Friday, November 20, 2009
What I wish I had said in the Introduction was that I'm still learning about evolution. I'm not an expert at all. I come to learning about evolution late because I was schooled in the American South, where evolution is often skipped due to controversy. Also, my background in fundamentalist Christianity made me fearful of studying evolution. Writing The Link put me on the road to learning about evolution, but I know that road is a long one before I've filled in the holes in my background.
I'm sure that readers will find mistakes in the science in The Link. I just don't know enough yet to have nailed down the science clearly. I'd be fine if the topic were chemistry or physics. the areas I have taught as a high school teacher. Biology was actually my first love, but as a high school student I began veering away from biology because of the conflict I saw between evolution and my faith. Now, here I am 30 years later, turning back to what I was most interested in all along.
All of this is why I wish I had said in the book blatantly, "I'm an evolution learner." First, it's the reality. Although I wish I knew more about evolution, that's just not where I am right now. Second, I wish I had said that for the sake of the other teachers out there who, like me, are still catching up on their knowledge of evolution. Some may have had backgrounds similar to mine where they were afraid to study evolution. Others might be teachers from another certification area who find themselves unexpectedly teaching evolution. The Appendix in The Link is titled, "Help! I'm a Biology Teacher, and I Don't Think I Understand Evolution Myself." I wrote it to help teachers who, like me, need to learn more about evolution. In fact, that appendix presents the resources that were most helpful to me in deepening my understanding of evolution while I was writing the book.
I'm also wondering now if identifying ourselves as evolution learners is a good, not a bad, thing. Every week I see news of new findings in evolution, and I find another good book on it that I want to read. I can't keep up! I know students respond well to teachers who are open about how they are still learning. I think we'd all agree that if students say at the end the evolution unit, "Hmmm. I want to know more," that would be a great result of their study of evolution. With all of the new fossils coming out of the ground these days, I would think that we'd all have to be evolution learners.
Monday, November 09, 2009
Ken Miller spoke at UAB last week, and I had the privilege of attending his lecture. I was impressed by two things he did. When it came scientific questions and issues, he stuck tenaciously to the evidence. He did this with clarity and expertise in his talk and in the Q&A time afterwards. When it came to questions and issues outside of science, he responded with grace and openness. The combination of the two approaches was powerful to watch.
With regard to evolution, he stuck to the science, and he didn't blink in the face of tough questions during the follow-up period. Some might think that he was attacking creationism and intelligent design, but I didn't. I heard him clearly delineating scientific approaches from non-scientific ones. He kept coming back to scientific evidence and scientific processes, and he kept exposing the inherently religious nature of creationism and ID.
When the issues touched on anything other than science, however, he was gracious and non-dogmatic. He defended religion throughout the Q&A time as something valuable and enriching to humans. He spoke easily and quickly of his own faith (Catholicism) without proselytizing. He pointed out the non-scientific statements that those like Richard Dawkins have made as they've used evolution to attack religion, but he refused to attack Dawkins himself and instead spoke kindly of him.
If you're not familiar with Dr. Miller's work, take a look at his evolution webpage. For me, I'm off to order a couple of his books to see what else I can learn from a man who is unapologetic about the evidence, but gracious in all else. (Also, I'm pretty challenged by his deep knowledge of the evidence for evolution. I still have much so much to learn about the evidence for evolution, but I'm getting more and more comfortable with viewing myself as someone learning about evolution. More on that soon.)
Friday, October 30, 2009
In The Missing Link, I took the stand that all students need to learn about evolution and that creationism/ID is not appropriate for teaching in public schools. That continues to be my stand. All students need to understand the piles and piles of evidence for evolution and how scientists explain evolution limiting themselves to natural processes. In The Link, though, I focused on how to do that in a way that is sensitive to and honors students who come to evolution with deep religious objections.
My UAB colleague, Rob Angus, just passed along to me a recently published analysis of how each U.S. state scored on the teaching of evolution. The title is Why Science Standards are Important to a Strong Science
Curriculum and How States Measure Up, and it's available free on-line. The graphic here is from that article, and the image gives the quick-view of the results. There's progress here with several Southern states improving their ratings. But, children in many states still don't appear to be getting the opportunity to even examine evolution at all.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Saturday, October 10, 2009
Monday, October 05, 2009
In The Missing Link, I laid out an inquiry on whale evolution that uses data from a written article. This is a different style of inquiry than many people think of, since the students don't collect the data themselves. That would be kind of hard for them to do, right, since they're not paleontologists! So, this style of inquiry has them looking at, thinking through, and explaining data that other scientists have collected and published.
Friday, September 04, 2009
- Lesson Purpose: Students examine evidence of the evolution of HIV in response to antiviral drugs as an example of evolution occurring in their lives right now
- Focus Question: What does the theory of evolution say?
