning and for the classroom permeates all the teachers do. Robertson can address any subject covered in the Stop Faking It! books, plus others on request. He has performed workshops all across the country. Robertson is entertaining, humorous, and irreverent, but also very serious about helping teachers understand the science they teach. He believes that when teachers understand more concepts than they are required to teach, and at a deeper level, they gain a comfort level and amount of control over learning that isn’t possible when their knowledge is limited to what’s in the required curriculum.