Brian Reiser Co-Heads Innovative Project for Next-Generation Science Teaching Models

Brian Reiser Co-Heads Innovative Project for Next-Generation Science Teaching Models

Brian Reiser

“We are at an exciting time in science education reform,” says professor Brian Reiser. A leader in the effort to improve science teaching in schools, Reiser is helping to develop an innovative research-based teacher learning resource for K-12 science education called the Next Generation Science Exemplar.

The image-rich online resource is designed to help teachers incorporate the forthcoming Next Generation Science Standards, along with the National Research Council’s Framework for K-12 Science Education, released in 2011, both of which draw on respected research to provide common guidelines for improving K-12 science education in the United States. Reiser is a contributing author of the Framework and a member of the National Research Council.

The Next Generation Science Exemplar teacher professional development project recently received a grant for $200,000 from the National Science Foundation. Clark University professor Sarah Michaels is principal investigator for the grant, working with Reiser and Jean Moon, founder and principal of the Tidemark Institute.

Reiser says, “The forthcoming Next Generation Science Standards that are coming out soon are based on what the last several decades of research says needs to change in science classrooms. The focus on depth over breadth, coherence across years, and the key role of scientific practices are all promising steps forward in the new standards. But these present challenges for many of our teachers.”

“In the NGSX project, we are taking these challenges head on and trying to support teachers' learning about these ideas, helping teachers work with concrete examples of scientific practices playing out in classrooms, and trying to apply these approaches to their own classrooms.”

Reiser and his colleagues are designing, scripting, piloting and evaluating the web-based system of learning for current and preservice teachers. This system started with a two-day design meeting in June that Michaels, Moon and Reiser convened with more than 20 colleagues from across the country. By early fall the NSF grant was awarded, and in October a group made a presentation to state science leaders at a national meeting at the National Science Foundation headquarters in Washington, D.C. The exemplar project was also presented to state representatives at the “Building Capacity for State Science Education” conference in Indianapolis that drew more than 400 participants.

During the first half of 2013, several states will be piloting a “beta” version of the Next Generation Science Exemplar pathway as well as developing research questions specific to each state on professional learning and practice. States will collect data in response to their questions during the pilot phase.

Moon, Michaels and Reiser described their vision for teacher learning through “a library of video or digitized exemplars of teachers and students in diverse classrooms” in a recent commentary in Education Week. “These classroom exemplars are crucial not because they provide images of perfected teaching practice, but because they provide an important window on instruction and curriculum to support the sustained exploration and analysis of teaching practice and student learning,” they wrote. The commentary explains five principles for supporting effective teacher learning experiences.

In his research Reiser, a professor of Learning Sciences, examines how to make scientific practices such as argumentation, explanation and modeling meaningful and effective for classroom teachers and students. His design research investigates the cognitive and social interaction elements of learning environments supporting scientific practices, and design principles for technology-infused curricula that embed science learning in investigations of contextualized data-rich problems.

Reiser leads the Scientific Practices project to develop an empirically based learning progression for scientific practices that specifies how learners can engage in constructing, applying and refining scientific knowledge with increasing sophistication from elementary to middle school. Reiser is also on the leadership team for IQWST (Investigating and Questioning our World through Science and Technology), a collaboration with the University of Michigan developing a middle school project-based science curriculum.

By Marilyn Sherman and Clark University
Last Modified: 10/1/13