2020 MA-ASTE Virtual Conference Program

Pandemic Science Methods Instruction: What Do PreService Elementary Science Teachers Explore and Learn from Outdoor Excursion?

With the onset of COVID-19 pandemic, universities and colleges required online learning and shelter-in-place protocols for the end of Spring 2020 semester. This new reality resulted in undergraduate elementary science methods students (SMSs) inability to attend courses held in a Title 1 urban elementary professional development school (PDS). Transitioning immediately from a classroom environment where SMSs co-planned and co-taught science lessons in a PDS setting to an online learning environment was a challenge for all. In lieu of exploring school grounds with a Kindergarten classroom, the instructor purposefully assigned an “at-home” outdoor exploration. This exploratory study reports on 15 SMSs use of Flipgrid™ to explore and research their current outdoor environments. Initial analysis of videos (n=30) supports the use of Flipgrid™ technology to explore and capture outdoor environments during shelter-in-place conditions. Initial findings show increased awareness and content knowledge of local environments; thus, the assignment/study will continue Fall 2020.

Tips for Using At-Home Experiments in an Online Teaching Environment

Abstract: Like faculty elsewhere, Towson University faculty have had students perform at-home experiments (AHEs) for years to supplement their science content and methods instruction. With an increased emphasis on AHEs in covid-driven online teaching environments, the purpose of this presentation is to provide tips on structuring effective AHEs – including pre/post class discussions. A critical consideration is to decide on the goals of each AHE, which might be to help students better understand: (1) the NGSS scientific practices; (2) specific experimental procedures; and/or (3) specific science content. Tips associated with each goal will be provided, using AHE examples from physics, chemistry and astronomy.

#teachersofinstagram: Teacher discourse in the time of remote learning

Abstract: Social media, particularly Twitter, has been used by teachers for informal professional development, community, and finding new resources. These uses have been well studied, but teachers are now beginning to migrate to other social media platforms such as Instagram. There are very few studies on the use of Instragram by teachers. As such, this study will investigate the ways in which teachers are using Instagram, particularly at this moment in time, during a global pandemic, when teachers are both more isolated and dealing with multiple modes of instruction, most that involve some new use of instructional technology. Public posts made by teachers using the hashtag #teachersofinstagram will be categorized and analyzed for their discursive formations using a cultural studies lens. Preliminary findings will be shared.

Building Inquiry Skill Using Science Fairs

Inquiry science instruction continues to be one of the best ways to support a student’s ability to engage in authentic science learning. Unfortunately, elementary preservice teachers often lack adequate experience using inquiry through there own science experiences and thus science methods courses often explore ways to facilitate opportunities to experiences the power of inquiry-based instruction. In addition, exploring methods to build inquiry can be more powerful when authentic science investigations are completed. This study explored the use of authentic science fairs as a medium to support the acquisition of inquiry skills for a group of elementary preservice science students. In addition, this research explores the perceived value that students gained when asked to reflect on their science fair experience. The primary source of data included an examination of reflective papers that preservice teachers turned in following their completion and presentation of their own inquiry-based science experiment.

The Effects of Computational Thinking Professional Development on STEM Teachers’ Perceptions and Pedagogical Practices

Abstract: This study examined the impact of PD on the inclusion of CT activities in K-12 mathematics and science classrooms. Data analysis indicates that exposure to CT activities in a professional development format can be valuable and can positively impact the quality and quantity of CT activities teachers implement in their classrooms.

Using NSTA E-Learning Resources and Keeley-inspired Pre-assessments to Improve Elementary Science Content Knowledge

Research widely shows that elementary science methods students have inadequate content knowledge in science which negatively impacts their self-efficacy towards teaching science. Now with COVID-19, much of our instruction must be delivered on-line. Several years ago, I developed a content assessment divided into the three content areas of the Next Generation Science standards that utilizes Paige Keeley’s formative assessment probes found in her series Uncovering Student Ideas in Science. This fall I have combined these so that students can identify their weakest area of science, identify a science standard in that area, step through a NSTA Interactive E-Learning book in that area, and then develop a 3 lesson 5E learning cycle unit targeting that standard. I look forward to presenting this plan to MA-ASTE for feedback and suggestions for improvement.