- The Geography Search Interface from HIV Databases Site gives a pretty amazing tool by which students can examine the evidence for geographical distribution of different strains of HIV worldwide. Great for visual and kinetic learners!
- If you or your students need to brush up on understanding HIV's basic structure or life cycle, a simple Google Images search gives a lot of quality images. I searched "HIV structure" and then looked at the web addresses for a sense of which ones were coming from reputable science sources. (Ok, I'll admit. Sometimes I also went for the easy stuff.)
- I just started playing with the TRIP database. I've been working at UAB's medical school for a couple of years now, and they are focusing students on evidence-based medicine (the science behind good practice). TRIP is a database of evidence-based medicine, and I got several good hits when I initially searched on HIV there. An interesting feature is that it give patient information leaflets, which might help students who are asking, "Why do we need to know this?"
- The Inquiry label lets you focus on posts I've made about inquiry itself.
- The Unbelieving Evolution label shows posts about my work on teaching evolution to religious students. (Dr. Jackson got me started on this!)
- It's not a label, but another special feature is the Links section. They're all related to inquiry, and many teachers have reported them to me as helpful.
- Learning science: Inquiry often puts me in the learner mode because I'm having to think deeply about my understanding of the science involved as I try to represent it for my learners.
- Reflecting on standards: I have to often circle back to meaningful standards to make sure that I'm focusing my students on science that is meaningful to them. (Atlas for Science Literacy is my go-to set of standards.)
- Creative teaching: I love the creativity in developing good lessons. Don't all good teachers? I'm now working at a new level of creativity because I'm working to engage & sustain my students in rigorous inquiry.
- Lots of reflection: I'm always having to think deeply, either in lesson development or in teaching the lesson, about, "How is this going? Is it working? How do I know?" I enjoy that process.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
For Inquiry Teachers
For GEC Participants
Key Research Supporting Inquiry’s Focus on addressing student misconceptions, facts aligned with big ideas, and use of conceptual change strategies.
This is the research that framed our face-to-face session. Start at the page linked here for the key research findings, but back up to the entire document (especially chapters 2 & 5) if you want to know more.
Private Universe is a seminal video in science education because of how it communicated the prevalence and persistence of scientific misconceptions. Minds of Our Own took the same methodology and presentation style to content other than astronomy.
Assessing prior knowledge is the first step in authentic teaching and learning. These resources help you see more the power of student misconceptions by examining the blocks K-12 students face.
Inquiry is difficult, if not impossible to accomplish, if teachers can’t manage effectively student work in small groups. Cooperative Learning, as described by the 5 Elements, defines true cooperative learning, which is very different from typical group work.
A first move many teachers make when beginning to implement authentic teaching is breaking large classes into small groups. The 5 Elements of Cooperative Learning give you a powerful way to think about how to do this successfully..
Why spend hours and hours trying to find the big ideas of science when this stellar work from Project 2061 has already done that. These maps show 100 grand ideas of science and how they should be developed across a students’ K-12 learning.
These big ideas from K-12 education give you strong examples of how big ideas can be used as a conceptual framework for learning the facts.
For a different example, you may want to review UAB School of Education’s Conceptual Framework to see how we structured assessment of professional program around 11 big ideas (click the links there for rubrics).
Today’s K-12 students grew up with the Internet. They have no idea what life and learning are without it. This resource helps teachers understand how today’s students are different, not deficient.
Traditional-age undergrads and grads are used to learning with the WWW at their fingertips. The Introduction from this resources gives you powerful ways to understand these students, the challenges they face, and the strengths they bring to the learning environment.
Other Inquiry Resources
I’m always collecting inquiry resources and posting them to this page. The first part of the page gives curriculum resources; the second give more general resources.
Inquiry is a model of authentic learning specific to science instruction. If you’re interested in learning more, start with the 5 Essential Features of Inquiry.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
One of the cool things about working with Heinemann press is how well they care for their authors. One of those is their neat tradition of overnighting one of the first books of the press to the author. I got mine on Tuesday! (See more book details at Heinemann's site or on Amazon.)
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Friday, July 17, 2009
Date: Tuesday, July 28
Time: 9:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.
Location: The Oak Mountain Interpretive Center at Oak Mountain State Park
Cost: $3 (to cover your park admission)
What to bring:
- Drinks for the day
- paper & pen
- USB drive (optional)
- A nice preview of the Oak Mountain Interpretive Center and information on how you can tap this resource in your teaching.
- Good, practical tips that will help you get your school year started right.
- A chance to connect with old friends from UAB. A chance to make new friends from some of the area's best science teachers.
- Help in improving your teaching, including professional development that moves you closer to achieving National Boards in science.
