While the start of the 2021 school year may not be as crazy as the beginning of the 2020 school year, it would be a mistake to pretend it is just like the Fall of 2019 or earlier. As COVID-19 continues to linger across the country, educators are again demonstrating the “can do” attitude and the spirit of innovation they exhibited at the height of the pandemic.
However, the rise of the Delta variant and other complicating social and political factors have brought us to a new phase in the pandemic that will require a new level of flexibility from classroom teachers.
In conversations with science educators across the country, I’ve identified three specific strategies science teachers are using to meet the needs of students in today’s uncertain environment. Those strategies are:
1. Focusing on the Fundamentals of Good Science Instruction: Fundamentally, science involves figuring out phenomena. Any event that occurs in the universe is a phenomenon, and scientists spend their time investigating phenomena by engaging in various science and engineering practices. They ask questions about phenomena and carry out investigations about them. They develop models about phenomena, and construct explanations about them.
For too long, we have simply told students what scientists have figured out. But research on student learning shows that students learn best when they engage in the same process of figuring out phenomena that scientists engage in. Like scientists, they plan and carry out investigations and analyze data. They then develop models and construct explanations, all as part of a process of making sense of the phenomena. Often, this process leads to new questions that can be the starting point for later lessons.
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