MAT Blog

Get to know science and engineering education's “Big Three.”

Posted by Colleen Cadieux on Jul 26, 2012 11:35:00 AM

Marygrove MAT explains how the Big Three dimensions will benefit science students!The science and engineering world is constantly evolving, and new discoveries and applications are quickly integrated into new understandings! This phenomenon has created a new set of science standards in addition to the STEM curriculum that is used to provide the most up-to-date framework for educating future scientists. As a result, schools and teachers across the country are beginning to implement two tools aimed at transforming science and engineering education in the United States. These are  A Framework for K-12 Science Standards: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas and the Next Generation Science Standards.

The framework is divided into three specific dimensions that are basic to deep understanding of how science and engineering work. They are:

  • Science and engineering practices. Otherwise considered science behaviors, these practices are the actions scientists participate in while investigating, theorizing, and drawing conclusions about the scientific world. These practices also include engineering design which requires a different approach than scientific inquiry. Engineering design involves the discovery of a problem that can be solved via careful and comprehensive design. On the other hand, scientific inquiry requires the scientist to pose a question and then answer the question through investigation and experimentation. 
  • Crosscutting concepts. These key concepts can be applied across all areas of science. They serve as a link between the different domains and are designed to be explicitly taught to students.  It is important for teachers to teach these key concepts and skills just like they specifically teach content because they help students organize, conceptualize, and internalize new knowledge.  These crosscutting concepts are:
    • Cause and effect
    • Patterns, similarity, and diversity
    • Scale, proportion, and quantity
    • Energy and matter
    • Systems and system models
    • Stability and change
    • Structure and function
  • Disciplinary core ideas. Much like threads that weave together the STEM curriculum, classroom instruction, and all forms of assessment, these are essential ideas.  In order for a science idea to be considered “core” it must meet at least two of the following criteria, but  ideally, a core idea will meet all four of the following:
    • Has relevance across a variety of disciplines or represents a key concept of one specific discipline.
    • Supplies an essential skill that promotes understanding of additional ideas.
    • Has importance at a range of grade levels and the ability to be studied at varying degrees of difficulty.
    • Impacts the experiences and interests of students and relates to real life problems that require students to use scientific knowledge.

It helps to understand that all of the disciplinary ideas are divided into four domains: life sciencesearth and space sciencesphysical sciences, and engineering, technology, and applications of science. Each core disciplinary idea contains a clear and concise explanation and range of grades for instructional planning and assessment purposes. The range of grades, each covering 3-4 grade levels, allows schools and teachers the flexibility to reflect on their instructional priorities within the established framework.

The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) has a portion of its website dedicated to the Next Generation Science Standards. You can find updates, supporting documents, and resources to help with the implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards and STEM curriculum. 

For more information, download our FREE on demand webinar on “Cutting Edge Science,” a lively conversation about the Next Generation Science Standards featuring Marygrove College MAT’s Charles Pearson, Ph.D.

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Tags: Next Generation Science Standards, science and engineering education, on demand webinar

Next Generation Science Standards Champion Diversity in Science Curriculum!

Posted by Colleen Cadieux on Jul 24, 2012 11:24:00 AM

Marygrove MAT encourages teachers to champion diversity in science in your classroom!The recently completed Next Generation of Science Standards document attempts to address the needs of a variety of learners. The team tasked with writing the standards document is dedicated to promoting equity in schools and addressing the challenges and opportunities present among a variety of learners.  This commitment to diversity in science curriculum is evident in the work they have completed so far.  As the documents continue to be revised and refined, this commitment will continue until every learner has an entry point and avenue for continued scientific growth. 

The most recently released National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) data shows that only 32 percent of eighth graders proved to be proficient on the 2011 science assessment. Specific sub-group data details some gender differences in scores such as male students scoring five points higher than females, and achievement score variations among some cultural and socioeconomic groups. This data strengthens the case for including diversity in the science curriculum and the necessity for a set of comprehensive science standards that is applicable to all students.

It is important to remember that the Next Generation Science Standards are still in draft form.  The first version was released to the public in May, 2012 and, after a three-week window followed for feedback, the committee is revising the draft, with the next draft due for public release in Fall, 2012.

Supporting documents were also released including an overview of the section which focuses on diversity entitled "All Standards, All Students." Created by the equity and diversity team, an arm of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), writers focused specifically on diversity in science curriculum. This section aims to address the needs of a variety of learners. It will identify instructional strategies, additional resources, and possible targeted adaptations and modifications to make the NGSS a document that benefits all learners. The final version of this chapter will include vignettes focused on support for student groups such as English Language Learners (ELL), students with disabilities, economically disadvantaged students, and racial and ethnic minorities. The May release included research and additional information on the NGSS in regards to:

  • English Language Learners (ELL):  Because science education requires a vast vocabulary of technical and content-specific vocabulary, many English language learners struggle because of language skills.   The Next Generation Science Standards encourage teachers to integrate instructional strategies used for literacy development, such as activating prior knowledge, explicit instruction on reading strategies, and the use of graphic organizers.  Teachers may also want to teach the specific genre of scientific writing and record keeping.
  • Students with Disabilities: The Next Generation Science Standards are written for special needs students in the inclusion classroom, resource room setting, or self-contained classroom.  The writing panel encourages teachers to use a variety of instructional methods, based on students' Individualized Education Programs (IEP) or growth goals, so that students may fully learn the scientific concepts. Accommodations and modifications can easily be made to the standards documents to alter delivery, practice, application, or assessment.

