What did you learn today, teacher?

I’m teaching a science methods class. I’d like to know: What was the most important thing you learned in your undergrad science methods classes? What do you wish you had known about science teaching that you didn’t learn in undergrad?
– L., Illinois


This post to an NSTA e-mail list produced excellent responses and I wanted to share my thoughts.

Important things I learned in university:

  • Reflect on everything you do, every class. Ask yourself: Did they get it? Is this working toward my goals? How can I tell they learned this? How could I have taught this differently?
  • Check over and test everything you do in advance. Practice demonstrations and labs to uncover any issues, modify as needed, and resolve with safety concerns. Even labs that look “foolproof” on paper could take twice as long in the classroom. Check all handouts for errors and out-dated information.

Important things I learned in my classroom:

  • You teach students, not science. Students want to know that a teacher cares about them. Flexibility, understanding and compassion are good traits.
  • Resist being the “sage on the stage.” There is no way to know everything so admit when you don’t know something. Turn perplexing questions into learning experiences for the whole class, including you. Make sure that the students are active in their learning instead of passively listening to you.
  • You do not have to create everything yourself. Use premade materials that fit perfectly; modify the materials that don’t; and create new materials when you can’t find anything that fits.

Hope this helps!


Photo Credit:  Harker School Staff Photographer (The Harker School)

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  1. Wanda Bryant
    Posted December 4, 2017 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

    I remember learning the 5E model of instruction. I wish I had more instruction on reading to learn.

  2. Patricia Doe
    Posted December 5, 2017 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    I remember being thrown into lab situations. I had come from a Catholic School where labs were few. I struggled and would often pair up with anyone who knew how to work through procedures. I vowed to make sure my students beginning in Middle School could identify and use equipment, not only follow but write Procedures, and basically work through the Scientific Method.

    I remember working on a computer program for modeling various Physics concepts. My students still love this.

  3. John Tompkins
    Posted December 7, 2017 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    I would say as a practitioner ( engineer physics educator) every day…. why do they need to know “this”? How to convert a science lab from a geek show stage into models ( and modeling) for practical application – purpose?

  4. Christine
    Posted December 8, 2017 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    What I wished I learned about are concrete ways to run a differentiated classroom and differentiate resources, assessments, labs, and grouping to balance their needs as learners, their needs not to stand out as different, and the needs of the other learners in the room.

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