- RSVP, if at all possible, just so PLM knows a general sense of how many are coming. Making a quick comment here is all you need to do, or you can send him an e-mail.
- Check in with your UAB friends to make sure that they've gotten the information about this session. (Many of them have disappeared from PLM's list.)
- Let PLM know if you want to bring a teacher who isn't part of the 615 network. They're welcome, as long as there's enough room.
- You can enter the park from the main gate or from the back gate (off Highway 119 just west of Oak Mountain Middle School).
- Don't speed in the park! They'll pull you over.
- Signs clearly lead you to the Interpretive Center. It's located by the Alabama Wildlife Center across from the main lake in the center of the park.
Thursday, July 09, 2009
Tuesday, July 07, 2009
We were focusing on their potential use of FOSS kits, and of course, we had to talk about how to prep before the year starts. The image shows several of the items that we came up with. They seemed a little overwhelmed with the list, but as I drove home I realized that any teachers has to do some sort of unpacking and poking around in a new curriculum. Inquiry adds the dimension, though, of materials management and the need to work through labs. I focused them on doing this for the first kit only, though. For any teacher, I would think they'd only want to look at the first unit of instruction, reserving prep on the later units (or kits) for after the first one is finished. You learn so much while you teach your first inquiry-based unit that I'm afraid that prepping the other units before the school year starts might be a waste of time.
We then focused a lot on the first days of instruction. The image talks about the first day, but really these are issues to be addressed during the first week. A lot of key issues need to be addressed in the first weeks as teachers help their students learn how to learn in an inquiry-centered classroom. The more we talked about all of these issues, the more I began to realize again how important training is for the students. They really often don't know how to work during inquiry, and one of my key mistakes at Spain Park High was not guiding my students well at the beginning of the school year. Instead, I just through them in and expected them to be able to learn. They were really frustrated!
We then talked about what happens in the next 3 weeks of inquiry. The kids have gotten started, but they still need a lot of training if they're going to be get off to a good start as they head into a year of learning from inquiry. That's what the "requires time" note in brown marker at the top indicates. Teachers need to take the time to continue training students in the key aspects of inquiry, and at times, this will feel like time away from teaching the actual content. Think of it as an investments, though. The time you invest at this point in training the students will be returned back to you richly as your students know how to learn in later months and are not frustrated, confused, or disengaged.
The rest of the first kit or unit continues with the teachers holding students to their expectations, as indicated in the image above. As this unit wraps up, the students should know your expectations and how to function correctly in the classroom. You also have the other systems that support inquiry functioning, especially materials management and assessment. By the end of the first unit, the classroom should be in order.
Now, you've finished the first unit (or kit). As the image shows, one of the key things you need to do is to breathe! Youv'e learned a lot about teaching by inquiry, and your students have learned a lot about being inquiry students. Everyone is probably a little weary of all the change! Don't be afraid to take a few class days off from inquiry before going into the next unit. This is a good time to address any standards that you know you won't cover in your inquiry-centered curriculum doesn't cover. It's also a good time to retrain or reteach students on your expectations so that they're crystal clear as you go into your next unit.
The final issue is areas to focus on while teaching the second unit. The image gives several, including having students working in new groups. The key issue to me is improving student understanding of the science itself. Don't let all of the action and process of inquiry steal focus from students actually building strong, deep content knowledge. Also, don't forget to keep communicating with parents. Throughout your start-up of inquiry, keeping clear communication lines open with them will help them understand what's going on in your science class and how it truly is a benefit to their children.
Saturday, May 23, 2009
Monday, March 23, 2009
Please let me know any questions or comments you have. You can e-mail by clicking on my picture and then on the e-mail link under the Contact section. You can make a comment (including an anonymous one) here by clicking the word "comments" directly below. I look forward to hearing from you.
Monday, March 09, 2009
Sunday, February 01, 2009
Got the manuscript on the book submitted on Friday. I'm really excited! I had no idea, though, how consuming the last month of work would be.
Here's the basic outline, by chapter title.
Framing the Issues
Deciding the Focus of Your Unit
Engaging Students in Studying Evolution
Guiding Students to Examine the Evidence for Evolution
Guiding Students to Examine Evolution Itself
Deepening Student Understanding & Addressing Objections
Using Project-Based Learning to Solidify Student Understanding
Help! I’m a Biology Teacher, and I Don’t Think I Understand Evolution Myself! (Appendix)
I'm hoping, after a couple of week of decompressing, to start blogging on the UNBelieve approach again. Lots has gone on in my head as I've finalized the manuscript.
(The picture is my favorite Caffeine Delivery System when writing. The red gizmo is a moka, which is an Italian stovetop espresso maker.)
(Oh yeah, my brain is numb!)