Every child deserves the equal opportunity to learn science. We are very pleased about the steps that the NGSS will take to make science learning accessible to children of multiple intelligences, as well as those with diverse cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. It is an exciting time in education!

Get a leg up on the NGSS—coming this fall. Download our FREE on-demand webinar, “Cutting Edge Science,” and see how the standards will impact your instruction.

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Tags: Next Generation Science Standards, equity in schools, curriculum, instruction and assessment, science curriculum, on demand webinar

Essential Qualities of a Highly Effective Science Teacher.

Posted by Colleen Cadieux on Jul 7, 2012 5:37:00 AM

Integrated science teaching requires an energetic and engaged science teacher.You know the ones—the K-12 science teachers who are requested by parents year after year. They’re the teachers that are at their desks early in the morning, and well after bell time in the afternoon. Their integrated science instruction is fluid and engaging. They usually have energy to burn. And they know how to harness it from their students!

Effective integrated science instruction requires a teacher who is fully committed to using innovative teaching methods, real life tasks, a variety of assessments, and the ability to adapt instruction to best meet the needs of all students. None of these traits is present in isolation; instead the teacher employs them in concert to create a learning environment that is rigorous, thoughtful, challenging, and innovative.

A great K-12 science teacher:

  • Engages students. Integrated science instruction is about far more than a chapter in a textbook or the next standards based lecture. There are multiple teaching methods that a science teacher can use that will actively engage students in their own learning. Carefully planned laboratory experiments, real world investigations, inquiry based understanding, and performance based study units are several methods that teachers can use to ensure students are mastering science concepts while remaining active in the learning process.
  • Uses multiple assessment methods. A highly effective science teacher will employ a variety of assessment methods to ensure that students are learning within the integrated science instruction.  Both formative and summative assessments are used to determine student understanding of the standards, mastery of skills, and areas that require reteaching. The science teacher may also implement performance based assessments, rubric scoring of classroom or cooperative work, and student self assessment as additional ways to discover what students understand.
  • Adjusts instruction. Based on the data collected from the assessments, a highly effective science teacher will adjust instructional goals, plans, and teaching strategies. After all, the purpose of assessment is to modify and shape instruction. This feedback may indicate that an entire class is struggling with a single topic, requiring systemic reteaching.  Or a teacher may find that a group of students would benefit from a targeted instructional intervention to support the integrated science instruction. 
  • Makes connections. The world of science education doesn't exist in isolation behind a set of classroom doors. Instead, the teacher should be continually seeking ways to connect the integrated science instruction to other subject areas and real world experiences. The integration of math and science is a given as the two subject areas complement and rely on each other for true student understanding. But a highly effective science teacher will also find connections to writing, social studies, art, reading, or athletics. These connections may be the trigger for students to fully engage in and understand the relationship between the science concepts and other content.  
  • Has strong content knowledge. A highly effective science teacher will be just as committed to her own learning as to the learning of her students.  Staying current on instructional topics, as well as exhibiting the drive of a natural learner, is critical for high quality science teaching. A science teacher should also understand the most current science discoveries and findings, and not rely on outdated data. This learning may take place in the form of individual research, reading, or participation in professional development and collaboration.

For more information about effective K-12 science teaching that is fun for students and teachers alike, download the New Science Teacher webinar on demand, today!



Tags: formative assessments, integrated science instruction, K-12 science teachers, on demand webinar

Bring math concepts alive for students through picture books.

Posted by Colleen Cadieux on Jul 5, 2012 4:09:00 PM

When teachers integrate literature with mathematics, they can achieve picture perfect math!Studies that promote integrating mathematics with literature show a strong correlation between learning math content and interacting with stories that have mathematics themes. (Whitin & Wilde, 1992, 1995; Burns, 1992, 1995; Zambo, 2005). Since the new common core standards in math emphasize learning fewer concepts in greater depth, extending learning through text can become a routine part of a teacher’s math curriculum.

From the time a preschool child hears a story like “The Grouchy Ladybug,” by Eric Carle (or “The Bad Tempered Labybird” as it was published in the UK), math concepts are being introduced early on, albeit covertly.  “Research supports that integrating mathematics with literature makes mathematical concepts more meaningful to young minds,” said Carole Kamerman, Independent Educational Consultant and retired educator from Kalamazoo Public Schools in Michigan. “Even though the concept is finally becoming popular, I must say I have always used picture books to support math lessons…it really works.”

As a former curriculum trainer and facilitator, including adopting curriculum for a girl’s school in Dubai, UAE, Kamerman stresses the importance of parents keeping the dialogue about math positive at home. “We need to remind parents, guardians and caregivers that saying things like, ‘I was never any good at math,’ is not acceptable anymore, there’s just too much at stake for our students,” she said.

