1. Rachel Shefner
  2. http://luc.edu/cse/personnel/Rachel_Shefner.shtml
  3. Associate Director
  4. Supporting Middle Grades Science Professional Development in CPS: Content, Curriculum, Coaching and Using Data Project
  5. Loyola University Chicago
  1. Stacy Wenzel
  2. Research Associate Professor
  3. Supporting Middle Grades Science Professional Development in CPS: Content, Curriculum, Coaching and Using Data Project
  4. Loyola University Chicago
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  • Icon for: Rachel Shefner

    Rachel Shefner

    Presenter
    May 14, 2017 | 05:45 p.m.

    Thank you for watching our video! We would love feedback on the following questions:


    1) What are your experiences with facilitating teacher discussions about student work, in the era of NGSS?


    2) What are your experiences with cross-grade collaboration? Please share advantages and/or challenges.


    3) We are trying to get at how PD experiences influence teachers at the school level, and how these influences are manifested. Please share your thoughts on this.


     


    We welcome responses to these and any questions!


     

  • Icon for: Jake Foster

    Jake Foster

    Facilitator
    May 16, 2017 | 03:31 p.m.

    I am a great advocate for looking at student work together -- what we each expect from students as 'demonstration of mastery' of a particular standard, concept, or practice is often open to interpretation until each of us has an opportunity to point to it and ask 'do you agree?'. And I have found that such conversations are best achieved when focused on the parts (evidence of a practice or conceptual understanding) and on the whole (putting the pieces together; demonstrating evidence through a variety of means).

     
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    Eric Osthoff
    Stacy Wenzel
  • Icon for: Rachel Shefner

    Rachel Shefner

    Presenter
    May 18, 2017 | 12:27 p.m.

    Hi again, Jake. Thanks for asking about this! Our formative assessment PLCs including consensus discussions on student work were piloted last year, and that is the snippet you see in the video. We have a 5 minute video where you can see more of the discussion between teachers, and includes that piece you refer to: teachers disagreeing (or agreeing) on whether or not a student response meets the criteria in the rubric and back up what they say by specifically pointing to something in the student work. During one of the sessions last year, one of the teachers kind of had a “meta-moment” where she said “Hey! You are asking us to support our claim about the score we give our students based on the evidence in the student work”! That was really fun. This year, the teachers seem much more comfortable with looking together at the student work; and we have done two “rounds”. Other evidence of their increased comfort is that they are sharing video of their classroom instruction where they are teaching the lesson that gave rise to the student work. We are going to look for differences between the two time points in terms of the consensus process itself (was there more/less convergence?) and looking at the student work scores and how they changed over the year. We just finished round 2 so we have not yet analyzed the data.

     

    I like your other comment about the parts and the whole. Another thing we learned from last year’s pilot is that we often found (especially in the younger grades) that student’s claims surfaced misconceptions, and when that happened—of course it threw the whole thing off. It is not very meaningful to evaluate evidence based on an incorrect claim. In thinking about how to support teachers with this, we decided to shift our focus from the “part” CER as it relates to the SEPs of Arguing from Evidence and Developing Explanations to encouraging (and supporting through PD) the teachers to use Developing and Using Models as a way help students to develop their claims… and indeed all of the rest of it. That practice does address the “whole” as it really brings together many of the SEPs. I think we will see much better student responses by doing this-we shall see.

  • Icon for: William McHenry

    William McHenry

    Facilitator
    May 15, 2017 | 12:44 p.m.

    This was a very fast moving intense video. It provides an overview of Content, Curriculum, Coaching and Using Data Project and how it is aligned with NGSS via professional development for teachers. I could not determine how many teachers are involved with the project.

  • Icon for: Rachel Shefner

    Rachel Shefner

    Presenter
    May 15, 2017 | 02:04 p.m.

    Thanks for your comment, William. Hopefully my response isn’t too intense! You would think that would be an easy question, but not so much. The teachers who were featured in the video were among a group of approximately 100 teachers per year who participated in some level of support from the 3 year project. In a large district (more than 20,000 teachers) there is a tension between supporting enough teachers to make an impact and supporting them deeply enough to make an impact. Our approach was to offer a nested set of supports that can offer a light touch (24 hours of PD), a medium touch (add to that 12 hours of PLCs) and intensive supports (the above, plus coaching). At the intensive level, our team of four coaches works with 2-3 teachers/school in approximately 24 schools. The teachers whose classrooms were in the video came from this group, and the PD you saw in the video was one of the PLC sessions. We are continuing to work with a smaller group of 35 teachers this year who participate in PLCs only and are coached as well.

     
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    Stacy Wenzel
  • Icon for: Stacy Wenzel

    Stacy Wenzel

    Co-Presenter
    May 15, 2017 | 02:47 p.m.

    Hi William and All.  Across 2013-2016 the project worked with 157 unique CPS teachers and 43 unique Archdiocese teachers representing 78 and 20 schools respectively.  We tracked the amount and type of engagement for each of these teachers so we could better understand how the different levels of support related to different outcomes. 

