Flipping the ‘Switch’ to NGSS: Growing a Science-Embracing Staff

I’ve recently been rereading Switch by Chip and Dan Heath to help me gain insight on how to best guide my district through the shift toward the NGSS-esque performance expectations recently drafted by Massachusetts and widely expected to be adopted in 2015. Besides the disciplinary core ideas banded by grade that demand a shift in content across grade levels, the performance expectations require teachers to begin instructing and assessing the students’ capacity to practice science and not simply “know” science content.

Switch encourages anyone looking to “change things when change is hard” through three things: 1) precise, scripted direction toward one’s goals 2) finding the emotional motivation needed to make the change, and 3) “shaping the path” toward success by tweaking the environment and building better habits that promote success.

One chapter that’s catching my attention is the need to motivate one’s self or organization to realize the desired change by “growing your people.” The Heath Brothers share anecdotal stories of community members “taking pride in their identity” by developing a sense that the change being desired is something that they genuinely care about and is an important piece of what or who they identify themselves as. For coordinators bestowed with the task of developing fellow staff members to embrace scientific practice and provide top-notch instruction to their students, this means we must first assist our teachers in embracing their inner scientist, regardless of experience and comfort in doing so.

With so many initiatives in Burlington and other school systems pulling teachers in all directions, this need for our teachers to identify themselves as scientists speaks to me. A teacher recognizing their scientific-self is more likely to “experiment” with more hands-on investigations, messy scientific discourse, and the unpredictably that can come from student-collected data. Science-minded teachers are more likely to integrate their science lessons into ELA and math experiences to not only increase the amount of time exploring science beyond the 30 to 40 minute time frame so common, but help student make real-world connections between the disciplines.

As we approach the end of the year and questions regarding PD for the next academic year begin to pop-up, I’ll be thinking hard about how meetings and conversations will get beyond dispensing information around new standards and get to the important work of helping teachers find their inner science-self and embrace changes rather than dismiss them as “just another initiative” to add to the pile.

How would you “grow your people?” What are the steps you might take to realize you or your colleagues inner-scientist?

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About MrMusselman

K-5 Science Specialist for the Burlington Public Schools of Burlington, MA.
This entry was posted in NGSS, Professional Development, Professional Reflections. Bookmark the permalink.

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