Using Tools and Practice-based Teacher Education to Support Ambitious, NGSS-aligned Science Teaching within K-8 Methods Courses

1. Workshop focus and relevance

New science education reforms, including the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS Lead States, 2013), provide an ambitious vision for teaching science, creating new challenges for teacher educators in preparing preservice teachers (PSTs). This vision involves supporting all students to use science practices to develop and apply knowledge of disciplinary core ideas and crosscutting concepts in rigorous, authentic, equitable ways (National Research Council, 2012; NGSS Lead States, 2013). However, teaching in this way is complex and atypical in U.S. classrooms (Banilower et al., 2013; Crawford, 2000). To support learning to enact ambitious NGSS-aligned teaching, teacher educators and researchers propose a practice-based approach to teacher education, focusing on the work of teaching (Ball & Forzani, 2009). We propose a workshop that supports teacher educators to develop knowledge for using tools and strategies to design practice-based K-8 science methods courses that foster the development of ambitious teaching.
Within this workshop, we will introduce three pedagogies used within practice-based teacher education: (1) representations of practice such as video recordings of science teaching, (2) decompositions of practice such as the identification of elements of science instruction that may not be visible to novices, and (3) approximations of practice, which include teaching rehearsals (Grossman et al., 2009). These pedagogies support PSTs in developing a set of NGSS-aligned teaching practices such as eliciting student thinking (Ball & Forzani, 2009; NGSS Lead States, 2013). For example, rehearsals, during which PSTs use teaching practices to support their students (peers and a teacher educator in the role of “elementary student”), allow PSTs to attend to the principles, practices, and knowledge entailed in ambitious teaching (Benedict-Chambers, 2016; Davis et al., 2017; Lampert et al., 2013). We will also describe tools that can be used to support teacher learning within the practice-based methods courses (Arias & Fick, 2017; Cartier, Smith, Stein, & Ross, 2013; Windschitl, Thompson, Braaten, & Stroupe, 2012). For example, core tools such the Engage-Experience-Explain (EEE) instructional framework decompose and elaborate elements of science teaching; whereas face-to-face tools, such as talk moves, push students’ thinking forward during science investigations (Kademian, 2017; Windschitl et al., 2012)
We will structure the workshop around a learning cycle for practice-based teacher education (McDonald, Kazemi, & Kavanagh, 2013) to provide science teacher educators with support for planning and designing methods courses focused on integrating the three dimensions of science learning (NGSS Lead States, 2013). Use of the learning cycle to explore three pedagogies of practice (decompositions, representations, and approximations) and introductions to teacher-educator developed tools will highlight four key phases of practice-based teacher education including (a) viewing representations and decomposing practice; (b) planning lessons and adapting curriculum materials; (c) enacting lessons through approximations of practice; and (d) reflecting and analyzing enactments (McDonald et al., 2013) (See Figure 1). By providing examples of this learning cycle, teacher educators will learn to use tools and strategies to promote PSTs’ ability to (1) plan and conduct investigation-based lessons; (2) elicit and facilitate student thinking; and (3) engage students in argument from evidence. Teacher educators will also learn to use different approximations of practice, like peer-teaching rehearsals, to provide PSTs with an authentic context to study and apply the tools. In sum, the workshop will support science teacher educators to use innovative strategies and tools to prepare PSTs to engage in ambitious, NGSS-aligned science teaching. Given its emphasis on NGSS and practice-based teacher education, this workshop is relevant to members of ASTE who teach science methods courses and provide professional development for K-8 teachers.

2. Workshop Outline (3 hours)

Introductions and Overview (30 minutes): We will begin with introductions and an overview of the research informing the work of practice-based teacher education and use of teacher-educator provided tools designed to foster PST learning that inform the design of our K-8 science methods courses.

Tool overview and practice (1 hour): We will provide examples from our methods courses for each phase of the learning cycle detailing how we support PSTs to plan and enact the Explain Element of the Engage-Experience-Explain (EEE) framework. During the Explain Element PSTs support students to find patterns and trends in data and construct arguments and explanations based on investigations. We will introduce teacher educators to tools designed to foster NGSS-aligned, ambitious teaching such as science-teaching-specific talk moves for eliciting students’ ideas and facilitating discussions, and a feedback form designed to support reflection on teaching practice. During the introduction of the tools, we will provide teacher educators with opportunities to apply their understanding of the tools (e.g. using the feedback form after viewing an example of teaching).

