Making science teaching more than just a backup plan

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Making science teaching more than just a backup plan

“Squat! Squat down! Bottom! Faster!”

A scientific demonstration is underway in the basement of the duan physics and astrophysics building at the university of Colorado at boulder, but it looks more like a juggling act.

One by one, the students wavered on a rotating platform. Then hand them over to a bicycle wheel that looks like a spinning wheel, with two handles projecting it from both sides of the wheel hub. When you flip a wheel, like a pizza, your body starts spinning in the opposite direction.

Katie Dudley explains that the principle at work is called angular momentum, and he says, “you can move or stop yourself by changing the way you operate the wheel.”

Dudley, a 20-year-old blond teenager with glasses, is an aerospace engineering student. She is in charge of today’s meeting, coaching some students of the same age or even older. She is a learning assistant – a trained undergraduate helping her classmates.

Most of the country’s science and engineering classes are much less interactive, and more frightening than this, and less interesting than this. CU Boulder has started a campaign to improve the quality of education in national science, not just on campus, but in k-12 classrooms. And these are called LA is at the heart of the work.

The effort here begins with a professor like Steven Pollock, whose team professor Dudley is the physics 1110 in Los Angeles. As we sat upstairs in his office, he told me that about fifteen years ago, he turned his studies from nuclear physics to physics.

“I only saw myself retire in 2000, 20 or 30 years,” he explained. “I could learn a little more about the strange quark content of a proton, or learn about physics and how to teach it better, and it seems more important to the world.

Not everyone agreed that when pollock came here, the department was split in half and opposed. Since then, he has been appointed a national professor.

His former colleague, Carl Wieman, won the Nobel Prize in physics in 1995 and conducted a similar study at Stanford university. Pollock and wieman are leading colleagues in different disciplines from astronomy to physics, studying how people learn science and then applying it in class. (please pay attention to Wieman’s upcoming work as part of our 50 teacher series!)

One of the highlights of these studies is that you might have guessed that the lecture didn’t actually work. Pollock said they left most people without a firm grasp of the basic concepts.

“If you just stand on the blackboard and try to convey your understanding of physics through words, even the minimum standards are not met,” he explained. “Students don’t learn these things.”

CU Boulder still has a lot of lectures, but science and engineering classes hold weekly group discussions, LABS and demonstrations, sometimes supervised by graduate students. The pedagogical approach emphasizes the use of open questions and other research-driven teaching techniques. As a side effect, these bright young scientific minds are curious about the process of teaching and learning itself.

Professor Stephen pollock teaches physics at boulder university in Colorado. Pollock helped set up the study assistant program and did the physics education study.

“I use students’ engineering ideas to figure out what they already know and are good at,” Dudley said. “I have to figure out where they are, we need to get their location, and what steps are best for each student, so each student is like a new engineering challenge to be solved.

With LAs’s help, “we can use very effective teaching methods, but we need a good proportion of teachers and students,” pollock said. “We have a lot of people here to help.”

The plan also has a “sneaky” approach to teacher development, pollock added. This is because, in order to use the help of lawyers, professors have to change their previously passive, lecturing methods.

In the weekly training sessions, the tutoring organization may ask the professor about common students’ misunderstandings or other teaching problems, rather than asking questions based on content. “When we have to consider teaching with these undergraduates, it improves our own teaching,” pollock explained.

The department’s own research shows that using teaching assistants improves students’ understanding of the scientific concepts of physics, astronomy and biology. Students in Los Angeles support classes are more likely to study, and the likelihood of graduation is as high as 10 percent.

Students Geya Kairamkonda (left) and Patrick Murphy use transparent tape to conduct charge experiments in physics. Their class USES learning assistants as mentors.

“Katy is the best,” said Brenda Ortiz, a junior high school student in psychology and education. “I feel very comfortable with her problem, and if you don’t, she has a number of ways to explain it to you.”

Evan dongtan, a freshman majoring in mechanical engineering at Brenda, admitted that he was just “having fun”.

This section of the course of time he is in the early afternoon, but he often appear in Katie’s part, is: “I’ve been riding the wheel in the past two hours, it makes me feel dizzy, but this is part of the fun! ”

More extensive applications.

The Los Angeles plan is shifting that momentum to another level.

There is much discussion about the importance of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) for America’s future competitiveness. But across the country, few undergraduate math and science majors become classroom teachers.

Valerie Otero explains: “annual – this is a highly productive institution that specifically refers to the physics of entering k-12 classes. She helped launch the Los Angeles project shortly after she came to the copper mine at education in 2003.

A lack of teachers with a scientific background means that most students are first introduced to STEM subjects from teachers who are never familiar with these subjects, and may even be intimidated by them. The study says this “math anxiety” is transferred to students. Even in high school, about a third of the country’s math and science teachers are either not working in the field or are not certified professors.

With the introduction of the study assistant program, there are about 16 to 20 teaching assistants in CU Boulder every year to get a teacher certificate, and they are still undergraduates.

Learning assistant Michael byers (standing) talks to (from left) student Anna edenova, Aaron seeger and Austin reed in evolutionary biology class.

The absolute number is small, but it is significant for the quality of science and mathematics teaching. Especially in places like the rosebud Indian reservation in south Dakota, where Ian’s many horses, doctor’s degrees. Computer science majors are planning to return home to teach.

“From the engineering school, I can’t be a teacher,” he says. “It’s a way for me to step in.”

At the same time, he is teaching other professors to maintain his teaching skills.

Their research – tracking former coaches in the classroom – suggests that they continue to be more likely to use more evidence-based teaching techniques, such as group discussions, ottero said.

The impact on STEM teachers’ pipelines is an important reason for the Los Angeles project to be replicated in 88 universities across the country.

School report card sitting on desk with big shadowy ominous hands

“It’s spreading like wildfire,” Otero said. “he has built a website to share their training materials. Program leaders often go to the professor and the model. There are now about 3,000 teaching assistants across the country, and they tell them that they are working with tens of thousands of students.

Katie Dudley is in Los Angeles, where she plans to teach, even though she can make more money on engineering. I asked her if she had been pushed down by people, even family members, who felt they should take other, more lucrative career paths. “All the time,” she said.

Former Los Angeles’ Carissa Marsh, who works in CU Boulder, has a high school education certificate. She acknowledges that changing the image of science education is part of the Los Angeles project challenge. “When I told someone I was accepting education, but I learned biology, their first answer was, ‘why don’t you become a doctor? “Or” you’re too smart to go to school! Or “education has no money”.

The comments, she said, “are laughing at me every once in a while.” “This is my passion, I don’t think anyone education very bright, I want my children to have the first-class teacher know scientific knowledge, rather than as a backup plan, I hope more people I can see the way of education, I see education. “

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