Our Science R&D team meets as a K-12 group three times throughout the year, for 90 minutes each time. It’s a rare opportunity for all grade levels to be in the same room, focusing on a few key initiatives and sharing best practices.
Today’s meeting was especially valuable for me as a learner, especially relating to the day-in, day-out, “boots on the ground” pieces of instruction and assessment. We focused on wins and “non-wins” from the year, relative to our focal points. Next we shared assessments in small cross-divisional groups, offering ideas, questions, and suggestions for iteration. Below are my takeaways, items I found interesting and useful, organized chronologically as they came up throughout the meeting:
- An Upper School biology teacher recommended looking at the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science. It’s a wealth of true, real-world problems in just about every scientific field and context imaginable.
- Another Upper School teacher shared a strategy for grouping students. At the start of the year, he asks all students to create an index card that includes their name and a few facts about them (likes, interests, etc). Not only does this givea little insight into students’ passions, but it also provides the instructor with a “deck of cards” that can be shuffled to create random groups at any time. This teacher also uses the deck to draw names to help elicit participation in class discussions.
- A third Upper School science teacher shared the progressions of a project he recently assigned. Students were tasked with creating a sketch first. Then they made a rough prototype with maker cart supplies (popsicle sticks, pipe cleaners, etc). They continued to refine their prototype but along the way they were asked to document their iterations using photographs so that the learning and growth were clearly visible. The photograph idea especially resonated with me, because I am always eager to “show not tell” a story.
- A Lower School teacher showed me a rubric with four columns, where 1 = novice; 2 = emerging; 3 = proficient; and 4 = advanced. The target is 3, proficiency. In some rows on the rubric, she clearly defined what each stage might look like. In others, she left column 4 blank, leaving room for students to write in what might be an example of advanced work. Another teacher built upon this idea by suggesting that students use the blank space to justify why their work qualifies as advanced rather than merely proficient.
Part of our ticket out the door included identifying questions or items we want to explore more deeply. Some are captured below:
- How might we increase vertical alignment, understanding better what content our colleagues teach and assess?
- What does neuroscience research tell us about ways to maximize retention?
- How might we create proficiency scales around the science process standards?
While I would never openly advocate for more meetings, I wonder how we might get this incredible team together more often to share, ask questions, and help each other.