My first year as an educator, I taught Chemistry to Sophomores. Throughout that year, I saw that one of my students’ weaknesses was arguing from evidence. This is a core skill for scientists. My second year teaching, I moved down a grade level. I realized that this was going to be a great opportunity to help my students be more successful. In my department, we teach the claim, evidence, reasoning (CER) scaffold to help students with their argumentation and conclusions. I could support this structure by focusing on its implementation with 9th graders.
I implemented a number of scaffolds for this skill, from sorting activities to discrete assessments that evaluate students’ ability to identify each step of the CER process. What surprised me was that when I completed my final self-assessment, the area I grew the most in was CSTP 5, Assessing Students for Learning. It is funny that this surprised me because I believe data is so important to make decisions. Honestly, I even have a sticker on my computer that says “The answer is always a spreadsheet.” The best way to make data driven decisions is through analyzing assessments. I shouldn’t have been surprised that I grew the most through assessment.
Beyond induction, I plan on continuing this journey improving my students ability to argue from evidence. Not only is it an important skill for science, it is an important life skill. Our students have to evaluate evidence all the time, especially in a word driven by divisiveness and fake news. Much of my student population would become first-generation college students. One of the challenges they face is that they don’t feel like authentic participants in science in college. Being able to argue from evidence will help that.
I have already identified the Claim, Evidence, Justification framework as the next step for my students. It is a framework proposed by the nonprofit Argument Driven Inquiry. I have already introduced it to a number of my colleagues and we feel that this framework will help us meet our goals for argumentation. Mainly, it makes it the difference between the evidence and the conclusion clearer for the students. I will teach this framework as a scaffold to my students and measure whether I have reached my goal through assessments of each part of argumentation and evaluation of conclusion statements at the end of the school year.
A key for me to reach this goal is to stay connected with other educators. First, I will make sure to continue to regularly evaluate the vertical alignment of science skills with my site science department. Within my school, our science department acts as a professional learning community (PLC). In addition, I stay connected by participating in discussions with teachers who implement modeling instruction. This gives me another PLC which I communicate with through Twitter and email lists.
These PLCs and the community of educators I collaborate with help me sustain my energy to grow as a teacher. Plus, I have always believed that continuous improvement is key to self fulfillment. A committed group of teachers, working together to improve motivates you. That, and the regular breaks you get as a teacher allow you to sustain yourself and your passion for your students. This is really the advice I would give new teachers. Find a group of like minded collaborators to help you grow and help motivate you when you face challenges. A group of collaborators focused on the needs of students is the most fulfilling of all.