Making science teaching more than just a backup plan


Making science teaching more than just a backup plan

“Squat! Squat down! Squat down! Higher! Faster!”

A scientific demonstration is underway in the basement of the Duane 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 the revolving platform. Then they were handed over to the wheel of a spinning bicycle, 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.

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

Dudley, a 20-something with glasses, is an aerospace engineering major. She is in charge of today’s meeting, coaching some students of the same age or even older. She is an undergraduate studying assistant – training and paying to help fellow professors.

Katie Dudley is a junior aerospace science engineering major in CU Boulder.

Most of the country’s science and engineering courses are less interactive, more intimidating and more daring to speak than this. CU Boulder has launched a campaign to improve science education quality across the country, not just on campus, but in k-12 classrooms. And what they call LAs is at the heart of the work.

The effort began with professors like Steven polloch, whose team professor Dudley was a physics 1110 course in Los Angeles. As we sat upstairs in his office, he told me that about 15 years ago, he turned his studies from nuclear physics to physics.

“I only saw myself retiring in 2000, 20 or 30 years,” he explains. “I can learn more about the strange quarks of protons, or how people learn physics and how to teach it better, and it seems more important to the world.”

Not everyone agreed that when pollock came here, the division was divided into two parts, opposing and opposing. Since then, he has been appointed professor of the year.

He did a similar study at Stanford university in 1995, where he was awarded the Nobel Prize in physics. Pollock and wieman are leading colleagues in different disciplines from astronomy to physics, studying how people learn science and then applying it in class. (watch out for part of Wieman’s upcoming 50 great teachers series!)

One of the main arguments for these studies is what you might have guessed: the lecture didn’t actually work. Pollock says they leave most people, even if the basic concepts are not firmly grasped.

“If you just teach by standing on a blackboard and trying to convey your understanding of physics through words, then even the minimum standards are not met,” he explains. “The students didn’t learn those things.”

CU Boulder still has a lot of lectures, but the science and engineering courses also include weekly panel discussions, LABS and demonstrations, sometimes supervised by graduate students, assisted by LAs. The pedagogical curriculum of the curriculum 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 teaching process itself.

Professor Steven pollock teaches physics at the university of Colorado at boulder. Pollock helped create 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,” Mr. 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.”

Pollock added that the plan also had a “sneaky” view of teacher development. This is because, in order to use the help of the bar association, professors have to change their previously passive, lecture-based teaching methods.

In a weekly training course, instead of asking questions based on content, LAs may ask the professor about common students’ misunderstandings or other teaching problems. “When we have to think about the teaching of these undergraduates, it improves our own teaching,” pollock explained.

The department’s own research shows that using LAs can improve students’ understanding of the scientific concepts in physics, astronomy and biology. Students in Los Angeles support classes are more likely to participate in their studies and graduate with up to 10 percent of the time.

Students Geya Kairamkonda (left) and Patrick Murphy used Scotch tape to experiment with charge during the physics course. Their class USES learning assistants as mentors.

NPR’s Theo Stroomer

The students in the basement show report the same thing.

“Katie is the best,” said Brenda ortiz, a junior high school student in psychology and education. “I’m uncomfortable with her question, and if you don’t get the answer in one way, she has a number of ways to explain it to you.”

Evan dong, a mechanical engineering freshman at Brenda table, admits that he’s actually just for 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 that wheel in the past two hours, it makes me dizzy, but this is part of the fun! ”

More extensive applications.

The Los Angeles project has also shifted power to another level.

There is much discussion about the importance of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) for the future competitiveness of the United States. But nationwide, few undergraduate math and science majors continue to be classroom teachers.

“Once a year – this is a high productivity institution,” explains Valerie Otero, who specializes in physics in k-12 classrooms. Otero helped launch the LA program shortly after arriving at cuboulder education in 2003.

A lack of teachers with a scientific background means that the majority of students who are unfamiliar with these subjects first get an introduction to STEM subjects – they 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 either work in the field or are not certified professors.

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

Learning assistant Michael byers (standing) talks to (from left) students Anna Eydinova, Aaron Higa and Austin Reed in evolutionary biology class.

NPR’s Theo Stroomer

This number is small in absolute Numbers, but significant for the acquisition of high quality 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 to teaching.

“Coming out of the engineering school, I wouldn’t have the chance to be a teacher,” he said. “This is the way I put my foot in the door.”

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

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

The impact on STEM teacher pipelines is a major reason why the Los Angeles project is now being replicated at 88 universities across the country.

“It’s spreading like wildfire,” says Otero, who has set up a website to share their training materials. Program leaders often go to the professor and the model. There are 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 in engineering. I asked if she was motivated by people, even family members, who felt she should take other, more lucrative career paths. “All the time,” she said.

Carlosa marche, a former Los Angeles native, is working at CU boulder, earning a high school education certificate. She admits that changing the image of science education is one of the challenges facing the Los Angeles project. “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 get into education!” Or “education has no money”. “

The comments, she said, “are mocking me every time.” “This is my passion, I don’t think anyone can too smart to accept education, I want my children to have the first-class teacher know scientific knowledge, and not as a backup plan, I hope more people I can see the way of education, I see education. “


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