Learning to Teach in America: Pathways and Exits

Aspiring teachers can find their way to teaching in one of two pathways, teacher education programs (TE) at public and private universities or alternative programs, such Teach for America (TFA).  Although there are mixed results, there is little to no evidence that the Teach for America teachers are more effective than teachers who graduate from America’s teacher education programs at public and private universities.  Actually, the data shows that TFA educators might be less effective than America’s teacher education graduates.

Teacher Education Programs

According to the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) there are 565 colleges accredited, and about 500 more programs that are not.

There is aknowledge gap when it comes to the public’s understanding of the nature of America’s teacher education programs.  All teacher education programs are local in nature.  They are developed by faculty at a local universities.  Faculty at teacher education institutions have built relationships with local public (and private) schools, especially from the standpoint of creating clinical experiences, and internships for aspiring teachers.

 

In a recent study by the Educational Testing Service (ETS), the researchers found that graduates of “traditional” teacher education programs perform better than nontraditional (alternative programs) students on PRAXIS II.  This was a surprise in the sense that policymakers think and hope that nontraditional routes to teaching will help fill the teacher shortage, and these nontraditional students will be better prepared in content knowledge.  As the researchers concluded,

The myth that well-qualified individuals abound who would enter teaching and be effective if only there were no preparation involved is simply that— a myth.

Although the study used test scores to determine the characteristics of programs that were associated with licensure scores (PRAXIS II), the following results are interesting in their own light:

The study found that five characteristics of institutions and programs were indeed conducive to higher teacher licensure scores:

  • Private institutions outperformed public ones.
  • Universities outperformed colleges.
  • Teacher education programs with a higher number of traditional students outperformed those with fewer such students.
  • Teacher education programs with ethnically diverse faculties outperformed those with overwhelmingly White faculties.

In concluding, the researchers suggest that:

institutions of higher education are appropriate as sites for teacher preparation. The fact that so many of the institutions are effective suggests that it is not necessary to go elsewhere. Further, the study shows that prospective teachers benefit from a traditional college experience.

For more than 30 years, I was professor of science education at Georgia State University, and during that time worked  with all of these the school districts in metropolitan Atlanta, as well as many other districts around the state.  While at GSU, I was involved in the development and design of teacher education and alternative programs for aspiring teachers, taught staff development courses in several of these districts, and created in internships for GSU students who were involved in all of the programs listed below.

The kind of work described below occurs all around the U.S. in colleges and universities.  In her book, Creating Powerful Teacher Education, Linda Darling-Hammond presents the evidence that teacher education (courses, programs, etc.) matters for teacher effectiveness through case studies of seven teacher education programs.  The seven programs are distinctive, but as Darling-Hammond points out, were selected from a much longer list of outstanding teacher education programs, from small and large universities, as well as public and private.

Policymakers try and make the case that entry into teaching has “burdensome requirements” and that education coursework should be removed from teacher certification standards.  Former U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige made such a suggestion in a 2002 report. Reports such assume that teacher education programs today are not effective, and that the “bar needs to be raised.”  Darling-Hammond’s research suggests that teacher education programs are not only effective, but the model programs she studied in Creating Powerful Teacher Education, help us understand the value and effectiveness of the way teachers are prepared.

Paige’s report is indicative of the assault on teachers, and the way they are prepared.  The corporate premise, supported by the U.S. Department of Education, is that teachers are the problem, and if we could only weed out the bad teachers, schools, and program, all would be well with education.  The movement to try and link student test scores to teacher effectiveness by means of the value-added model does not even come close to describing what effective teachers do, and how they help students progress in their courses.  Unfortunately, the U.S. Department of Education has just announced that states can get waivers from the NCLB Law, but only if they raise the bar on expectations, and put into place a program that will tie student achievement scores to teacher evaluation, and potentially, teacher’s compensation.  But many states are skeptical, and questioning whether they will seek a waiver.

There is no compelling evidence to support these assaults, but right now ignorant and politically challenged policy makers and corporate deal makers trump professional educators. 

