Teacher Science Institute Concepts

Three interwoven content threads

- adjust schedule to control the pace of each day

1) Alternative conceptions and guided inquiry.

Teachers work in pairs, not from same school with different seniorities and grade levels.

Topic chosen was bulbs and batteries since there is a well developed curriculum (Physics by Inquiry, by L.C. McDermott and the PER group at the University of Washington)

2) Science kits as a curricular structure within which to do guided inquiry.

Teachers work in pairs, not from the same school and with different seniorities. Activities approximately grade level, generally divided K-3 and 4-8. Use materials from kits, but develop a deeper understanding.

3) Multidimensional short discussions about the real issues of using science kits.

  - some led by teacher-facilitators.

Provide incentive for attending the workshop:

            - free graduate credit for successful attendance

            - $300 with which to purchase science equipment which is owned by the teacher.

In-service teachers as part of team.

            Chose a local master teacher to help design the program.

            After the first year, chose two teachers from the previous year to act as facilitators.

Encourage ongoing reflection through journal writing

1) Keep a record of observations, since memory tends to recall what we expect rather than what we observe.

2) Write reflections and comments concerning the potential impact of the new learning on classroom teaching.

3) Write an open reflection at the end of each day that will be read by the facilitators and used to

assess and adjust the workshop activities.

Workshop Design Philosophy

Acknowledge professional status of teachers… create arena of mutual respect.

Include a teacher as member of design team, and two teachers as facilitators.

Create situations in which teachers experience what we want them to know rather than just talking about it.

Reveal the human, judgmental, model-based nature of science, as opposed to the fiction many believe, that it is objective, fact-based and requires certain knowledge. Encourage playful inquiry.

Emphasize that students have minds of their own... their models are generally not the scientifically accepted ones.

Include many forms of assessment from self-formative to teacher-normative, including daily reflection.

Address practical issues of using kits in classroom… use teachers as experts.

Adjust the pace by including short discussions, some led by teacher facilitators.

Emphasize that doing inquiry science requires language arts and makes mathematics meaningful.

Provide incentive for attendance.

Professor Joseph Bellina’s comments at the 10 march 2004 NISMC meeting

In the past 5 to 10 years, data have been accumulating that clearly indicate that the poor performance by students in science and mathematics, and the even poorer performance by minority students and economically disadvantaged students can be changed by using two strategies.

First, shift the emphasis in the classroom to student-centered activities consistent with national learning standards, and second provide substantial professional development for teachers so they can creatively use this new pedagogy to help student learning in their classrooms.

In other words, to improve student learning we need to think in terms of:

Student centered instruction by guided inquiry with fewer textbooks and study-sheets.
Standards based curriculum using hands on/minds on science and math activities, such as the standard-based science kits,
Support for teachers as they change their pedagogical methods, and

Involvement by parents and the community at large to support students and teachers in this new endeavor.

Some of you know that a group at SMC, Professors Nancy Nekvasil, Deborah McCarthy (who cant be with us because they are traveling), Joyce Simko from Holy Cross School and I, as part of the Lilly funded CoStep project, developed the Teacher Science Institute to help teachers from northern
Indiana understand guided inquiry as a way of teaching science, and see how standards-based science kits could improve the quality of student learning in science. We also supported the South Bend Community School Corporation by providing workshops, and continuing education opportunities through IU South Bend. Other outreach aspects of CoStep included reading in science and math for middle school students, and laboratory experiences for middle school science classes and home-schooled children.

However successful these programs were, we could not find ways to expand them to reach more than a small fraction of the in-service teachers. Further the research show that single experience, no matter how powerful, is not enough to change a teaching culture. We now have the opportunity
to move beyond that limited effort.

Thanks primarily to the efforts of Gordon Berry, in this room there is the potential for a fundamental change in the way science and mathematics are learned in our classrooms. That change that has been shown to substantially increase student learning in science and mathematics and collaterally, in language arts. There are groups here capable of providing:
the professional development of teachers in entire schools and school districts,
the means and knowledge for materials management of standards-based science kits both in the classroom and at the district level,
a library of sample kit materials that teachers can pilot and evaluate,
the knowledge to support data driven decision making by teachers and administrators to improve student learning in science and mathematics, and there are visionary school leaders,
all together in a place with the size and reputation that can draw in the funds to make it possible.

We need a broad partnership to organize these resources, focus our collective will and gather funds to do it. With your help we can create such a structure, leading to the creation of a federally, state, and community supported regional center to improve student learning in science
and mathematics in Michiana.

Joseph J. Bellina, Jr. 574-284-4662
Professor of Physics
Saint Mary's College
Notre Dame, IN 46556