Breslyn and McGinnis 2011

ABSTRACT: Teachers’ use of inquiry has been studied largely without regard for the

disciplines in which teachers practice. As a result, there is no theoretical understanding of

the possible role of discipline in shaping teachers’ conceptions and enactment of inquiry.

In this mixed-methods study, conceptions and enactment of inquiry for 60 National Board

Certified Science Teachers (NBCSTs) across the secondary science disciplines of biology,

chemistry, earth science, and physics were investigated. A situated cognitive framework

was used. Through the analysis of portfolio text (n = 48) and participant interviews (n =

12), themes emerged for participants’ conceptions and enactment of inquiry. Findings

suggested that disciplinary differences exist between NBCSTs’ conceptions and enactment

of inquiry. Furthermore, individuals teaching in more than one discipline often held different

conceptions of inquiry depending on the discipline in which they were teaching. A key

implication was the critical importance of considering the discipline in understanding

science teachers’ varied conceptions and enactment of inquiry. C _ 2011 Wiley Periodicals,

Inc. Sci Ed 96:48 – 77, 2012

Your discipline affects your use of inquiry in your classroom.

What is the metric of an effective high school?

Suppose a high school has a goal to graduate (metric) all students (metric) college and career ready (metric?).

What if we just took median income of a school district, and found the stats of graduates relative to median income and tracked that? Couldn’t the I. R. S. help us with those numbers?

But if all students go to college, and many out of town or out of area then those stats are pretty useless. Those students aren’t generating income and not in their hometown for at least 4 years if not more.

What if you just ask graduates “do you feel you are living the life you had envisioned now or are you making progress towards that life or those goals?”

Do we think high school is serving all students equitably? Do we think high school is having the impact it needs to have? If we want high school to have more impact shouldn’t it have more contact with community leaders? Are high schools in general adequately funded?

What proportion of high schools offer physics?

Quadrennial nationwide survey of high school physics teachers

Looking forward to this one.

Thanks! Was this email effective?

John Weisenfeld, Science Teacher, Pasco High School

Reflective Practice

742 words needs to be 600.]

I made an audacious suggestion to my administration this past year about reflective practice. Each week teachers at my school are asked to submit their lessons plans for the coming week on Friday to their administrative evaluators. My suggestion was that instead of doing a forecast of what we wanted to do for the next week, we should instead all do a post mortem of what had happened the past week. My rubric for the post mortem was simple: describe what went well and describe what didn’t go so well. Now let me say in full disclosure a couple of things. First, my administration did not adopt my suggestion. Second, I added a section of reflection to my own forward looking lesson plans and found that section very easy to write and extremely helpful. (I guess I am a critical-analytical type anyway.)

[I should also say that I don’t do this enough. All the excellent teachers that I admire do this. The whole blogging and tweeting movements are basically teachers with highly developed reflective skills putting themselves and their practice
on display for others to be encouraged and challenged. Now you don’t have to be famous to blog, but the activity of putting down what went well and what didn’t go so well is extremely valuable, *even just for you.* Let me repeat, even if you have 1 follower
or 5001 followers, reflection is the key to improvement and growth. I know this in my bones. I just don’t do it enough.]

When I have been reflective, when I have been analytical, I and my students have both benefitted. Let me share a few examples of reflection which I have done and how it impacted my teaching.

One week I only shared something in the “What Went Well [WWW]” section. In fact, there was very little in that section except the following “Gravitational waves last week!!” I put this comment in the WWW section because I am a firm believer that students of physics need to know that the topics (physics, waves) which they are learning about have relevance and significance in the real world. We all know that experimental confirmation of Einstein’s prediction of gravitational waves as a capstone to his theory of general relativity was huge. I can’t imagine a physics class in the country, nay even the world, that could have ignored that topic. What I am saying by this reflection is that “yes, you took time to pause and bask in the relevance of physics and the triumph of experimental physics to successfully support theory.” Yes, there is pressure to cover material and meet standards, yes there is a schedule, but there are also teachable moments and crucial opportunities to make a special day or experience coincide with a student’s experiences. Imagine saying in 5-10-15 years, “Oh yeah! That was the year they confirmed gravitational waves, 2015-2016, Weisenfeld’s physics class, 2nd period.”