Teachers, to be effective need to have a strong base of content knowledge as well as a deep understanding of what works in the classroom.  In the research identified here, the clinical experiences that have emerged in the last twenty of so years in teacher education programs represent a major shift in the way teachers are prepared.

Clinical experiences are critical in teacher education programs to help teachers integrate their theoretical knowledge with practical experiences in classrooms over the extent of their teacher education program.  All of the programs that are described below were centered around clinical experiences in elementary, middle and high schools in urban and suburban settings.  Clinical experiences provide the experiential knowledge that teachers need to make decisions, to work with students who have learning problems, and to become aware of pedagogy that works with students in the classroom.

Combined with integrated university course-work and clinical work, teacher education produces, as Darling-Hammond points out, a “new kind of teacher.”

One who is theoretically oriented in her own right: aware of the learning principles that can be considered (and when appropriate, used) to guide practice, as well as the many contingencies that intervene and must influence decisions.

4 Examples of Clinical Based Teacher Education and Alternative Programs

The Phase Program (1970 – 1985) A field based science teacher education program for high school science, in which candidates interned in an elementary, middle and high school.  The program was field based, and the curriculum was integrated within three departments.  This program set the stage for future science teacher education programs at GSU.  Integration of the curriculum combined with clinical experiences was the symbol of the Phase Program.

TRIPS (1987 – 1989) The TRIPS program was based on the AFT Educational Research and Dissemination (ER&D) Program under the leadership of AFT’s Lovely Billups.  This alternative program recruited secondary teachers in foreign language, mathematics and science to teach in the Atlanta Public Schools.  TRIPS was a collaborative project among the Atlanta Public Schools, Georgia State University, Clark-Atlanta University and AFT.  TRIPS programs were initiated by the AFT in several urban settings around the country.  TRIPS teachers engaged in summer institute followed by teaching in an Atlanta high school in math, science or foreign language.  TRIPS teachers were assigned a reduced teaching load (4 classes instead of 5) and a mentor teacher, who also had a reduced teaching load. Each TRIPS intern was also supervised by professors from GSU and Clark-Atlanta University.   The reduced teaching load for TRIPS teachers and their mentors facilitated mentoring, and allowed the mentor teachers to engage in conferences, planning sessions, classroom observations, and reflective sessions.

Alternative Certification Program (ACP)  (1988 – 1992) A program funded by the Georgia Professional Standards Commission characterized by an 8-week summer institute followed by teaching in a public school and paired with a mentor teacher.  Mentor teachers were prepared through a summer institute prior to school year.  Although similar to the TRIPS program, this program was larger, and in the long run lead to the TEEMS program which is the secondary teacher education program at GSU.

The ACP began at GSU with a grant to fund thirty teachers (10 in each field) to attend a fulltime summer institute in Athens, Georgia.  Mentor teachers were prepared for their role for a one-week institute with the ACP teachers.  School districts from around the state participated in the ACP.  In the last three years of the ACP, three universities in Georgia received funding to prepare 30 foreign language, mathematics and science teachers.  The curriculum of the Summer Institute was based on pedagogical content knowledge in the content areas, special education, and foundations of education.  Since the programs were localized, bi-monthly seminars among the ACP teachers were held on the campus of each university (North Georgia College, Georgia State University, and Georgia Southern).

The TEEMS Program (1993 – present) TEEMS (Teacher Education Environments in Mathematics and Science) is a Master’s level program for science and mathematics majors with field based internships in middle and high schools based on a humanistic/constructivist model.  Aspiring teachers applying to the TEEMS program came from science, mathematics, and engineering departments throughout the Southeast, and brought with them high levels of content knowledge, strong interpersonal skills, enthusiasm, and a commitment to becoming a career teacher.  Each TEEMS recruit was interviewed by a team of professors from mathematics and science education faculty, and professors from science and mathematics departments.

The TEEMS program was based on the theory of “realistic teacher education” (Korthagen and Kessells) , an approach that goes from practice to theory.  As much as possible, theory and practice were merged with the intention of diminishing the gap between practice and theory.  This was accomplished by engaging students in real problems encountered by teachers in clinical experiences, both on campus and in classrooms.