     
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    Stacy Wenzel
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    Leslie Johnson

    K-12 Teacher
    May 15, 2017 | 06:19 p.m.

    I am grateful to be apart of these professional development learning experiences for the transition of the Next Generation Science Standard implementation into the classroom. It is very helpful and supporting to see my peers engaging and facilitating the learning of students productive talk and evidence based discussions. As mentioned in the video; too often Science is forgotten at the elementary level due to the emphasis being on Literacy and Math. However, in my transition I have also seen small changes not only in my Science teaching, but also in literacy and math discussions as well. Being able to engage in these professional developments and learning communities of teachers who want to see shift in our students from 'learning' about Science concepts to 'figuring' it out has been extremely beneficial to me.

     
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    Eric Osthoff
    Stacy Wenzel
  • Icon for: Rachel Shefner

    Rachel Shefner

    Presenter
    May 16, 2017 | 09:27 a.m.

    Thanks for your comment, Leslie! The positive relationship between student engagement in science classrooms on literacy and mathematics learning is important to emphasize. One recent report by the Education Trust (2017) details how engaging science instruction can be a lever for English Language Learners. Another issue your comment alludes to is the need to figure out what helps to disseminate the knowledge that teacher leaders gain at professional development events to the whole school level. We hope to address this question in future projects that will dissect and characterize the factors that permit and stymie whole-school dissemination.

     
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    Stacy Wenzel
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    Marianne Lynch

    K-12 Administrator
    May 16, 2017 | 10:01 a.m.

    3. I see our science teachers taking the time to engage students in deeper thinking and exploration of topics rather than jumping right into content or information students should know.  The content has greater value and relevance when students come to their own conclusions about why it is important and they experience the trial and error process of science more readily.  Getting students past the notion that the teacher should just 'tell them the correct answer' and having them actually problem solve is a more time consuming, but more valuable approach to teaching science.  It requires finding a balance between teaching the skills of scientific process and discovery with helping students acquire the knowledge needed to be successful.  

     
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    Eric Osthoff
    Stacy Wenzel
  • Icon for: Rachel Shefner

    Rachel Shefner

    Presenter
    May 16, 2017 | 11:27 a.m.

    Thanks Marianne, NGSS implementation does require shifts in thinking for students, teachers and administrators. We are trying to determine how to best support these shifts and what about which supports leads to better outcomes.

  • Icon for: Brian Drayton

    Brian Drayton

    Researcher
    May 16, 2017 | 11:41 a.m.

    This kind of teacher change is hard work, because it requires that they attend to so many levels -- content knowledge, critique/evaluation of student talk and work, the adjustment of pedagogy, and more.  And the challenge is familiar from past eras of science ed reform.  The solution has to come from the teachers themselves, empowered (and supported) to work together on their learning.  This often requires a change in what teachers talk about, and how they talk together, and for my money that's where the crux is-- how the PLCs or other strategies can attract engagement, and be inviting to enough others to really effect a culture change.   Long-term work!

        I'd like to know more about how administrators are participating — they've got to help with a longitudinal strategy like this 

     
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    Eric Osthoff
  • Icon for: Rachel Shefner

    Rachel Shefner

    Presenter
    May 16, 2017 | 01:24 p.m.

    Thanks Brian, it is indeed hard work, which requires a long term commitment and many collaborators. We have been supporting Chicago area teachers for approaching 15 years and the teachers supported by three year project described in the video was our share of a collaborative project (called the NGSS Collaborative, supported by Chicago Community Trust and the Big Shoulders Fund) that included the DePaul University STEM Center and the University of Chicago STEMEd center.  These institutions supported additional CPS networks and teachers. Some of the teachers in the Loyola project have been supported through other professional development work we do at our Center for Science and Math Education www.luc.edu/csme, and are continuing to be supported with PLCs and coaching.

                    Regarding your question about administrator support, this also occurred at different levels. In the years 1-2 of the project we provided administrator PD sessions two or three times/year on what the NGSS instructional shifts mean in terms of what supports (and resources) teachers need in order to implement these shifts in science classrooms, i.e., what to look for in the science classroom as they do observations, the need for increased instructional time, especially in K-5, the need for adjusting schedules to accommodate this and in-school teacher collaboration, etc etc. In years 2-3 of the project we invited administrators to work with their project teachers on various school planning documents that allowed them to collaboratively articulate and work to implement a science vision for their schools. In the last year of that project and in the schools we are continuing to work with, we help teachers to form school science leadership teams that included the teacher leaders, administrators and instructional coach. This team meets quarterly at the school and utilizes the planning documents as a guidepost for continuing to grow towards whole-school NGSS implementation.

  • Icon for: Stacy Wenzel

    Stacy Wenzel

    Co-Presenter
    May 16, 2017 | 03:25 p.m.

    Across 2013-2016, the Loyola project worked with 85 unique administrators representing 57 schools.  This means that about one-half of the schools and teachers engaged in the project had a principal who came to a least one professional development meeting outside of their school.  As Rachel noted, ultimately the project is working to engage teachers and principals to plan and work together at their schools.  In our survey, we asked teachers to report how their school and district administrators supported their using the new NGSS standards. On average teachers agreed firmly that they were getting support from their administrators and their perception of the level of this support stayed roughly level across the project years. 

