Science in the Classroom Helps Teachers Teach Science

In his science courses, Dr. Greg Crowther, a faculty member at the University of Washington, teaches his students to appreciate the dynamic nature of science. “One of the general themes I try to impart in all of my teaching is, `Here’s how the process works,’ as opposed to, `Here are the facts of the science,’” says Crowther.

Crowther’s teaching reflects a shift in STEM education towards promoting a deeper understanding of the nature of science, and away from simply memorizing large volumes of content. This shift has created a demand for new educational tools; Science in the Classroom (SitC), a collection of freely available annotated scientific primary literature and accompanying teaching resources, responds to this demand by bringing advanced research published in the Science family of journals to a student audience.  

Dr. Sharon Lee-Bond believes there are great benefits for educators that use SitC | Sharon Lee-Bond

Crowther has used SitC in his science writing courses to teach experimental design and the process of science. His students analyzed, annotated, and reviewed two Science papers, which have since been made available on the SitC website. They also peer-reviewed each other’s work, and simulated the grant proposal and review process.

Dr. Sharon Lee-Bond, a faculty member at Northampton Community College, also sees the usefulness of SitC for educators. “The level of detail and terminology in a scientific article can overwhelm students, but if you build that information into a classroom activity, then the authors’ methods and findings can be more accessible,” she said. “They can also begin to understand things like why we do lab reports, and why we need to think through the design of an experiment before we jump right in.”

SitC collaborates with volunteers to develop its resources. Graduate students and postdocs with an interest in science education serve as contributors, writing annotations and accompanying materials. Paper authors are involved in the annotation and review process.  

Looking ahead, the SitC team is interested in involving the teaching community in resource development, review, and evaluation. The first step toward greater teacher involvement is a redesign of the SitC Teacher’s Guides. The SitC team has partnered with Sheri Klug Boonstra, Director of the ASU Mars Education Program, and Don Boonstra, a career educator and expert in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). With the help of the Boonstras, SitC will train teachers to understand STEM frameworks and standards such as NGSS, the AP Sciences, Common Core, and Vision and Change for Undergraduate Biology Education, and will more thoroughly and explicitly cite alignment with them.

The Boonstras understand the importance of developing educational materials under this new framework. “The NRC ‘Framework for K-12 Science Education’ is the culmination of over 30 years of experience with national science standards that began with AAAS’ Project 2061. The Framework reflects what we have learned about teaching from standards and the current research on how students learn science. The Framework prescribes 3-D learning that combines the Practices (what students and scientists do) with the Disciplinary Core Ideas (the major concepts to be learned) and Crosscutting Concepts (the big ideas of science). Using the Framework to develop instructional materials is a prescription for more effective teaching that can lead to more effective learning.”

Updated teacher’s guides will also expand the out-of-the-box utility of each resource with improved activity suggestions and discussion questions. The aim of these efforts is to increase teachers’ comfort and familiarity with teaching the process of science, and to make it easier to integrate annotated papers and primary literature into curricula, regardless of expertise.

As Science in the Classroom continues to grow, educator feedback is more important than ever. Educators who are interested in creating and reviewing content or providing general feedback, please contact us at scienceeducation@aaas.org.