The TEEMS program was based on these characteristics:

  • reflective and constructivist models of learning
  • holistically organized pedagogical curriculum experiences
  • learner-centered instruction in which students engage in a series of experiential and field-based experiences to learn about mathematics and science teaching
  • a partnership with the public and independent schools of Georgia by centering much of the instruction in middle schools and high schools

These four programs represent an historical timeline of the evolution of science teacher education experiences at Georgia State University, one university out of hundreds preparing teachers.  You would find similar stories at universities in Boston, Chicago, New York, Valdosta, San Diego, Los Angeles, Houston, and Dayton.  When you look closely at the preparation of teachers around the country, the programs are unique, and based on local conditions and relationships among the university and local school districts.  TEEMS was initially a mathematics and science program, but GSU expanded it to include social studies and English.

Note:  A year ago, GSU agreed to work with TFA, and all of the TFA recruits must follow a teacher education program at GSU—secondary teachers must enroll in TEEMS. 

In a Journal of Teacher Education article entitled How Teacher Education Matters, Linda Darlings-Hammond reviews the literature on teacher education programs and has this to say:

Despite longstanding criticisms of teacher education, the weight of substantial evidence indicates that teachers who have had more preparation for teaching are more confident and successful with students than those who have had little or none. Recent evidence also indicates that reforms of teacher education creating more tightly integrated programs with extended clinical preparation interwoven with coursework on learning and teaching produce teachers who are both more effective and more likely to enter and stay in teaching. An important contribution of teacher education is its development of teachers’abilities to examine teaching from the perspective of learners who bring diverse experiences and frames of reference to the classroom.

In teacher preparation, there various pathways to becoming a teacher, including teacher education programs, alternative programs, or no program.  Based on a large study of 3000 beginning teachers in New York City regarding their views on their preparation for teaching, their beliefs and practice, and their plans to remain in teaching (Darling-Hammond, Chung, and Frelow).  The researchers found that:

  • teachers who were prepared in teacher education programs felt significantly better prepared across most dimensions of teaching than those who entered teaching through alternative programs or without preparation.
  • the extent to which teachers felt well prepared when they entered teaching was significantly correlated with their sense of teaching efficacy, their sense of responsibility for student learning, and their plans to remain in teaching.
  • These are significant finding in the context of the drive to place non-certified and non-prepared teachers into classrooms that typically are more demanding and require more knowledge about learning and student development than these individuals can deliver.  The knowledge base on teaching is enormous, and to think that we can prepare teachers in 5 – 8 week institutes not only devalues what we know about preparing teachers for practice.

Teach for America

Teach for America (TFA) is an alternative pathway to teaching that was started by a college graduate who felt that individuals graduating from prestigious colleges and universities might be recruited to serve urban schools for a two year stint in teaching.

The TFA program recruits individuals from elite universities, prepares them in five weeks, and then assigns them to teach in an urban or rural classroom as full time teachers.  Recruits are selected from universities across America, and placed in school districts around the country and agree to serve for 2 years.  The TFA is well funded, and recruits to teaching receive grants, and low interest loans, and receive compensation from the local school districts in which they serve.

If you go to the Teach for America website, you will find out that the TFA provides benefits to its recruits, including scholarship funds, and low interest loans to help pay off college debt.

When TFA recruits complete their five-week summer training program, they then are provided with moving costs to relocate to the urban or rural school district in which they will serve for two years.

As an Alternative Program, the TFA is not a new idea in the sense that Alternative Programs and Pathways to teaching have been part of the teacher education culture for at least half a century.  Harvard and Standford has Alternative pathways to teaching in the 1960s, and Alternative Programs became a prominent pathway to teaching in the 1980s and into the 1990s.  Prior to TFA, Georgia State University was involved in two Alternative Pathways, the TRIPS program, and Alternative Certification Program, both described above.

But what is different about TFA is that is well publicized, and well funded.  Over the past 20 years they have received millions of dollars of donations from a long list of donors. You might want to look at the list and note how these corporate billionaires are supporting TFA.