Exploring Effective Ways to Prepare Preservice Elementary Teachers to Teach Engineering Skills and Practices

Teacher education is facing challenges given the recent incorporation of engineering practices and core ideas in the NGSS. To address this need, Ed+gineering, an NSF-funded project, is exploring ways in which PSTs are prepared to meet this challenge. This presentation provides models and supporting data for four unique methods of infusion of engineering skills and practices into an elementary science methods course. This multiple semester, mixed-methods study, explored the ways in which four unique instructional models, with varied levels of engineering intervention, influenced PSTs’ science knowledge pedagogical understanding. Data were used to assess science knowledge gains and pedagogical understanding. Findings suggest that overall, PSTs learned science content through participation. Also, PSTs in advanced levels of intervention also shared ways in which their lessons reflected their students’ cultures through culturally responsive pedagogical strategies and how important engineering integration is to the elementary classroom, particularly through hands-on, inquiry-based instruction.

Induction Into the Great Unknown: Supporting Newly Hired Science and Mathematics Teachers During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Induction programs can support newly hired teachers during a phase of transition and continued learning (Ingersoll & Strong, 2011). This presentation discusses planning for a summer induction academy and details the ways in which these plans had to respond to the ever-changing realities of school reopening plans in order to support better beginnings in the teaching profession for JMU Noyce Scholars. Although each member of project leadership seeks for our Noyce Scholars to be as successful as possible in their new positions, we were forced to reconsider our roles and responsibilities when the contexts for which newly hired teachers were prepared—and induction support was planned—were fundamentally altered by the global COVID-19 pandemic. Key takeaways from planning and facilitating a summer induction academy amid a global pandemic that can inform the work of others supporting the induction and success of newly hired teachers this fall will be discussed.

Exploring the Initiation of Teacher Professional Learning Communities for Successful Implementation of After-School STEM Clubs, A Comparative Case Study

In this comparative case study, Teacher-Coaches from two rural middle schools in the southeastern United States participated a novel version of a PLC, in which teacher professional development sessions and pre-club (PLC) meetings prepared them to lead after-school STEM Club meetings. The community of practice (CoP) social learning framework was used to gain an understanding of how T-Coaches interacted in their PLCs and field notes taken during STEM Club meetings were used to code the Dimensions of Success (DoS) observation tool in order to document how STEM Clubs were carried out. Results indicate that in each case, the clubs’ teachers interacted positively during PLC meetings and ratings for the STEM Clubs at one middle school were higher in nearly all dimensions. These findings indicate that all aspects of the CoP social learning characteristics were important in supporting STEM Club implementation.

Celebration of Learning: An Elementary School’s Journey to Promote Innovation Through Design Thinking

Design thinking (DT) is a critical part of the innovation process, with the potential to broaden project-based learning and STEM education. This project is a qualitative case study of DT in a U.S. elementary school. Shifting to a culture of DT requires a bottom-up approach that empowers teacher interest. This school had success with DT because it was aligned with their mission statement, had a clear framework for implementation, and teacher buy-in developed organically. Student use of DT contributed to students identifying and solving problems. They also communicated, shared and celebrated their work. School wide events that celebrate learning reinforce student success and contribute to a school-wide culture of DT. We need to understand student development of STEM practices within DT experiences. The presentation will showcase the successes and challenges associated with DT implementation. This presentation will address how DT can be implemented virtually to students and teachers.

Teacher Candidates and Equity: Themes From Images of Science Teaching

As science educators, we are charged with preparing teacher candidates (TC) to teach science equitably to diverse students. Yet, our institution’s preservice teacher population is not as diverse as the student population they will likely teach and many of our local practicum placements lack diversity. Therefore, we must embody and reflect relevant dispositions, beliefs, and practices in our own teaching to better prepare TC to teach equitably. We aspire for TC to be aware of the normative practices and identities in their own science classrooms and to consider who is included and who is excluded from those practices and identities. This study explores the impact of reframing our science methods courses around these aims on TC’s considerations of equity. Specifically, we analyze elementary and high school TC’s drawings of science teaching to answer the question: How do TC’s express value in diversity and equity in the science classroom?

