At first glance, this pair of volumes
may seem intimidating--especially for the elementary or middle level
teacher who has suddenly come face-to-face with the strengthened
physical science standards in both Common Core and the New Generation
Science Standards. The authors describe it as a semester-long
professional development course, and it certainly could be that.
This first volume in more than a dozen courses in the “Understanding Science for Teaching” series provides an example of professional development in science education at its best. Authors Kirsten Daehler, Mayumi Shinohara, and Jennifer Folsom have constructed a coherent and thorough course in these basic physical science areas based on a case–based approach.
The topics in the course are familiar: motion, acceleration, force, and mass. Instructional materials include a teacher volume for the professional development participant, a facilitator guide, and CDs accompanying both volumes. What sets this program apart from many is depth, both in content and pedagogy. Rather than creating contrived “world of work” scenarios for applying principles or concepts, this program uses classroom narratives, described in great detail and precision, as jumping off points for the teacher–trainee to master science content and to guide students effectively.
The authors skillfully weave strategies from reading pedagogy into the science work, emphasizing such skills as visualization, summarizing, and predicting. Even with the importance of reading strategies in place, teachers will always view the science classroom is a place of inquiry and hands–on investigation. One of the strengths of the course is that student experimentation and lab activities are the jumping off points for deeper understanding through reading and mathematical analysis.
The Facilitator Guide deals with pitfalls often encountered by teachers and students in physical science. The authors note that science teachers need not only to become proficient in content but also to be especially aware of metacognition, that is, how students construct ideas.
School administrators and public officials sometimes find the notion tempting that we can improve science teaching simply by attracting science professionals who are looking for a second career and placing them in front a group of students. The authors of these books would concur wholeheartedly that content knowledge is a prerequisite for good science teaching, but this course demonstrates that there is much more to the art of teaching than knowing the material.
For those teachers who are looking at
the heightened expectations in physical science at the elementary and
middle level, this compendium is key. While it doesn't come in easy
bytes, the message of the entire program is: "Relax. You can do
this. Here's how."