Reviewed by Adah Stock
Master Teacher and a Science Education Consultant
“We hope this course will challenge you to see the world and science in different beautiful ways.” The authors' meaning is profound. They offer a professional development package for teachers which focuses on discussions, active reflections, hands–on science investigations, science learning, and literacy issues related to science.
The program contains two volumes with CDs. What makes it unique is the fact that it is a case–based approach that was a culmination of ten years of effort by WestEd, a nonprofit research development and service agency. The course entails thirty hours of core content learning about understanding energy, potential energy, heat energy, the conservation of energy, and energy in the ecosystem. Each of these five components require one full day of active learning at the beginning of a school year. At the end of the year teachers attend five, two hour follow–up sessions that examine each teacher’s student products and assessments to recognize science understandings and proficiency, determine learning gaps, plan and modify instructional approaches, and tasks for the following year.
There are four main components to this course. The first is the teaching component which provides cases, teaching investigations, and classroom connections. Part two is the science component which covers content notes, science investigations, and science reviews. Part three is the literacy component which includes literacy investigations and literacy reviews. The last component looks at student work. It includes discussion protocols, learning objectives and misconceptions, and student work samples.
Each of the five sessions of this teacher manual is laid out in the same way: The two appendices at the end of the manual contain a list of learning objectives, including a list of science misconceptions for each of the five content units, as well as a task bank with formative assessments. The CD contains printable guide masters, information sheets, and an end user license.
The facilitators guide introduces the course and the guide. Following the introduction there is a comprehensive section called "Facilitator Insights." For a first time facilitator, this section provides tips for successfully fulfilling the role of a facilitator. At the beginning of each content section one page contains the days’ goals and a comprehensive time schedule for that day. Each section is laid out identically with an overview, preparation and materials list, science investigations, teacher investigations, literacy investigations, classroom connections, and housekeeping exit strategies. The step–by–step approach ensures successful facilitation.
As a seasoned science educator and an experienced provider of professional development I can appreciate the clarity with which materials are presented for teachers in each of the content sections. Simple, labeled diagrams illustrate and support the understanding of the science content. Overall, after reading the teacher and facilitator books, it is obvious that this course is research based, encourages a collaborative approach both in small and large groups, provides inquiry–based science investigations, employs reflection from teacher learning and experiences, and obviously is standards based. Using student samples and providing a follow–up analysis of student work and assessments ensures that both the educators and the students are successful learners.
Understanding Science for Teaching
Review posted on 9/14/2012