Teaching Based on Planned Lessons
I believe that there is no substitute for good planning, Great teaching requires thorough planning and familiarity with these plans. In planning lessons, I begin with learning objectives and plans for assessment. I consider prior knowledge of students and then plan activities for students to build on their prior knowledge in order to master the new knowledge and skills outlined in the learning objectives. I generally follow the 5E sequence of lesson planning (engage, explore, explain, extend, evaluate) to bracket the explanation of concepts with student exploration and construction of knowledge beforehand and student practice and application of concepts afterwards. I sequence activities to build on each other and ensure good connectivity for students to see the big picture. For more detailed information on how I plan my lessons to align with state and local curriculum see my section on Planning for Teaching.

Using a Variety of Effective Instructional Strategies to Engage Students and Provide for Individual Differences (NSTA Teaching Standard 5: General Teaching Skills)
I believe that each student learns in different ways and all learning needs should be accommodated. In order to do this, I create lessons that allow students to access information in a multitude of ways in order to create rich learning experiences for each student. I believe that it is also important to plan student centered activities that engage students and ask students to take ownership of their own learning. As part of the 5E cycle of learning, I plan multiple activities that allow students to connect with content and learning objectives in multiples ways.

Egg Demo.GIF
Engaging students with cells (eggs with shells dissolved) during a lesson on the cell membrane.

For instance, when I taught a lesson on the cell membrane, I first engaged students by showing them two eggs with the shells dissolved (two big cells) one that had shrunk and one that was swollen and asking students to guess what had been done to them. Students were intrigued and curious immediately by this demonstration. After this, I introduced the topic of the lesson and brought students to the computer lab, where they used simulations to explore the movement of molecules across membranes. Then, back in the classroom we discussed what students had observed and I introduced more formal knowledge about the structure and function of the membrane. In the lecture, I had included visualizations and animations to present the material multiple ways.

Cell Membrane Modeling.PNG
Students modeling the parts of the Cell Membrane

I also broke up the lecture by bringing students outside and having them act like the molecules that make up the membrane to give students an active break and to help them visualize concepts in yet another way. After learning about osmosis, I had students consider again the eggs that they saw at the beginning of the lesson and revise their ideas about what had been done to them. Afterwards, students worked on a problem set about passive transport. This lesson illustrates using the 5E cycle to get students to work with ideas, formalize those ideas, and then practice using them. See the lesson plan here. This lesson illustrates just a sampling of instructional techniques. In additional, throughout my students teaching I have used inquiry-based labs, guided reading, engaging videos, practice problems, various questions techniques, and other methods to engage and teach students.

Promoting Critical Thinking Skills
I believe that it is an essential part of science education to develop critical thinking skills in students. In order to promote these skills, I provide students with opportunities to think at higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy on a regular basis. I build in higher level questions into student handouts. For instance, in this food web worksheet used before students had receive formal instruction on the concepts, students constructed a food web based on a short, engaging video and then answered questions about the web. The questions are scaffolded from low level comprehension questions asking students to identify roles to higher level thinking questions asking students to predict the effects of disturbances. In my lessons, I plan specific questions and strategies to check for understanding, encourage higher level thinking and promote student discourse in the classroom. This is an important method of providing enrichment for more cognitively ready students who seek the stimulation of these higher thinking activities.

I also believe that for students to understand the nature of science and scientific knowledge, they must actually do science. Inquiry-based lab activities allow students to perform experiments in order to answer scientific questions. I plan to scaffold student inquiry by gradually increasing the level of inquiry so that students are able to develop and follow their own experimental design procedures by the end of the course.