But what is problematic is that most TFA teachers exit the teaching profession at the end of two years.  So in urban areas of public education where stability and loyalty would benefit these communities, the TFA promotes instability.

In the next post, we will explore the question: What Does Comparative Research Tell Us About Teacher Preparation? 

What are your experiences with teacher education?  With alternative programs?  Do you think TFA is making a positive contribution to teaching?

Russian Science: From Labs in Pushchino to Protests in Moscow

There was an article in the Washington Post entitled In Russia, The Lost Generation of Science.  The article, by Will England, focuses specifically on Pushchino, a little known city south of Moscow, and the status of science in Russia generally.  Science in Russia has undergone an unfortunate transformation, first right after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and more recently with the Russian government’s intent to pour tons of money into scientific research.  But as England points out, even with more funds for research, innovation in science is losing out to exhaustion, corruption and cronyism.

The article reminded me of some of my experiences in Russia during the 1980s and 1990s as part of the Global Thinking Project. The GTP linked students and teachers from American and Russian schools in more than ten cities by means of collaboratively developed environmental science curriculum, exchanges of students and teachers, and the emergent telecommunications and Internet resources that were just beginning.

For more than 15 years, student, teacher, and researcher exchanges were fostered through the efforts of the GTP with funding (follow this link to one of the GTP’s funded proposals) from local schools, GSU, and federal programs including the Eisenhower Program, and the United States Information Agency.  These exchanges brought us into cooperative work with Russian teachers, students, educational  researchers, technology specialists, and scientists in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Yaroslavl, Chelyabinsk, and Pushchino.

When we first began our work in Russia, we worked alongside science teachers and researchers from the Academy of Pedagogical Sciences, and scientists at research institutions, and the Academy of Science.  The science curriculum in Russian schools, as described by Mr. Sergey Tolstikov, is a kind of spiral curriculum, especially at the senior level beginning in level 6 and extending to level 11.  For example, in class 6, students begin their study of biology, which continues for the next five years.  Then in each of the next two years, students study first physics, and then chemistry and continue studying these subjects each year.  Students who graduated from Russian schools had a strong education in science and mathematics, and many went on into science at the university level.

Russia has a rich history in science and technology.  At present, it is the only way that American astronauts can reach the space station, yet, as we have seen in the past six months, there have been numerous engineering failures in the launch of Russian rockets.  As England points out in his article:

Science had prestige and plenty of support in the U.S.S.R. The Soviets wielded a formidable nuclear arsenal, put the first satellite into space, then the first man into space. Dedicated biologists nurtured what may have been the world’s foremost seed bank, ensuring its survival even through the 900-day Nazi siege of Leningrad. Nine Nobel Prizes for physics and one for chemistry acknowledged Soviet achievements.

But the last 20 years have taken its toll on the science community.  As England suggests, the last 20 years has resulted in a lost generation of scientists because of lack of support, and the financial problems that affected Russian society, especially in the 1990s.  An example of this effect is highlighted in Puschchino.

Pushchino

Pushchino is a small town about 100 miles south of Moscow on the bank of the Oka River.  It was founded in 1962 as home to Pushchino Biological Research Center of the Russian Academy of Sciences.  Up until about 1993, most the funding for the research centers came from the Russian Academy of Sciences.  After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the funding from the government radically diminished to about 10% – 15% of what it was.  Thus began a program of reaching out to other funding sources not in Russia (Russia Foundation for Fundamental Research), but abroad, and the development of funding proposals to secure financial support.  The various research facilities in Pushchino were able to collaborate with U.S. organizations including NATO, the European Environmental Research Organization, US State Department, as well a number of U.S. universities including the University of Tennessee and Washington State University.

Now, 15 years later, things are quite different in Pushchino.  According to Natalia Desherevskaya, a Pushchino research biologist at the Institute of Biochemistry and Physiology of Microorganisms:

“In 20 years, all the positive things that existed in Soviet times have been destroyed, and replaced by nothing (England).”