One week I only shared one thing in the “What Could Have Gone Better [WCHGB]” section. I wrote: “Objects move at a constant velocity in a straight line unless acted on by a force, I’m not sure students all believe that.” For those of you who remember your high school physics, you might recognize this as Newton’s First Law, or the Law of Inertia. In this reflection I was saying something at once simple and yet profound. Newton’s extension of Galileo’s experiments on inertia basically upended the current (and still prevailing notion!) that objects that are moving must have a net force on them. This was a major topic of that week, and the simple statement for WCHGB is that not all students are making that connection yet. To realize that your teaching has failed is hard! But the profoundness of the statement is that they not only need to have the knowledge of that fact, but they have to really believe it to prove that they have learned it! What I was saying in this reflection is that I don’t think we should move on yet. That directly affects teaching practice.

Imagine writing lesson plans each week for this coming year by starting with a frank analysis of what went well (WWW) and what could have gone better (WCHGB). What I have seen in my practice is that this has been transformative in how I gauge my effectiveness and in how I set my plans for the coming week. I should do it more often!

Why Random?

I am working to randomize my assessments. Well, actually, I’ve been working on this for the past couple of years. What do I mean by “randomized assessments” and why am I am doing it? It’s those two questions that I want to speak to in this blog post.

First, we all know students like the easy way out, especially if that way involves less thinking for them. (Aww heck, stop acting like it’s only students that avoid cognitive load, we *all* do this. But I digress….) Assessments are always getting the short end of the stick, which means that students will take the easy way out and cheat, copy, or avoid work on a quiz, homework assignment, test or assessment (summative or formative).

Second we know that Standards Based Grading (SBG) is here to stay in many schools, departments and classrooms around the country. Part of our schools SBG implementation is a lenient re-take policy. Now this second fact collides head on with the first fact which I mentioned at the start of this post.

What to do? My proposed solution to this dilemma is the randomized assessment. And here’s where my technical ability or opportunity met my need or provided a way to realize my aspiration.

I use random number generators in JavaScript code in a PDF, or random number functions in Excel spreadsheets to make Randomized Assessments. Here are the benefits that I have noticed so far:

0. A randomized assessment does not have identical questions, they are similar but not carbon copies, this is key.

1. It is not so important anymore to have absolutely silent classrooms during quizzes or tests.

2. A little collaboration or discussion can have educational value.

3. Re-takes are very easy to generate and are comparable to the original test / quiz.

4. I frequently have to give a rubric with the test / quiz which can help scaffold some students into generating good, and complete answers.


1. duplicating and collating a test takes a little longer.

2. grading tests a little longer, but it is so nice to see students collaborating on methods and approaches and not just answers.

I am putting my stuff up on

· for a modest fee to help support development costs (actually chocolate, truth be told)

· (will have a link back to TpT)

· (will have a link back to TpT)

· (will have a link back to TpT)

· Any other site I can think of or come across…

When I say “stuff” I mean that I am asking you to contribute a little to get the PDF or the Excel spreadsheet that you can use to generate randomized assessments. You can always see a sample or two for free to see what you are going to be getting. I will post free samples at each of those, but you will have to go through TpT to get the original.

Thanks for reading!

A new take on metacognition

Honestly I would like to know every method of how students learn but I can’t supply curriculum in all of those methods for how students learn I would rather help students learn how they learn so that over a lifetime they can teach themselves more effectively

Another way to look at it

Well it’s been proven that having a high school degree alone is not enough to get a good job but another way to look at it is that you are teaching anything in high school that’s valuable anymore and so because your standards have dropped in high school it’s irrelevant

How about exceeding standards for a change

So now you have standards that’s great and you want to meet them that’s also great but wouldn’t it be even better to exceeds standards

Software Testers as “Students”

It just occurred to me that if I decide to make a lot of changes to my classroom for next year (that will be 2016-2017), then I would like to “beta test” that classroom change before it “goes live” to my students next fall.

We know that certain lessons, especially if they involve technology, mail fall flat. We also know that certain lessons can be extremely powerful.

Suppose I architect or design a framework for my class, for example lets say I want to use OneNote in my classroom next year. How can I possibly foresee all that will be involved or might transpire if I make that change? Or, more importantly how can I at least make sure that students will be able to get themselves into that mode of thinking. How can I make sure that we aren’t dead-on-arrival on the first day of school?

The answer might be a “Software Tester as Student”. What is that? That’s a student/teacher that is willing to act as a “student”. This “student” then tries out the interactions in a classroom or curriculum design. The “student” tries to break the interaction or the flow that has been designed, but the “student” is willing to give feedback to the teacher. In this way, a classroom or curriculum design can be proven before it is actually put into use.

John Weisenfeld, Science Teacher, Pasco High School

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