SESP, Science in Society Train Teachers

SESP, Science in Society Train Teachers

Jen LewinScience in Society's Jen Lewin

Science in Society’s Jennifer Lewin is what you might call a professional STEM education matchmaker.

As part of Northwestern University’s campus-wide initiative to level the playing field for under-resourced local students, Lewin helps Evanston/Skokie School District 65 teachers and administrators improve how science is taught inside and outside the classroom.

Then, Lewin works with Northwestern faculty, students, and staff to help best use the University’s resources and knowledge to support student and teacher needs.

One such need: helping District 65 teachers bring the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and the National Research Council’s (NRC) Framework for K–12 Education into their classrooms.

Developed by a national consortium of scientists and educators – including the School of Education and Social Policy’s Brian Reiser -- these standards propose a radical shift in how we teach science. 

Learn more about Next Generation Science Teaching classes at Northwestern.

In traditional science education, teachers provide the answers. In the new model, teachers introduce a phenomenon, such as a sound produced by a homemade phonograph, and let students guide the way as they explore the answer. Teachers adapt storylines, or lessons in real-time, to follow their students’ lines of inquiry.

Many teachers across the country, however, lack access to the tools, resources, and support they need to make this pedagogical shift – a gap Reiser is working to fill.

One of the original authors of the NRC Framework, Reiser is now collaborating with a national team of researchers to develop the Next Generation Science Exemplar System (NGSX). This evidence-based professional development platform equips teachers with the skills and support they need to embrace NGSS-based teaching.

Lewin and Reiser – along with members of Reiser’s team, Tara McGill, and Michael Novak –  are working together to bring a customized version of this resource to the schools and teachers in Northwestern’s own backyard.

Last  August, Lewin and Reiser trained 13 District 65 teachers using the NGSX model. During a five-day crash course in the summer and fall, the teachers learned the core concepts of NGSS-based teaching – namely, science, science and engineering practices, and crosscutting concepts which tie into investigating storylines. And they learned how to translate these concepts into practical applications for the classroom.

These teacher leaders are now implementing the model with their own students also helping other teachers in their schools adopt these practices. They played a leading role in the District 65 professional development day in November, where 100 teachers gathered to learn a storyline about sound.

Lewin is collaborating with District 65 and teacher leaders to organize several more professional development opportunities for teachers to further explore best practices in science education. But the real power of this training is in the network effect the teachers create as the expert leaders within their own schools, Lewin said.

In addition to Lewin’s work in District 65, Science in Society and SESP support a range of other NGSS-aligned training opportunities for local teachers. Sixteen teachers at Mather and Lake View High Schools in Chicago Public Schools (CPS) took part in a similar multi-day NGSX-aligned training program last fall in conjunction with Science in Society’s Science Explorers program.

And Science Club Summer Camp helps third grade CPS teachers adopt NGSS best practices through a three-week summer training program and practicum. The latter program is supported by a Science Education Partnership Award from the National Institutes of Health. 

Read the full story on the Science and Society website. 

By Paige Edmiston
Last Modified: 1/11/18