She, like many other young researchers, say they are torn between their desire to leave Russia, and stay to continue their research.  Researchers are troubled by the conditions of their labs, access to new materials, and old technology.  Many of her friends from graduate school are abroad, and she wonders why she is still here (England).

In 1993, on my first of many trips to Pushchino, I was introduced to Valentina Alexandrovna Zalim, Director of Pushchino Experimental School #2.  Zalim was an amazing administrator, and encouraged teachers to implement innovative educational methods.  The school, which was built in 1962, included two gymnasia, a stadium, an indoor swimming pool, 30 classrooms, a canteen, computer room, broadcast room, library and a school museum.

About ten of us (school and university researchers from the Atlanta area, and Georgia State University) drove to Pushchino from Moscow.  As we approached this remote town, we could see that it was built above the surrounding area on a small plateau.  Pushchino has a population of about 21,000.  It has three schools, and we were going to carry on a collaboration with Experimental School #2.  It proved to be a long term, and rich collaboration.  We collaborated with teachers from the school, as well researchers from the various institutes in Pushchino.

Location of Pushchino, Russia, about 100 miles south of Moscow

One of the first persons we met was a young man who was assigned to us as the “official” translator and interpreter for our delegation.  He was an English teacher at a small college in a nearby city.  He had never been to Pushchino.  He and many of his fellow citizens understood that Pushchino was a town for retirees.  He was shocked to find that the town of Pushchino housed several major scientific research institutes, and one of the world’s largest radio telescopes.

Known as Pushchino Research Center, it was comprised of the following:

  • The Institute of Protein Research
  • The Institute of Theoretical and Experimental Biophysics
  • The Institute of Cell Biophysics
  • The Institute of Biochemistry and Physiology of Microorganisms
  • The Institute of Soil Science and Photosynthesis
  • The branch of the Institute of Bio-organic Chemistry
  • Research Computer Center
  • Special Construction Bureau & Experimental Plant
  • Radio Astronomy Station of the P.P Lebedev Physical Institute,RAS
  • Branch of the M.V.Lomonosov Moscow State University

Nearly all of the parents of the students in Experimental School #2 worked at one of these research institutions, and because of their deep interest in their children’s education, we became very involved with the research centers over the years.  We visited a number of these research centers, including the radio astronomy station, and were very involved with their computer researchers who had established a telecommunications business in the early years of the Internet revolution.  From Pushchino, we made one of the first video conferences using the Internet in 1996.

When we first started working with colleagues in Pushchino, the various scientific research centers received their funding from the Russian Academy of Sciences.  But soon after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and economic perils that followed, many of the research centers suffered because of lack of funding from the Academy.

Protests on the Streets of Moscow and New York

In October young Russian scientists rallied in Moscow against the weight of the bureaucracy, and the lack of discretion grant recipients have for using their grants, especially for the purchase of new equipment and materials.  This rally preceded the December parliamentary elections and the subsequent massive protests in many Russian cities.  These two rallies/protests are part of a movement to make Russia more of a democratic state, and to move away from cronyism and corruption that is dominating much of the way business is run, including science.

The inequality between the scientists in their labs, and bureaucrats who control the money that science needs for research and development, which will lead to innovation and drive the whole enterprise, is enormous.  The protests in Russia are not unlike the the “Occupy Wall Street” protests that have spread from New York to massive marches and protests in other cities across America.  Just as scientists and citizens are protesting the Russian parliamentary elections and the present executives of the Russian government, Americans are protesting the huge inequality that exists between 1% of the population and the other 99%.

In the 1990s the Global Thinking Project received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Federal Government’s Democratization of the Former States of the Soviet Union Program which was funded by the United States Information Agency (USIA).  The idea was to help Russians understand democracy by being involved with Americans in various ways that involved people-to-people exchanges.  Over a three year period we joined 300 Russian and American families and their teachers in exchanges where students lived in each other’s homes, and were involved in collaborative environmental science research in face-to-face investigations and online collaboration.