  • May 16, 2017 | 02:57 p.m.

    Hi Rachel,

    This is such an ambitious project. What sorts of things have you all learned about how to help elementary teachers get into science? Our district partners would like us to integrate ngss work with math and ELA; I'm hoping you might have some insights!

     
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    Adam Tarnoff
  • Icon for: Rachel Shefner

    Rachel Shefner

    Presenter
    May 16, 2017 | 03:31 p.m.

    Hi William, thanks for your question. So, one thing that helps us spread the word about science instruction to elementary teachers is that in Chicago, most elementary schools are K-8. There are very few middle grades-only schools. This is helpful because often the middle grades teachers end up being the ambassadors for this work, and they can bring their K-5 colleagues along for the ride. The middle grades teachers are usually much more confident with their content and are seen as de facto content leaders at their schools anyway. In the three year project we worked with one "teacher leader" from grades 6-8 and one from grades 3-5 in each school. In our 4th year extension of the project we are working directly with one K-2 teacher, one 3-5 teacher and one 6-8 teacher from the schools. I think that by working with a team of teachers, the elementary teachers feel more supported by their peers in their own schools. It is exciting to see them really teaching science instead of avoiding teaching it. 

     
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    Adam Tarnoff
  • Icon for: Rachel Shefner

    Rachel Shefner

    Presenter
    May 16, 2017 | 03:53 p.m.

    Some more thoughts on this question is that it helps to have a few brave souls test the waters. The 4th grade teacher in the video is also featured in another longer video where you really see how she supports her students in productive talk/making arguments based on evidence. You can see that video on our home page www.luc.edu/csme. We have utilized that video as an exemplar in our PLCs and it helps the K-5 teachers see that it can indeed be done. This year we have also tried (with varying degrees of success) to have teachers share classroom video with each other, and that has been helpful to build their confidence and practice. And, our formative assessment PLCs really focus them around the student work that comes out of elementary classrooms. Finally, in terms of the relationship with and integration of math and ELA, we like to focus teachers and administrators on the Venn Diagram of practices that has popped up in a variety of places, including http://nstahosted.org/pdfs/ngss/PracticesVennDi...  That is a very good place to start.

     
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    Adam Tarnoff
  • Icon for: Adam Tarnoff

    Adam Tarnoff

    Scaffold Education Consulting
    May 22, 2017 | 05:02 p.m.

    Bill, +1 to everything Rachel said. Rachel's point about teachers learning from peers across grade levels works from the bottom up too. 


    In preK and K environments, the boundaries between content domains are often very fluid. For many early childhood educators, shifting between and making connections among sci, math, ela, and soc stud is an everyday practice. I've worked on three teacher PD projects recently (one in Chicago and two in SF) that have focussed on bringing NGSS into early elementary grades by extending/continuing existing best practice pedagogies from early childhood classrooms upwards into 1st-3rd grades.


    This bottom up approach has had several unexpected benefits: (1) It is enormously empowering for early childhood educators, whose pedagogical skills are often unrecognized by their 1-3 grade peers. (2) It preempts the all-too-common pushback "the kids can't do / aren't ready for it" because the early childhood teachers have already seen the kids do it! (3) The peer-to-peer work among teachers on cross-curricular connections almost inevitably led to conversations about project/problem based inquiry without any further prompting. (4) When implemented effectively, this approach can help ease the K-to-1 transition for students who enjoyed multi-disciplinary, project/problem based learning in pre and k, but then stopped liking school when it became "less fun" in 1st grade.  


    (Not surprisingly, science content knowledge and PCK required a lot of external support at all grade levels.)


    I’d love to connect and learn more about what you’re doing in LA – perhaps there could be an opportunity to collaborate. Plus, it’s always great to network with fellow NU LS alumni (I think you finished a little bit before I started)! I’ll shoot you an email or drop you a line on LinkedIn :-)

  • Icon for: Jake Foster

    Jake Foster

    Facilitator
    May 16, 2017 | 03:36 p.m.

    I agree, whole school implementation of an educational reform, including NGSS, is ambitious but necessary. Strategies such as engaging teacher leaders is often used but can be difficult to scale change given the discrepancy between the PD experience the leaders are provided and the experience of the remaining teachers. How are you thinking about or addressing this challenge, particularly given that your work likely includes teachers across disciplines as well?

  • Icon for: Stacy Wenzel

    Stacy Wenzel

    Co-Presenter
    May 16, 2017 | 05:43 p.m.

    Wonderful question Jake. 

    Here is one part of an answer....  and I know Rachel and others can chime in. 

