Thinking about the Start of School and Trying Something New

Science education has undergone many transformations over the last 50 years, but some things remain the same. Looking inside of the science classroom as we get ready for the start of the school year, you will see there are some things that never change. As you see custodians putting desks back into classrooms with newly shined floors and clean boards, teachers putting up their welcome signs and marking student names in grade book programs, and principals planning after-school duty rosters, students are beginning to imagine how this coming school year will be different than their last. They wonder to themselves—Will my teacher make it interesting? Will I learn something new? Will I be successful?

As teachers are thinking about how this year will be different than the last, I wonder if they are thinking about the strategies they learned while attending summer workshops­—whether they think about beginning to infuse 21st Century Skills and some of the STEM strategies they have been reading about, if there will be time to think about the vocabulary strategies that might require changing the sequence of their lessons, if the articles used to encourage authentic scientific reading and writing during science time will be readily available, and if students will be willing to dig a little deeper to find out more if everything isn’t front-loaded.

For many teachers, the start of the school year is a time for choosing the path for the rest of the year. Many will ask themselves if they will put their students’ interests first in choosing instructional strategies and whether they will try to allow more time for students to discuss and argue about topics that interest them. For many teachers, these choices are about making the decision to start taking risks and choosing the path less traveled. This can be challenging and invigorating at the same time!

There are many resources and venues that can support you in your decision to step out and be part of the transformation! can be the place you to go for ideas, encouragement, and resources. If you are going to take a risk, why not try something that has been found to be successful elsewhere! When I think about trying something new with my students, I like to look at two factors that influence the success of my students: the content and the instructional strategies used to teach it. I want to be sure only one of those is new. If it is new content, I use an old strategy I know the students like and one in which they have experienced success. If the content is something I am comfortable with and have had success with in the past, I try a new instructional strategy. I avoid trying two new things at the same time—that is way too stressful!

With that in mind, why not think about introducing one of those new instructional strategies you learned through a workshop or from reading an interesting article this summer, and try it with your students. Gauge their reactions, collect achievement data, and evaluate if the changes you made impacted their understanding, depth of knowledge, attitude towards science, and overall success of your class. I’d love to know how it goes for you!

I’m interested in knowing about some of the instructional strategies you learned about this summer, if you made the decision to implement them, and, if you did, how it went. Let’s look into some STEM strategies you have found to be successful, some that were great ideas but lacking in impact, or even some you want to know more about! Let’s talk!

Terry Talley, Ed.D.

STEMcoach in Action!


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