But the situation that exists now in Russia, according to some specialists, will require a more liberal Russian society that will stimulate creative and innovative culture within a rule of law.  The massive Russian protests that we have seen underly a growing discontent that the elections were corrupt, and that authoritarian rule is still the order of the day in Moscow.  The “Occupy Wall Street” protests represent a discontent among many Americans that the inequality in income, and enormous number of people unemployed is a situation that needs to be changed.

 

 

 

 

5 Education Reform Posts Not To Ignore

Education reform in education seen through the lens of writers and teachers appears as repetitions of innovative ideas that claimed to change and improve schooling as we know it.  In a post at Education Week, Anthony Weiner suggests that education reform of any age simply offers more of the same.  In particular, he sees education reform over many decades focusing on the same themes: privatization and choice, as well as standards-based testing and accountability.  Over time, education reforms that have been suggested are moving the U.S. toward a more centralized education system, rather than a democratic system that is rooted in local communities, and schools.

For several months I have explored on this blog issues that impinge on the current reform that is based on high-stakes testing, and standardization of the curriculum.  The latest reform in science education is the development of the Next Generation of Science Standards by Achieve, Inc., in collaboration with NSTA, AAAS, and apparently, 25 states.  There are many professional educators who are writing about reform, and offering critiques based often on experiences on-the-ground in classrooms, and on educational research.

In this post I have selected five articles from online blogs that I frequently read, and use for my own research on science education, and the current status of reform in American schools.

I hope you find the articles worthwhile, as I have, and that you discover new writers who represent and write about alternatives to the current reform fiasco under the heading of standards and high-stakes testing.

Here they are.

Education Reform Posts Not to Ignore

Will National Standards Become the Operating System for our Schools?  Written by Anthony Cody, veteran science educator (Oakland, CA schools), and author of Living in Dialogue on Education Week Teacher, this article is a must read for all of us, especially science teachers.  Anthony Cody raises the important objection to the New Generation of Science Standards, as well as the Common Core Standards movement.  He suggests the standards movement is the antithesis of “autonomous professionals,” that is teachers who are “entrusted with crafting engaging lessons, and working with students in creative ways.  The standards movement kind of knocks the wind out that.  Read more ….

How Many Decades Before ‘Reform’ Becomes ‘Status Quo’?  In this Education Week post, the author traces a brief history of reform in American education starting in the 1980s with the Nation at Risk report, and going forward.  He concludes that each of the “reforms” that succeeded the back to basics reform movement of the Nation at Risk report were simply more of the same.  Read more

When Test Scores Become a Commodity. In this Education Week post, Jonathan Keller, an AP History and AP Art History teacher shows us how using student achievement test scores to evaluate teachers and administrators turns test scores into a commodity.  He says “by making student scores the basis for evaluation, the students and their scores create a market for the teachers and administrators whose livelihoods depend upon the results.”  Read more..

NCLB + RTTT = MOTS or No Child Left Behind Act + Race to the Top Fund = More of the Same. Reform in the 2000’s has been dominated by two Federal Programs, No Child Left Behind Act (2003), and the Race to the Top Fund (2010).  In this post we suggest that these two “reform” efforts have gone forward with little regard for research, but more devastating is the fact that the NCLB set into play a test-crazed culture of schooling that has led to untold cheating scandals, and undue pressure on students, teachers and administrators, not to mention parents.  Read more

Standardized Testing: The Modern Bloodletting?   Written by Vicky Davis, a technology teacher in Georgia, this post compares the modern system of testing as used in American schools to the archaic and harmful habit of draining blood from a sick person—bloodletting.  In a scathing analysis of how we use testing exhaust the minds of our students.  Read more….

 

On the Practice of Science Inquiry

Science As Inquiry, a construct developed in a recent publication, weaves together ideas about science teaching and inquiry that were developed over many years of work with practicing science teachers in the context of seminars conducted around the U.S.A, in school district staff development seminars, and courses that I taught at Georgia State University.

A Webly Map of Science as Inquiry

Science As Inquiry provides the practical tools, based on theory and research, that science teachers use in their classrooms to involve their students in inquiry learning, including hands-on investigations, project-based activities, Internet- based learning experiences, and science activities in which students are guided to construct meaning and develop ideas about science and how it relates to them and their community.