    In working to develop, nurture and support science teacher leaders at a large scale, one challenge we have tried to address is the need to actually measure what we mean by leadership in terms of characteristics and behaviors.  It has taken several years of learning through the collaborative expertise of many colleagues and reviewing the literature, but we have a Science Teacher Leader Survey that is helping us explore the process and outcomes of our work.  The survey includes some multi-item scales that show promise in capturing teacher attitudes about (1) their own interest in and abilities to promote science with others outside of their classroom (Advocacy), (2) their openness to doing what needs to happen when working with other teachers through productive sharing and learning with constructive criticism  (Collaboration), and (3) their comfort and strength as science experts (Content).  There are also scales about the types of instructional leadership-aligned conversations and activities in which they engage at school. We hope to continue to validate these scales in future work proposed and to share these as tools that others may find useful.  Additional detail on this work is within our publication NGSS Science Collaborative-Final Report on our website www.luc.edu/csme

     
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    Steven Rogg, Ph.D.
  • Icon for: Rachel Shefner

    Rachel Shefner

    Presenter
    May 17, 2017 | 10:04 a.m.

    Jake, I agree the that the term "teacher leader" means many things to many people. In our case we are focused on teachers of science at the K-8 schools we work with, who at the time the project began, were designated to represent their grade band at project activities. Sometimes the principal at the school would ask for volunteers, sometimes it was just by default because they were the only one left who wasn't a "math leader" or "literacy leader", and sometimes we would make a recommendation to the principal because we already knew some of the teachers at their school from other projects we have had. Therefore the teacher leaders who began at year one had a diversity of buy-in, attitudes, content expertise, etc. In years 1 and 2 the project focused on "the teacher as learner" and did not push the leadership focus as we helped teachers get up to speed on the standards and on instructional strategies that they could readily utilize.

    In years 2 and 3 we began to infuse content about how to be a science leader--case studies about what that could look like in schools, tools for collaborative planning and meetings-and how to make sure that science gets "a place at the table" in their schools. And here, yes, the contribution of the K-5 teacher leaders to the discussion was critical, because they are the ones who usually are self contained, and therefore cross-disciplinary. These teachers helped the middle grades teachers (who were largely departmentalized) see where the points of collaboration with their peers in math and ELA could be--hmm, maybe they could share the claims, evidence and reasoning framework with them? That could possibly allow analysis of science-related text during English class, so we could do more hands on in the science class! Maybe they could share the productive talk strategies with them?How about the overlap in math practices with SEPs? maybe we could work with our math teacher to leverage that? Having explicit discussions in PLCs and in school visits with their coaches about these issues helped bridge the gap between the teacher leaders in the project, and their peers at schools. However, we would really like to dig deeper into the issues surrounding why this works better at some schools than at others.

  • Icon for: Rachel Shefner

    Rachel Shefner

    Presenter
    May 22, 2017 | 05:45 p.m.

    I just saw that our paper, Pathways to Teacher Leadership will be coming out at the end of July in Planning and Changing, volume 48, issue 1. The paper describes three different pathways that we have seen teachers travel on the road to becoming teacher leaders.

  • Icon for: Heidi Schweingruber

    Heidi Schweingruber

    Facilitator
    May 16, 2017 | 10:29 p.m.

    Love the video!  The glimpses of students and teachers engaged in science are really engaging and help to bring this approach to instruction alive.  The focus on school level supports is particularly important for understanding how to support implementation of NGSS on a large-scale. Comments above highlight the importance of administrators, I'm wondering if there are any other school-level factors that are important to the success of your approach. Also, one issue I've heard repeatedly from people working to implement the NGSS is the problem of time. This is particularly the case in the elementary grades. Does the problem of insufficient time come up in your work and if so, how are teachers addressing it?

  • Icon for: Stacy Wenzel

    Stacy Wenzel

    Co-Presenter
    May 18, 2017 | 10:05 a.m.

    Good questions. Thanks for asking!  To add to Rachel’s reply…

    The district expectation for science instruction weekly was at least:  200 minutes for grades K-2, 250 minutes for grades 3-5 and 300 minutes for grades 6-8.  It is tough to really measure what is happening in the “real life” of a school. However we used anonymous surveys with teachers and principals and got their candid estimates. In both 2015 and 2016, PK-2 teachers reported their students engaging in about 140 minutes of science weekly.  For grades 3 to 5 students, they were estimated at about 200 minutes with no significant change over the years.  However, the middle school students were getting more exposure to science by 2016 compared to 2015 moving from a mean of 234 to 283 minutes/week.  Not quite at the hoped for level of 300 minutes but moving in the right direction.  We need to continue to investigate why these changes did or did not happen in schools. 

     

    We asked teachers about school-level factors that might be barriers to their implementing NGSS.  They rated time to prep for science and the availability of appropriate science materials as more  problematic than they rated time to actually teach science and emphasis on improving standardized test scores (in the context that science is not part of the testing accountability system in the district right now.)  A teacher’s perception of these factors significantly predicted how much time their students spent engaging in inquiry instruction.  We presented some of our early work on this at NARST this year and hope to continue to study this more deeply.  For example, it would be great in the future to have actual measures of time, materials or school-specific accountability pressures along with the teachers’ perceptions of these issues.  

  • Icon for: Rachel Shefner

    Rachel Shefner

    Presenter
    May 17, 2017 | 11:29 a.m.

