Skills, Labs, and PD

            The state of New York recently identified a lack of quality science instruction in their elementary schools. In response to this they set up a system where specific curricular units that included labs were required to be taught. Teachers had to be trained in these science units by their local BOCES (regional education support providers) prior to being allowed to teach the units (as reported to me by my sister-in-law who taught for many years in upstate New York). In this way the state tried to ensure that teachers had the content knowledge and the lab skills necessary to teach high quality science units.

While high school physics is certainly more complex in both content and laboratory skills, perhaps states or districts could adopt a similar approach to physics instruction. It may even be a good model for other science disciplines as well. This method of targeted professional development for physics teachers in both content and lab skills would meet the needs sited by the teachers themselves in the report survey. Additionally, each training session might include information about how to accommodate a diverse range of learners. In this way, information about diversity or learning needs would not be random or over generalized but rather specific to the content unit and activities that were being discussed.

Surely at the high school level the roll out of such a plan would necessarily be different than what was used in New York at the elementary level; however, with a strategic plan of PD over the course of a relatively short amount of time (two years?) the quality of physics instruction in a district could be drastically improved. 

Subpages (1): Math Phobia