Break (10 minutes)

Deep-dive into tools and application workshop (2 x 30 minute sessions): Participants will have opportunities to plan two phases of the learning cycle for use in their own methods course drawing on examples and teacher-educator provided tools. Participants will be able to choose which phases of the learning cycle for their focus. Participants, supported by a facilitator and organized into small groups focused on a single phase, will be guided through planning and digging deeper into the potential use of the tools and strategies.

Wrap-up (20 minutes): Participants will share what was planned in small groups and reflect on use of the learning cycle and teacher-educator developed tools to plan opportunities for PSTs to engage in authentic and ambitious instructional activity. In addition, we will provide opportunities to discuss challenges teacher educators may face when trying to implement their plans within their methods courses.

3. Workshop Objective and Instructional Strategies

Our learning objectives for participants are:

a. Develop new strategies for supporting ambitious, NGSS-aligned science teaching within K-8 methods courses drawing on a learning cycle for practice-based teacher education (Figure 1).

b. Use and discuss a set of tools for supporting PSTs in the planning and enactment of lessons that focus on scientific argumentation, explanation, and investigation integrated with disciplinary core ideas and crosscutting concepts.

c. Develop goals and plans for using these strategies and tools in their science methods courses and other work with K-8 teachers.

To support the participants in meeting these learning objectives, we will use collective sensemaking through whole and small group discussions of practice-based K-8 science methods courses. We will exemplify and describe how the strategies and tools are used across our science methods in different settings and institutions, provide opportunities to use and analyze the tools, and encourage the participants to share prior experiences as science teacher educators. Underscoring the rationale for these strategies and tools, we will outline research focused on the practiced-based approach. With the support of the facilitators, participants will then have time to explore the tools on their own, making goals and planning for how to use these strategies and tools within their own settings.
In addition to formative assessments throughout the discussions and activities, we will use initial and end-of-workshop surveys to consider the effectiveness of the workshop. The initial survey will ask participants about their goals and prior experiences. The end of the workshop survey will include reflecting on participants’ goals, describing their experiences related to the three learning objectives, and providing a goal for using what they learned in their future practice.

4. Availability

The tools used will be made available to the participants after the workshop through both a resource document and also a website for tool sharing. Participants are also welcome to email the workshop facilitators after the session if they have further questions or need assistance.

5. Workshop Audience

This workshop will be of interest to methods instructors who would like to prepare their PSTs to engage students in integrating the three NGSS dimensions using a practice-based orientation to methods courses. The workshop will provide participants with strategies for implementing the tools in their own methods courses, examples from instructional use, and opportunities to discuss affordances and challenges they anticipate in implementing the tools.

6. Presenter Bios

Dr. Anna Maria Arias is an Assistant Professor of elementary and middle level science education at Illinois State University. Her research focuses on supporting learning to teach K-8 science.

Dr. Amanda Benedict-Chambers is an Assistant Professor of elementary education at Missouri State University. Her research focuses on using tools and practice-based teacher education to promote preservice teacher learning and practice in science.

Dr. Sarah Fick is an Assistant Professor of science education at Wake Forest University. Her research focuses on supporting preservice and in-service teachers to develop instructional activities and learning environments that use all three NGSS dimensions to support student learning.

Dr. Sylvie Kademian is a Postdoctoral Fellow in science education at the University of Michigan focused on designing and using tools to support development of science teacher educator and preservice teacher knowledge and practice.

Amber Sizemore is a doctoral student in science education at University of Michigan. Her research interests center on science teacher education reform focusing on explicit inclusion of culturally relevant pedagogies in science teaching and learning.

7. Workshop logistics

The workshop is intended for 30 participants. There will be no charge for the workshop. Participants will need an electronic device to access online materials and videos. Participants will also need to bring a course syllabus.