    Thanks so much, Heidi! Those students are amazing, and the teachers are delightful. To address your first point, we have some sense of other school-level factors that are critical in our approach. One of these is, not surprisingly, the presence/absence of science curricular materials at the school. Another is, as you mentioned, time. Time to teach and time to collaboratively plan are both factors. The time to teach, especially in K-5 is really critical. The district has recommended number of science instructional minutes/week at each grade level, and although for the most part, in grades 6-8 those recommended levels are met, but in K-5, they generally are not. However, over the course of the project we did see those levels increase, but they did not get to the recommended level.The cross-disciplinary approaches discussed above can also help. I will leave it to Stacy to flesh out the details on that. And to point to other factors that I have forgotten to mention. 

    With regard to planning time, schools have different ways of dealing with that, and this has been one of the issues that it has been helpful to get principals together. We have asked them to share their master schedules with each other, and some have done that. The schools vary so much in size, so there is no one size fits all solution. Some are able to fit planning meetings during "specials" (art or music or PE) others have meetings before or after school.

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    Sr. Wolowicki

    K-12 Administrator
    May 17, 2017 | 03:51 p.m.

    This is an excellent program.  It is wonderful to see the commitment of Loyola to helping in K thru 12 to provide challenging and team building opportunities to students.

     
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    Eric Osthoff
  • Icon for: Stacy Wenzel

    Stacy Wenzel

    Co-Presenter
    May 18, 2017 | 09:05 a.m.

    Thank you, Sr. Wolowicki!  The commitment and energy to do these projects gets inspired by the teachers and administrators and students with whom we get to spend time.  There is a lot of joy in doing these programs.  :-)  

  • Icon for: Steven Rogg

    Steven Rogg

    Director of STEM Education
    May 18, 2017 | 06:17 a.m.

    The claims in your lead statement are spot on! To your third question, you might find insight and inspiration from the NSF systemic initiatives. As you are well aware, working in an urban system also means that it is essential to attend to strong competing contextual factors in order to provide teachers with opportunity (especially time) and access to the tools and ideas your provide. See, for example:

    Supovitz, J. A., Mayer, D. P., & Kahle, J. B. (2000). Promoting Inquiry-Based Instructional Practice: The Longitudinal Impact of Professional Development in the Context of Systemic Reform. Educational Policy, 14(3), 331–356. https://doi.org/10.1177/0895904800014003001   Supovitz, J. A., & Turner, H. M. (2000). The effects of professional development on science teaching practices and classroom culture. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 37(9), 963–980.
  • Icon for: Rachel Shefner

    Rachel Shefner

    Presenter
    May 18, 2017 | 12:52 p.m.

    Hi Steve, thanks! We are certainly aware of those initiatives-that’s what started the Chicago Mathematics and Science Initiative that Mark Koker referred to in his post. In addition, Stacy spearheaded an NSF project that looked at the outcomes and impacts of this initiative in the years 2002-2008 in her NSF project SCALE UP: Systemic Reform of Math & Science Education in Chicago and are reported on the project website http://www.luc.edu/scaleup/index.php . And as you know, Chicago is a fantasy landscape of ever-changing contextual factors.

     

    In order to provide support for the teachers in the district and in the city, and in accordance with being situated at a Jesuit institution we are very sensitive to trying to be flexible enough to attend to the needs of our community. This can come at the cost, however of having a tight research design-but we are working on that, and hope the future will bring some funding that will help us really drill down on those contextual factors so that we can understand what could make our supports more impactful.

     
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    Steven Rogg, Ph.D.
  • Icon for: Steven Rogg

    Steven Rogg

    Director of STEM Education
    May 18, 2017 | 09:52 p.m.

    Rachel, I am so happy that you reminded me of Stacy's SCALE UP project. It had been a while! There is much to learn from the evolutionary record of the reform initiatives. Perhaps we tend to look forward, but I can't help but wonder if sometimes we also should to be looking around and behind. Contextual challenges largely remain, as evident in other parts of this thread. Others, for example, have made the point (e.g., Lee Shulman, Ken Wilson) that the education enterprise needs to learn how to build progressively on prior success as seems to be more evident in other fields (e.g. medicine, technology, and engineering). Anyway, I know you understand my point because your work is exemplary in this regard.

     
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    Eric Osthoff
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    Mark Koker

    May 18, 2017 | 10:54 a.m.

    Rachel, very nice!  I will share this video with my consultant group.  Kudos for providing such excellent, ongoing support for CPS teachers since 2005 (this is my CSMI-based mental 'start date' for your work) and for continuing to provide strong support for NGSS to CPS teachers since the final version was released in April 2013.  Science in urban settings can be particularly challenging.   I give your PD work high marks for planning, delivery and follow up and know you have had a lasting impact in the greater Chicagoland area.

     
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    Eric Osthoff
    Steven Rogg, Ph.D.
  • Icon for: Rachel Shefner

    Rachel Shefner

    Presenter
    May 18, 2017 | 12:57 p.m.