Humanistic Quest

Inquiry science teaching by its very nature is a humanistic quest. It puts at the center of learning not only the students, but also how science relates to their lived experiences, and issues and concepts that connect to their lives. Doing science in the classroom that is inquiry- based relies on teachers and administrators who are willing to confront the current trend that advocates a standards-based and high stakes testing paradigm.

The dominant reason for teaching science is embedded in an “economic” argument that is rooted in the nation’s perception of how it compares to other nations in science, technology, and engineering. This led to the development of new science curricula, but it also led to the wide scale use of student achievement scores in measuring learning. Student achievement, as measured on “bubble tests,” has become the method to measure effectiveness of school systems, schools, and teachers, not to mention the students.

Disconnect with Standards & High-Stakes Testing

Although the organizations that have developed the science standards (National Research Council) advocate science teaching as an active process, and suggest that students should be involved in scientific inquiry, there is a disconnect between the standards approach and the implementation of an inquiry-based approach to science teaching.

We need to pull back on the drive to create a single set of standards and complementary set of assessments, and move instead toward a system of education that is rooted locally, driven by professional teachers who view learning as more personalized, and conducted in accord with democratic principles, constructivist and inquiry learning, and cultural principles that relate the curriculum to the nature and needs of the students.

Effects of Inquiry

Science education researchers have reported that inquiry-based instructional practices are more likely to increase conceptual understanding than are strategies that rely on more passive techniques, and in the current environment emphasizing a standardized-assessment approach, teachers will tend to rely on more traditional and passive teaching techniques.

Inquiry-based teaching is often characterized as actively engaging students in hands-on and minds-on learning experiences.

Inquiry-based teaching also is seen as giving students more responsibility for learning. Given that the evidence is somewhat supportive of inquiry-based science, our current scheme of national science standards emphasizing a broad array of concepts to be tested would tend to undermine an inquiry approach.

Teachers who advocate and implement an inquiry philosophy of learning do so because they want to inspire and encourage a love of learning among their students. They see the purpose of schooling as inspiring students, by engaging them in creative and innovative activities and projects.

Science As Inquiry embraces 21st century teaching in which inquiry becomes the center and heart of learning. Science As Inquiry provides a pathway to make your current approach to teaching more inquiry-oriented, and to embrace the digital world that is ubiquitous to our students.

 

9 Compelling Science, Technology & Education Blogs

There is a profusion of blogs on the Internet, but some of them stand out because they are not only compelling, but they convey accomplished, artful, intelligent, and powerful content.  I’ve selected nine blogs that I read regularly to expand my own thinking about science teaching, technology and education.   They represent the range of topics that interest me, and that I find are important.  I hope you will, too. Here they are.

