New Book Helps You Strengthen Science

Communicator
Setpember 2012, Volume 36, Issue 1

STEM subjects—science, technology, engineering, and math—are hot topics in schools. The Common Core State Standards are shifting the way educators think about math—but what about the other parts of STEM?

That’s where What Principals Need to Know About Teaching and Learning Science can come in. In this book, NAESP’s latest co-published title with Solution Tree, authors Eric C. Sheninger and Keith Devereaux guide school leaders through the aspects of an effective science program.

Sheninger, principal of New Milford High School in Bergen County, New Jersey, and Devereaux, a biology teacher there, advise school leaders to develop a schoolwide passion for science.

“Since [the launch of Sputnik], global competition and emphasis on STEM as a pathway to greater societal sustainability have triggered a renewed sense of urgency in science education,” they write. “As principals establish their school’s needs and identify goals, they can lead their staff through a variety of initiatives to transform the school into an innovative institution that focuses on quality science instruction.”

What Principals Need to Know About Teaching and Learning Science explores the foundations of scientific inquiry, the tenets of strong science curricula, and the steps to assessing a school’s current science program to identify strengths and weaknesses. It also offers ideas for supporting teachers in inquiry-based science instruction and guidance for professional development.

Packed with research-based strategies for increasing student achievement, this book can help school leaders foster a school climate that supports a science curriculum. For instance, Sheninger and Devereaux offer the following guidance for implanting hands-on science learning:

“Students are central to the inquiry process in the classroom. They should be engaged in making observations, formulating then asking questions, analyzing evidence, evaluating the data, formulating explanations, connecting their explanations with scientific concepts, and communicating the justification for their explanations. This process takes time, as students and teachers build their skills and comfort level with the inquiry process. …  Teachers who have never used inquiry-based methods may be skeptical or nervous about implementing them. This is where you, as a leader, can collaborate and offer insights into designing a lesson. Assist your teachers, and offer them the tools and insight they need to successfully integrate inquiry-based lessons into their classroom. For example, you could allow teachers to apply for a professional leave day to go observe a teacher in another school or district who implements inquiry-based methods effectively on a routine basis.

Is all hands-on learning inquiry-based? The quick answer is no. Much of what we observe in a struggling teacher’s classroom is students ‘playing’ with materials. Free exploration is a good first step, but needs to have a purpose and be guided with questions. As the instructional leader, you should ask teachers questions such as, ‘What is the purpose of the activity?,’ ‘What is the objective of the exploration?’ and ‘How does this activity connect to other disciplines?’”

For more on hands-on science learning, along with reproducible resources, from self-assessments, checklists, and observation guidelines, pick up What Principals Need to Know About Teaching and Learning in the NAESP bookstore (Item# PNKTLS), only $19.95 for NAESP members.

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Copyright © 2012. National Association of Elementary School Principals. No part of the articles in NAESP magazines, newsletters, or website may be reproduced in any medium without the permission of the National Association of Elementary School Principals. For more information, view NAESP’s reprint policy.