    Thanks for your kind words, Mark! Actually, our work with CMSI started in 2002, or 2003, depending on how you look at it. We have certainly learned a tremendous amount from working with you and your team. We hope we have had an impact and hope to be able to continue doing so!

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    Jim Brazdil

    May 18, 2017 | 01:17 p.m.

    For all of us, nothing we do is more important than the education of our children. We are all acutely aware of the clear and recognized gap in the education of the sciences and math at the K-12 levels.  Also as a science professional in industrial research having responsibility for hiring and developing some of the technical experts of the future, I see the importance of competency in science and math to the future economic health of our society.  The work being done by the Loyola University Center for Science and Math Education and by others is focused on addressing this critical gap.  The video is an excellent vehicle for explaining the value of such work and why it is so important to help make our teachers the best they can be in science education.

     
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    Eric Osthoff
  • Icon for: Rachel Shefner

    Rachel Shefner

    Presenter
    May 18, 2017 | 03:31 p.m.

    Thanks very much, Jim! As you saw in the video, we work in very diverse schools. I really hope that our work contributes to diversifying the workforce in all STEM fields.

  • Icon for: Jodye Selco

    Jodye Selco

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 18, 2017 | 05:23 p.m.

    Our project has set up cross grade-level collaborations in hopes of fostering sustainable learning communities.  I think that we have been partially successful in attaining our goals.  At least the teachers have met and worked with teachers in other grade levels (our project involved teachers in grades 3-8, but also included PD teams with elementary, high school, CTE (career and technical education) teachers as well as university faculty). There has been much "cross talk" among teachers of different aged students (what we hoped for), and some collaboration (not as much as we hoped for).  What was your experience with this portion of your experiment?

     
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    Stacy Wenzel
  • Icon for: Rachel Shefner

    Rachel Shefner

    Presenter
    May 18, 2017 | 11:29 p.m.

    Hi Joyce, thanks for asking about this. It is really fun to see these conversations happening! First, the teachers in the lower grades felt intimidated by the middle and high school teachers (we had a few of those for a year or two), but they were usually more adventurous than the others, so they ended up trying new things more readily. Then they shared their experiences with the middle and high school teachers, and that sometimes encouraged the adventure to pass on. I recall a comment by a high school teacher that the discussions were so eye-opening to her, because she had no idea what the students should have covered before they came to her. We found that a really good way to keep these discussions going was to focus on the progressions--for all parts of the NGSS. They are such good documents to keep going back to as a gauge of where things are.

    With regard to sustainability, we have one good indication of this. As I mentioned, almost all elementary schools are in Chicago are K-8. But we have worked closely with one middle school, and those science teachers began to form a close relationship with one of their feeder schools and this I think will be sustainable. The administrators at both schools are excited about it and they have adjusted schedules so that the teachers from both schools can meet and collaborate regularly. Just a small example but it is a start. 

     
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    Eric Osthoff
  • Icon for: Jodye Selco

    Jodye Selco

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 19, 2017 | 11:22 a.m.

    Thanks Rachel! We had similar experiences. The upper grade teachers had no idea what the students experienced in grades below them, but they have a better idea now! We have also seen more involvement of elementary teachers (multiple subjects credentials) with secondary single subject teachers about the science. By the same token, we seen an increase in the use of diverse pedagogies of the secondary teachers due to their interactions with the elementary school teachers. Both of these were what we hoped for, but I suspect that continued interactions (which may be difficult in the future since our funding ends soon) may not strengthen these ties. Was that part of your original design? What did you do to foster these interactions? We intentionally set this up by focusing on a scientific phenomenon and examining the science involved - at all levels. The teachers in the PD groups were grade heterogeneous to foster these interactions. We believe we've built a community of educators of all grades, but only time will tell whether this is truly sustainable.

     
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    Eric Osthoff
    Stacy Wenzel
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    Rachel Shefner

    Presenter
    May 19, 2017 | 07:28 p.m.

    Hi Joyce, thanks for keeping the conversation going. The original design was to work with 3-8 grade teachers,, and the district leaders asked us to add some high school teachers in the second year. We intentionally planned for cross-grade interactions. In year one we focused on the SEPs, so we engaged all of the teachers in activities geared for each grade band--we did not separate them out at all, and everyone participated in the K-2 activity, the 3-5, the3 6-8 and the 9-12--the years we had them. we did have some grumbling from the 6-8 and HS teachers at first, but we chose activities that focused on the same DCIs, and then had them see how the SEPs built over the grade levels. The second year we focused on the CCCs, the third year on the DCIs and each time we held at least one domain constant and allowed the teachers to see how the other domains changed across the grade levels--hope that makes sense. We had a different project (not the one in the video) where we also worked with a multi-grade group and looked at phenomena using the NGSX PD system and that also worked very well. And yes, we will see what is sustainable--but for that we have seen that we need to look at the whole school context, as we have been discussing in other posts here.

     
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    Stacy Wenzel
  • Icon for: Steven Rogg

    Steven Rogg

    Director of STEM Education
    May 18, 2017 | 09:27 p.m.

