What proportion of high schools offer physics?

Quadrennial nationwide survey of high school physics teachers

Looking forward to this one.

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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

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

· www.sharemylesson.com (will have a link back to TpT)

· www.tes.com (will have a link back to TpT)

· www.amazoninspire.com (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

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week

In the video below an elementary student says: “without teachers there would be no learning…”

I realize this and thousands of other videos like it mean well, but that is *NOT* a growth mindset.

Putting aside for a moment how patronizing a “day/week to honor teachers” is, putting aside how “appreciation” could take a concrete form like a living wage or a truly middle-class income, let’s talk about learning.

My goal each day is put interesting connections in front of my students. These connections seek to bridge their interests to the thriving, teeming, infinite world that is real scientific discovery and exploration.

To say that you can’t learn anything without a teacher, puts the teacher in the driver’s seat, and lets the learner off the hook. The world is a smorgasbord of interesting, amazing, even contradictory things. Do I make you eat? Don’t you need to eat? If by the end of high school you haven’t taught yourself how to eat, or learned how to cook, say, then who has failed? Is it me? Is it you (the learner)?

So I love the sentiment, but the ramifications are pure drivel, “that wasn’t a good class because the teacher was no good”. That’s not a growth mindset. “I couldn’t figure out how to connect my learning style with that teacher’s teaching style.” Is only slightly better. “That teacher helped me dynamite the walls of ignorance and apathy and fear that I had towards that subject, and I will go on to storm even bigger castles of misinformation, doubt, and mystery in the future.”

If that attitude is what I teach and model. If that is what is more important than valence electrons, or impulse momentum theorem, or the scientific method, then yes, OK, appreciation is fine. Now get back to work!

From: Leslee K. Caul
Sent: Friday, May 6, 2016 2:57 PM
To: All_Staff_grp <All_Staff@psd1.org>
Subject: Happy Teacher Appreciation Week


Thank you for the important work you do for Pasco students and families.

Please enjoy this video:


We hope you had a lovely week!

State Testing, a Key Measure of Student Progress, Now Underway

I’ve been sharing an editorial by Bruce Alberts in Science Magazine (15 January 2016) that suggests that science teachers, due to our training or proclivity toward data- and/or research-based decisions are an underutilized resource to solve some of the more difficult problems in education. The editorial is here: http://bit.ly/empowergreatteachers

But, of course, we (as experimentalists) may have also been the cause of some of the biggest expansions of the “test, test and more test” malaise that affects education. So, my esteemed colleagues, what one test would you give, and when would you give it to measure x, y, or z, educational outcomes?

Can you limit it to just one?

From: OSPI News Release [mailto:waospi@public.govdelivery.com]
Sent: Thursday, March 24, 2016 10:04 AM
To: John C. Weisenfeld <JWeisenfeld@psd1.org>
Subject: State Testing, a Key Measure of Student Progress, Now Underway

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Randy I. Dorn

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