Science Modeling Professional Development

Award Purpose: Funds awarded were used to fund four science teachers and one curriculum director to attend a two-week content-based workshop to learn approaches called for in the 2016 STE Curriculum Frameworks and for teacher time to revise and incorporate new teaching techniques to the curriculum.

The summer of 2019 was a pivotal moment for the future of Belmont science education.Quinn Edwards (grade 6), Liz Baker (Director of Sci/Tech/Eng), Tawnya Lewis (biology), Lindsey DeFarias (chemistry), and Sonia Neuburger (chemistry) spent two weeks immersed in modeling pedagogy, a way of facilitating learning for students built upon examining data and collaborative sense-making for deep and equitable learning.

The biggest impacts of this workshop were that teachers implemented the strategies learned during the 2019-2020 school year in Grade 6 Science, CP Chemistry and CP Biology sections. The shift in pedagogy from teacher-centered learning to student-centered sensemaking is a huge win for our students, and in line with the vision of the Next Generation Science Standards / 2016 Massachusetts STE Curriculum Framework.

A key feature of modeling is the use of whiteboard for students to make their learning visible. As seen below, students must represent their thinking using models and graphical representations.

Making student learning visible has significant implications for instruction. In the words of Ms. Neuburger, “Using Modeling in my chemistry classes has helped me move from teacher-centered lessons to student-centered lessons. My students are performing lab experiments, collecting and analyzing class data, and working on developing and refining their understanding of matter. It has helped me shift my class from being a pencil-and-paper science class to a more hands-on science class. Modeling gets my students to collaborate and have conversations about chemistry, which has helped them deepen their learning and helped me be a better teacher. The Modeling framework gets students to share how they think about science, which gives me an opportunity as their teacher to know how they’re thinking and how I should tailor my instruction to best fit their needs.”

Teachers who attended the workshop shared their experiences with colleagues during department meetings and Common Planning Time. Interest spread, and this past summer two more teachers attended the Modeling professional development, funded by the Science Department budget. This pedagogy will continue to be a focus of the department as teachers continue to develop their skill at making students’ science thinking visible, facilitating collaborative sense-making, iterative assessment, and engaging students in the Science and Engineering Practices.