    Kudos to you, too, Mark Koker, for your unwavering support of STEM education - well before it was branded STEM, too. Without strong collaboration there could be no progress. As I've recently embedded within the system, I've gained even deeper respect and appreciation for professional STEM educators and all who provide support. And from the inside, I have also seen enduring signs of the CMSI. To force an analogy, the CMSI and its USI, RSI, SSI cousins were like retroviruses that inserted genetic code into the system, causing the system to express more of the new product. Thus, I agree wholeheartedly with your praise of the Loyola group's work!

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    Steven Rogg

    Director of STEM Education
    May 18, 2017 | 10:03 p.m.

    ...I should add that another possible response of "the body" to the STEM education "infection" is rejection. I have seen examples of this, as well. So, we persevere and celebrate advances!

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    John Pelissero

    Higher Ed Administrator
    May 19, 2017 | 10:59 a.m.

    Very proud of the professional development work being done by Dr. Shefner and the team at Loyola University Chicago. Well done!

  • Icon for: Rachel Shefner

    Rachel Shefner

    Presenter
    May 19, 2017 | 11:55 a.m.

    Thanks for your support, John! We are glad to be doing this work, at the right place at the right time.

  • Icon for: Eric Osthoff

    Eric Osthoff

    May 21, 2017 | 07:35 p.m.

    Before commenting on the Loyola work and this conversation I should note that I have been the external evaluator for this and related Loyola science PD projects for more than 5 years.

    There are so many important issues raised in preceding remarks that it is difficult to know where to focus. It seems to me that many of the most interesting insights and questions people are raising relate to understanding and responding to the the broader context of the work. From the beginning of my work with this project, I have been fascinated with the interplay of contextual factors and how the project has evolved in relation to shifting imperatives of the larger environment. An important part of my understanding of the project has been conversations with project staff about necessary annual updates to the project Theory of Change. Reflecting on numerous iterations of this process, I see project leaders acting at the nexus of forces emanating from at least five spheres: (1) the national professional science education community;(2) funding agents' priorities; (3) the policies and resources of participating school districts; (4) the status of the project's professional community of teachers, administrators, professional developers, etc.; and (5) students and their communities.

    In a relatively sane year, the project has needed to adjust to changes coming from only two or three of these spheres. In some years they have had to plan the upcoming year's work in light of calls for major changes from all five spheres. I believe much of the success of this project has stemmed from the ability of project leaders and staff to respond to new imperatives from multiple directions without taking their eye of the ball--the ball being providing teachers with the knowledge and skills needed to support students in engaging in developmentally appropriate but challenging inquiry science.   

    The most sweeping call for change from the professional sci. ed. community has clearly been the introduction of the NGSS standards. Project leaders and teachers alike ascribe great authority to the knowledge and values of national professional standards, so when the NGSS entered the picture it had deep impact on the scope and substance of project PD. Although the project continued to emphasize authentic, rigorous, inquiry-oriented learning as always, the NGSS standards gave the project new and more complex criteria for knowing when that was happening. Helping teachers become familiar enough with the NGSS standards to begin to understand their practice through that lens required more than two years of sustained PD to lay the basic foundation. Teachers who took part in a greater number and type of project PD offerings progressed more rapidly and went much more deeply than others.

    The Loyola project has had to pay special attention to shifts in funding agents' priorities because they have always used funding from multiple sources to support different pieces of their work. This is a double-edged sword because synergies happen when the work remains coherent and each strand of PD activity reinforces the others. However, all strands suffer when they are treated as disconnected. Part of the magic of the Loyola work has been the ability to maintain needed coherence.

    Probably the greatest challenges to steady progress in the work have stemmed from disruptions emanating from the urban school system that Loyola has partnered with for years. Major disruptions to the district funding picture have reverberated through the entire system annually, making it difficult for external actors such as professional development providers to continue to collaborate with a consistent focus. The challenge is especially great in science given the intense accountability focus on math and reading. Throw in some contentious local and state politics and it falls to independently funded organizations such as the Loyola PD project to keep professional learning moving toward stable goals.

    Much of the success of the project may stem from the way they have fostered and kept building on a core professional community of teachers and professional developers. By providing many different strands of PD activities, the project optimizes the breadth and depth of teacher participation. The project is very deliberate about encouraging teachers to continue to deepen their knowledge and skills and to take on teacher leadership roles as a way of growing the capacity of the community beyond that of the core cadre of professional developers. Teacher leaders engage in PD that is sustained, deep, and tends to become naturally more personalized over time (i.e., increasingly focused on the professional practice of the individual teacher and her colleagues). When the project sees a lot of turnover in participating teachers or PD leaders/coaches it has an impact on the rate of progress in the subsequent activity cycle. New participants needs help to gain the knowledge and skills needed to sustain the project's trajectory. Sometimes new knowledge and skills brought by new leaders and staff lead to changes in activities and strategies (but generally do not change fundamental goals of the work).