  • Cool Cat Teacher Blog  The author of this blog is Vicki Davis, a full-time high school teacher of technology, and global curriculum developer in Camilla, Georgia. She is author of award winning wiki, blogs, and co-founder of the Flat Classroom projects You will find some of the most innovative ideas on teaching and technology on this blog, as well as a philosophy that clearly is progressive.  The name of her website is derived from the name the Westwood Wildcats, which was suggested by her students.
  • Dot Earth  Written by Andrew C. Revkin, Dot Earth is a one stop site to learn about the efforts to balance human affairs with the Earth’s limits.  The Dot Earth blog is part of the Opinion section of the New York Times. Here you will find an interactive site that you can use to explore the trends and ideas about the environment which you can share with your students.  It is a trusted environmental science website.
  • Education Matters Written by Chris Guerrieri, a teacher in Jacksonville, Florida, this blog is a very active site for reading about the issues that impinge on the day-to-day life of a teacher in the classroom.  Guerrieri imparts a very strong view of what’s wrong with education today (too many people in suits who have no clue about what’s happening in the classroom).  If you are looking for some support on issues like high-stakes tests, bullying, billionaires in education, poverty, and how teachers really make a difference, then you should go to his site.
  • Mr. Barlow’s Science Teaching Blog Mr. Barlow is a high school science teacher in Melbourne, Australia. His blog is subtitled “A Bunch of Interesting Stuff,” and you will clearly find an abundance of stuff here.  His blog is complemented by biology teaching podcasts, and Apps for the iPhone and iPad.  But for teachers, his site is a model for the way technology can be integrated into science teaching.  You’ll find examples of this at his site, and it is quite impressive.  Be sure to visit Mr. Barlow.
  • Schools Matter. This is a powerful site that addresses issues in “public education policy, and it advocates for a commitment to and a re-examination of the democratic purposes of schools. If there is some urgency in the message, it is due to the current reform efforts that are based on a radical re-invention of education, now spearheaded by a psychometric blitzkrieg of “metastasizing testing” aimed at dismantling a public education system that took almost 200 years to build.”  If you have not read a blog on social justice, I recommend you go over there.  There are several authors who contribute to the site including Judy Rabin, Jim Horn, Robert D. Skeels, and P.L Thomas.
  • Teachers Lead This is a website authored by Anthony Cody and Nancy Flanagan, each National Board Certified Teachers, with combined experience of more than 50 years.  Anthony was a science teacher in Oakland, California, and Nancy a music educator in Michigan.  Their commitment is to leadership from the ground up, and to provide the tools to teachers and administrators.  Anthony Cody manages a blog on the Education Week website entitled Living in Dialogue, and writes provocative essays on educational reform.  Nancy Flanagan writes a blog on Education Week entitled Teacher in a Strange Land.
  • The Dispersal of Darwin This is a blog devoted to all things Darwin, written by Michael D. Barton, who recently finished his graduate work the history of science at Montana State University. It’s one of my favorites. Here is what he says about his blog: My interests are with Charles Darwin, and the development of evolutionary theory. This blog is a place for me to share with interested folk news and views on Darwin, evolution, and natural history, with occasional posts about other science-related topics.  I’ve written a great deal about Darwin on my own site, and found that Michael’s site was the place to go for information and great images.
  • The Intersection Edited by Chris Mooney, The Intersection blog has for nearly 10 years brought analysis of the intersection between science, politics, and culture. Chris is a science and political journalist and the author of three books, including the New York Times bestselling Storm World, and Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future, co-authored by Sheril Kirshenbaum. If you are looking for cutting edge progressive science, then I highly recommend Chris’ blog.
  • The Royal Treatment I met Ken Royal more than ten years ago in Hartford, CT during a seminar I presented on science teaching for the Bureau of Education & Research. Subsequently I visited Ken’s middle school science classroom where he was doing scouting expeditions into the world of technology and telecommunications. In the 1990’s very few teachers had integrated the Internet into teaching. Ken was one of leaders of using the Internet in the classroom. Now Ken is with Scholastic where one of his responsibilities is writing the blog, The Royal Treatment. He says: After 34 years in education, working at all levels and areas, including as instructional technology specialist, it has been easy to look and write about these technologies and products from an educator’s point of view. I look forward to invitations to attend conferences, review products, and interview the people behind the products. It is also a joy listening to district leaders actually using these products to improve technology, management, curriculum and safety better in their districts. This is the blog for technology know-how.

Conclusion.  These are 9 compelling websites that will inform not only about science and technology, but science and education in society. You can visit the Cool Cat Teacher to find amazing ways to use technology with your students and connect with others around the world. The Royal Treatment will keep you up-to-date on new technology products and ways that schools are using them. For great ideas and science content, you should visit  Mr. Barlow’s site, and don’t forget his Podcasts and Apps. Science, technology and society (STS) is an important part of science education, and you’ll find great content at Chris Mooney’s Intersection site.   Education Matters, Schools Matter, and Teachers Lead are crucial sites for us to interact with educators who speak out on the issues that impact education today such as high-stakes testing, charter schools, standards proliferation, and teacher assessment.

Share your ideas.  What is your favorite blog site?  Share it here in the comments section so that others can benefit from your suggestion.