After having received an “EDie” because of being this year’s Christa McAuliffe Sabbatical recipient, the New Hampshire Journal of Education contacted me and requested that I write an article on a subject related to my project.
My project this year has been geared toward assisting and encouraging elementary teachers and student teachers to be better prepared to provide effective science instruction for their students. The topic of my article focuses on providing statistics of NH’s student performances over the last several years, as well as ideas on how we can improve our science instruction (particularly at the elementary and collegiate levels).
I’ll refrain from writing anymore about it and encourage you to read it instead:
This past week has been a flurry of activity that did not involve interacting with a computer for several hours a day. Don’t get me wrong – I am THOROUGHLY enjoying creating a rocky shore curriculum, but it is also very exciting to get back into the classroom and work toward improving science instruction and performance at the elementary level.
I recently had the privilege of collaborating with Franklin Pierce University’s professors and students. Professor Doug Gilroy asked me to speak to his Scientific Inquiry and Teaching Methods class, and Dr. Jacqueline Kelleher requested that I talk with the university’s Education Club. I also had the wonderful opportunity to discuss science and education with the Education Division Chair, Dr. Alana Mosley.
Last Thursday Professor Gilroy’s class focused on learning about what to expect when teaching science at the elementary level. We covered science instruction, curriculum, professional development and inquiry-based learning. We also looked at data from surveys like the one below that indicate an overwhelming lack of preparedness elementary teachers believe they possess in terms of teaching science at the elementary level. This led to positive conversation on what we can do to change that educational shortcoming.
Yesterday Professor Gilroy’s class conversed about how to create and plan instruction that promotes engagement and inquiry. We reviewed different strategies that invoke inquiry, and we also discussed the biggest challenges educators face when attempting to engage their students. I shared with students my instructional planning method and classroom management fundamentals which can be found on the homepage of this website.
I also had the privilege of meeting with FPU’s Education Club last night. This was a potential lecture that turned into a question and answer session, and I appreciated this time immensely. Students were able to ask me any question they wanted regarding education and I attempted to answer them as comprehensively and honestly as possible, because, I believe, collaboration between school districts and postsecondary schools needs to increase and improve in order to comprehensively prepare new teachers to face the many challenges educators encounter today.
The Education Club asked very thoughtful, challenging and detailed questions on topics ranging from instructing students with diverse learning needs to IEP meetings to collaborating with parents to teacher evaluation processes and performance-based pay. I am hoping I provided adequate answers that will assist their work now as student teachers and beyond into their teaching careers.
One last aspect that needs attention regarding this collaboration with Franklin Pierce University: yesterday morning I was writing back and forth with the Department of Education and a member of the Subcommittee of the Professional Standards Board, Casey Sylvain, sixth grade teacher at Grantham Village School. We are working on creating new elementary education science certification standards for New Hampshire educators in efforts to better prepare new teachers and to help guide future science professional development for current elementary educators.
When I explained to the new Director of Science Education, Barbara Hopkins, that I was not going to be able to physically attend the meeting in Concord because I would be working with Franklin Pierce University I discovered an incredible connection: Barbara Hopkins’ alma mater (Class of 1977) is Franklin Pierce University. Also, Barbara Hopkins was the 1998 Christa McAuliffe Sabbatical recipient for her project on the development of a scientific instrument sharing system.
This past Monday was an experience I wish all parents of public school students and their fellow community members could have witnessed. It was a remarkable spectacle of dozens of science educators, curriculum coordinators and administrators from every region of New Hampshire (including a few postsecondary faculty) collaborating enthusiastically and thoughtfully on how to improve science education for all schools in our state. Outside distractions were checked at the door and an analytical and energetic mindset was put forth in the process of determining what was best for New Hampshire educators to meet their students’ science education needs.
Every eight years there is a New Hampshire Science Credentialing Standards review. This is an analysis of the current state standards for credentials in science to determine if necessary changes need to be made. This year is that year, and it just so happens that it coincides with the initiation of the new NH Career & College Ready Science Standards. You can read about the adoption of these new standards HERE.
Considering these new standards are different from our state’s previous K-12 Curriculum Frameworks for Science in that they are designed to address the pedagogical and scientific advances over the past several years, as well as provide deepened inquiry experiences for students at all grade levels, it is imperative that the state standards for credentials be examined and adjusted where appropriate.
What are the state standards for credentials? They are the standards that have been established to determine whether or not a candidate attempting to receive an educator license has the appropriate knowledge and skills. When investigating the state standards for credentials for incoming educators, current educators of Monday’s standards review worked diligently to determine the changes that needed to be made and mindfully considered each word of each modification and addition. This review is necessary in ensuring that the candidates that are being accepted for educator certification are specifically qualified for those teaching positions. Suggested changes could also help to define direction for professional development opportunities for our current science teachers.
One position’s certification standards that are being closely examined are that of the elementary teacher. Although the elementary education certification requirements are not up for review this year, they were still meticulously inspected by a subcommittee of committed elementary educators. This was done so that a full review of all science involved teaching credentials could be accomplished and with the active engagement of experts at all primary, elementary and secondary levels.
The subcommittee that I had the privilege to be a part of looked at the current certification standards as well as the possibility of creating the standards for an elementary science specialist certification. This examination was done in order to take the first steps toward adjusting the credentialing standards so that new elementary educators are more prepared to teach science (as college education programs must also adjust to meet the preparation requirements set forth by the state) at the elementary level. The potential proposal of an elementary science specialist position would be another strong effort toward bolstering science education in our state.
Monday’s Subcommittee of the Professional Standards Board (led by Barbara Hopkins, our state’s new Director of Science Education, and William Ross, Education Consultant of NH’s Department of Education) took into account several aspects before making any suggestion of change, including the different challenges each region of New Hampshire faces, as well as the various compositions of schools and districts throughout the state. There are still two more meetings scheduled and a lot of collaboration in between before this committee completes their recommendations to the Professional Standards Board, who in turn review and recommend to the NH State Board of Education for approval. Still, this first meeting was a tremendous first step toward strengthening NH’s science credentialing standards and securing a stronger science education future for our children.