    Changes in the student populations served can create new challenges for teachers, especially when there is an increase in English Language Learners. Another big factor related to student populations is the fact that the partnering district has closed many schools and shuffled many teachers and students in recent years. For many teachers their project participation gives them access to a stable professional community in a way that they cannot get from their school organization. Despite regular changes in which students and teachers convene in a given school, two things have remained constant: (1) students are always eager and capable of engaging in authentic science investigation and do so as long as they have the help and support of teachers committed toward that end, and (2) the cadre of teachers with the knowledge, skills, and commitment to engaging all their students in such learning has grown each year due to the partnership between Loyola and the district and its teachers.

    If each of these contextual spheres were not sufficiently challenging in isolation, then the fact that they interact in complex ways really ramps up the difficulty of shepherding the work. It is then that the importance of project leaders' approach to the work in combination with project design emerges as instrumental to success. As noted, the project PD has multiple strands. Within each strand, the remarkable number of high-quality contact hours between teachers and the project staff enables project leaders and staff to gain an exceptionally deep understanding of their partnering teachers and organizations. Project leaders use this deep knowledge of where their partners have been and where the project needs to take them to manage demands and identify opportunities emanating from each contextual sphere.

    Claims of project success are warranted by data garnered in my own external evaluation activities as well as internal project evaluation. The multi-method approach used to understand the nature of project activities and their impact on teaching and learning has moved over time toward an increasingly tight focus on (a) the quality of student learning (and work products) vis-a-vis the NGSS vision, and efforts to foster high-quality, inquiry-oriented teaching on a school-wide basis. The project has gained a good hold on the former, and is leveraging the capacity of the most proficient teachers to bring their colleagues into the work. In so doing the project actively shapes the very conditions within the contextual spheres which in turn constrain as well as enable future work.

    Anyone who thinks the education community is not up to the challenge of improving teaching and learning has not spent time learning about the design, implementation, and accomplishments of projects such as this one and many others featured in this video showcase.                                    

     
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    Steven Rogg, Ph.D.
  • Icon for: Rachel Shefner

    Rachel Shefner

    Presenter
    May 21, 2017 | 10:15 p.m.

    Eric, thanks! it has been a pleasure to work with you. Your observations have been thorough and have helped us reflect on the work and see where our efforts are best concentrated. Coherence has always been a concern of ours, and one tool that we keep coming back to, with your assistance, is the Surveys of Enacted Curriculum. Our work with that tool and your observation instruments that align with it has helped us keep an eye on coherence. I look forward to continuing to work with you as we update the SEC for the NGSS.

     
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    Eric Osthoff
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    Steven Rogg

    Director of STEM Education
    May 21, 2017 | 08:32 p.m.

    From prior experiences, at times as a program director and at times as a program evaluator, I could not agree more with your observations, Eric. Aptly summarized: "If each of these contextual spheres were not sufficiently challenging in isolation, then the fact that they interact in complex ways really ramps up the difficulty of shepherding the work." The depth of experience and (Theory of Change) adaptability of the Loyola group is golden. Thus, I advocate longer-term strategic planning (beyond a 3-year grant period, for example) and stable investments in groups that demonstrate unwavering commitment and steady progress toward authentic goals. While some high risk investment for novel experimentation can also be useful, the perennial challenges continue to be sustainability, potency, and scale. We ignore the ecosystem at our own peril. Your reply is much appreciated. We should meet for coffee :-)

     
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    Eric Osthoff
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    Rachel Shefner

    Presenter
    May 21, 2017 | 10:18 p.m.

    Steve, thanks for keeping the conversation going. Longer-term funding is getting harder to come by, but would sure be fabulous. Fingers and toes are crossed! 

  • Icon for: Eric Greenwald

    Eric Greenwald

    Researcher
    May 22, 2017 | 06:02 p.m.

    This sounds like a fabulous project! I love the focus on developing teacher leader capacity around argumentation--and especially the use of formative assessment and collaborative, rubric-grounded scoring and analysis of student work--those 'consensus conversations' seem like golden opportunities for learning. I look forward to seeing more!

  • Icon for: Rachel Shefner

    Rachel Shefner

    Presenter
    May 22, 2017 | 06:21 p.m.

    Thanks Eric! If you are interested there is a longer (5 minute +) video of the teacher consensus conversations on our website www.luc.edu/csme. I also think you might be interested in the classroom videos we have, as you can clearly hear the "interpersonal argumentation" dimensions that your project captures in the student's conversations. That might be interesting to track in the teacher discussions as well. Just goes to show you how important capturing collaboration is at all levels!  I will be very interested in following your project and seeing when the tool becomes more widely available.

  • May 22, 2017 | 07:01 p.m.

    It is indeed encouraging to see the focus on teacher capacity-building. I am interested in looking at the research tools you are using as clearly you are committed to supporting teachers.

    We are also working with NGSS-focused curriculum design at the middle level. For our NSF-funded project, Science in the Learning Gardens (SciLG), we are investigating the extent to which SciLG project activities predict improvements in student motivation, learning, identity, and grades in science. Teachers play a critical role and, like you, we find that their buy-in and ownership are essential. Thank you for this good work!

     

     

  • Further posting is closed as the showcase has ended.