Learning Local: A Study in Rural Place-Based Environmental Education

The opportunity to learn science by doing authentic science in a rural community is not common, yet for over thirty years, a group of dedicated educators have provided this experience to students in field biology and ecology in a geographically isolated area of the Appalachian Mountains.  The over-arching research question in this study is: how does a Field School program in Appalachia use place-based environmental education to teach students about their local community and environmental issues, while also extending their understanding of global environmental issues?  This qualitative, ethnographic case study examines the experiences and reflections of three instructors and four students throughout the program. The teachers in the program share a deep commitment to environmental education and ecojustice, and the students gain valuable insight into what it means to be a scientist, how local environmental issues relate to global environmental and economic issues and move towards becoming environmental advocates.

Authentic labs: The Impact of an Urban Science Professional Development Program

During the 2018-19 school year science teachers conducting authentic labs in our district were a rare sight. The opportunity gap created by restricting our implementation of Nature of Science NGSS (2013) was negatively impacting our urban students. We set out in the 2019-20 school year to answer the content and pedagogical opportunity gaps with a year-long professional development training and support program we called, Leveraging Authentic Labs. The new professional development program was guided by the Guskey framework for professional development (1980) aimed at making a lasting change in teachers’ attitudes towards using authentic labs while being rooted in Jean Anyon’s Hidden Curriculum (1980). Unit planning analysis, reflection survey results, and student achievement data showed promising results from the professional development. Teacher attitudes and behaviors towards conducting authentic labs appeared to change for the positive. Also, many teachers saw gains in student achievement compared to the previous school year.

Connecting Concepts: Using Individual Epistemic Network Analysis to Extend the Value of Nature of Science Assessment

Deep conceptual understanding of nature of science (NOS) aspects moves beyond knowledge of discrete aspects to connections among aspects. This is a case study of three inservice teachers’ changes in NOS connections from pre- to post-NOS graduate course. Participants’ Views of Nature of Science (VNOS) responses were traditionally rated as naive, transitional, or informed on eight NOS aspects then coded for NOS connections, which were then modeled using individual epistemic network analysis (iENA). Participants’ models showed more and more highly associated NOS aspects and increased clustering of NOS aspects, indicating more in-depth and integrated understandings. Additional improvements were recognized for one participant who began the course with mostly informed understandings, beyond those identified through traditional VNOS analysis. Consideration of connections may be crucial to guide more effective interventions. The use of iENA extends the value of the VNOS and can be applied to other NOS frameworks and data sources.

Mill Mothers’ Lament Part 2: Race and Science Teacher Education

Race is often addressed in science teacher education through discussions around equity, inclusion, and broadening participation. As the Covid-19 pandemic highlights, science content intersects with race in multiple ways. Findings from a design-based research experiment reveal challenges for science teacher educators. Analysis of teacher discourse during a professional development workshop that incorporated science practices to support teachers’ critical consciousness reveals that notions of race as a biological construct persist despite conclusions of the Human Genome Project 20 year ago. Addressing this fallacy is critical as Covid-19 data highlights health disparities related to race that potentially reinforce misconceptions. Findings also reveal limited understanding of the history of racism in science or knowledge regarding the contributions of non-white individuals to science. Implications include numerous opportunities for science teacher educators to equip preservice and inservice teachers to grapple with race and racism through science teaching and learning (Sheth, 2019).

Alphabet Soup! PBL, NOS, SSIs, MUN: The (Dis)comfort Soup of Science Teaching

Three co-instructors collaboratively developed this innovative teaching strategies for our preservice science teachers. We had two primary goals: a) to model teaching and planning of a PBL science unit and; b) to raise issues of social justice and ethics in science research. To accomplish these goals we implemented the following alphabet soup. A literature based NOS experience implemented as a PBL SSI unit culminating in a MUN session.

Translation: We used the book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks to engage the preservice teachers in the Nature of Science (NOS) historical context and research ethics tenants of science research. We used a Problem-Based Learning (PBL) model experience to consider the Socio-Scientific Issue (SSI) of internationally conducted biomedical research by having the preservice teachers work together to create a Model United Nations (MUN) draft resolutions of ethical, non-hegemonic practices for international biomedical research.

“What’s with the ANTS?” The Ups and Downs of Using Hands-on Authentic Research Experiences With Insects to Teach Biology to Preservice Middle School science majors

Authentic research experiences have been used to increase student interest in science and their knowledge of science concepts.  However, few preservice science teacher preparation programs offer these opportunities for hands-on research experience.  This study integrated an authentic research project about insect symbiotic relationships into a field course for preservice middle school science majors, using the field of entomology to teach biology concepts and field skills.  As part of the research project, students collected insects, pinned specimens, identified unknown insects, and created grade-appropriate activities using their specimens.  After this experience, students showed an increase in biology knowledge, comfort with insects, and science teaching self-efficacy, but many also reported a dislike of being a part of a “real” research project.  This presentation will share the successful and not so successful goals of this study, as well as changes made to the course based on student feedback.

Motivations for Pursuing and Challenges to Completing Geoscience Majors at a Public University

This qualitative study sought to determine undergraduate students’ beliefs about their motivations for pursuing and challenges to completing geoscience majors in a large public university. Eighteen undergraduate students participated in the study and were interviewed using a semi-structured interview guide. In addressing the study’s research question, the themes that emerged from the data regarding students’ beliefs about their motivations for pursuing geoscience majors centered around their personal interest in general science or geoscience subject matter, their enjoyment of being outdoors, influential individuals in their lives, interactions with other undergraduate geoscience majors, undergraduate student research experiences, influential faculty in advising and instruction, influential courses they have taken, and their plans for post-graduation. The themes that emerged from the data regarding students’ beliefs about their challenges to completing geoscience majors centered on the rigor of geoscience courses, course scheduling, and programs. Based on these empirical findings, this article provides recommendations that can help to inform geoscience programs in other institutions both across the nation and internationally with regard to advising, dissemination of opportunities for desired field experiences, pathways for transfer students, and critical influences for students who become geoscience majors.

Anchoring Epistemic Agency Within Learning Progressions

The goal of the Next Generation Science Standards is for students to actively engage in disciplinary knowledge and practices that cultivate scientifically literate citizens. While NGSS posits that learning progressions are instrumental in aiding students in the development of disciplinary knowledge, it does not include science practices within the progression which fosters an epistemological understanding of science. In addition, science practices decontextualized from real world events have been critiqued for becoming rote in nature. We offer that learning progressions can be enhanced through the development of epistemic place-based learning progressions that encourage epistemic agency through the construction of science identity. We will reflect on our research in the NSF sponsored “Actualizing STEM Potential in the Mississippi Delta” project to engage a discussion on how anchoring learning progressions across epistemological dimensions enables students to advance cognitively while experiencing a social transformation as epistemic agents within their local communities.

Using Environmental Study Units in 3rd Grade

In this presentation the authors will share a unit that was developed by a preservice teacher (one of the presenters). The inspiration for the unit was learning about climate change and creating learning activities for 3rd graders. The authors will share the theoretical framework for the unit, learning activities developed and an analysis of the student work collected.

Science Fair as Field Experience for Preservice Elementary Teachers

The traditional science fair at first seems to be an ideal place for K-12 students to demonstrate scientific practices such as asking scientific questions, designing experiments and observational studies, analyzing data, and communicating results. Over the past twenty years sparse research investigated how to prepare teachers to facilitate science fairs. A partnership between our university and an urban STEM magnet elementary school provided the opportunity for preservice elementary teachers (PET) to observe and support the school science fair. The PET first observed two consecutive classroom lessons during the school day. Next they volunteered for an evening science fair open house during which PET assisted students and parents with the projects. The field experience concluded with students judging the school science fair. The PET completed structured reflections following each activitie. Qualitative analysis revealed the impacts on PET self-efficacy to facilitate student research and the value of science fairs.