How true. The National Academies 2010 study cites that the US ranks 27th among developed nations in the proportion of college students receiving undergraduate degrees in science and engineering. This is what the Next Generation Science Standards and common core standards in mathematics stand to address in a meaningful way. It is essential that we remove the disconnect between subjects; the new science core standards—just like their math counterparts— will emphasize less rote memorization, fewer, but more specific concepts, and concentrate on the kind of science students can use for college and career pursuits.

Both sets of common core standards in science and math seek to focus on the big ideas— key concepts that can be continually used to teach a variety of skills and processes. How teachers choose to integrate subjects so that these “big ideas” resonate with students is the creative challenge.

The challenge for teachers: making sure the “big ideas” resonate with students.

In addition to rigorous instruction, we recommend that elementary school teachers, specifically, leave their biases at the door and speak about math in an upbeat way in the classroom, even if it isn’t their favorite subject. Negative views about math and science can be contagious.

“Some students are predisposed to dislike math, so anything we can do to help develop healthy attitudes about the subject is so important,” says Dr. Charles Pearson, Coordinator of the Marygrove Master in the Art of Teaching (MAT) Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment program. “Giving students lots of opportunities to engage in math concepts is key, and reading math-related children’s literature is one great way to do that.”

Here are some titles Dr. Pearson recommends to add to your math literacy library:

Addition and Subtraction:

“Adding Alligators” (Franco) Addition

“Centipede’s 100 Shoes” (Ross) Add/Subtract to 100

“Tar Beach” (Ringgold) Add/Subtract problems by the GCI method; African American Culture

Problem solving:

“A House is a House for Me” (Hoberman) Classification

“Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus” (Willems) Ask students to determine the number of buses needed for a school trip.

“Ming Lo Moves the Mountain” (Lobel) Multicultural Story

For more good titles, you can view this list from Dr. Elaine Young, Associate Professor of Mathematics, at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.

Pearson also stresses that when teachers choose math-related books that tie to students’ experiences, both personally and culturally, it helps children better identify with math concepts.

Kamerman agrees: “Suddenly fractions are not so scary,” she says. “…and counting money is fun when you choose a delightful and engaging book to illustrate the concept.” She recommends “Eating Fractions” by Bruce Macmillan or “Gator Pie by Louise Mathews, and “Benny’s Pennies” by Pat Brisson.

So, the more you communicate about math—talk about it, read about it, write about it—the more you extend learning for students. Try it today.

Download our free webinar on How to Achieve Picture Perfect Math and get even more tips to encourage greater math literacy in your classroom.

Tags: math literacy, on demand webinar, common core standards in mathematics, picture books

K-12 science teachers are resourceful, by design.

Posted by Colleen Cadieux on Jun 26, 2012 10:41:00 AM

Marygrove MAT says K-12 science teachers need to be resourceful.One of the biggest take-aways from our Marygrove Master in the Art of Teaching (MAT) webinar The New Science Teacher” on June 14 was for teachers to be organized and skilled at classroom management. But one of the shrewdest lessons that kept coming through rather steadily was that K-12 science teachers need to be resourceful—and oh-so-clever about getting what they need, when they need it. 

“Nobody is going to tell you that teaching science really is rocket science, basically,” muses Dr. Charles Pearson, Coordinator of the MAT Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment program. Teaching the subject of science is complex and challenging. Half the battle is won by taking it upon yourself to get what you need to teach effectively, so that your students will get what they need to learn. Be assertive!

When his urban middle school classroom had no sink for necessary lab work, Dr. Pearson details how he made one out of a couple of five-gallon restaurant buckets that smelled like pickles! It got the job done. One bucket was for waste, and one was for clean water supply. He appointed student helpers to empty and fill the buckets in the custodial closet, and they were no worse for the lack of plumbing.

For low budget ways to complement a lesson, enlist the help of family and friends who are in the know about a related science field to help in the classroom, write a letter to the class, or record a video like this one on acid rain from the UK. The video is low budget, but its educational value is off the charts.

It’s these kinds of things that really separate the newbies from the pros!

If you are doing an earth science unit and there’s no budget for soils and rocks, head to the nearest parking lot. Don’t be shy—just grab what you need. Lumber yards and landscaping supply outlets may give teachers a price break, or even offer free materials, if you ask nicely!

Don’t forget that many expensive chemicals can be purchased as their household equivalents at a fraction of the cost at the drug store. Magnesium sulfate? Try Epsom salts. Oxalic acid? Use a non-chlorine bleach cleanser like Bar Keepers Friend.

Another resourceful science teacher, Haley E. Hart, from Southeastern High School in Detroit, recommends that teachers with limited budgets look into Donors Choose- an online philanthropic website where public school teachers submit proposals for things they need, and donors choose to fund them. For example, a third grade teacher from Toledo, OH is requesting three millipedes for students to learn about decomposition, and the life cycle. Three authentic millipedes for about 20 bucks can make all the difference in the world to her project, and to her students. It’s worth doing.

One last tip that really will separate you from the rest is how you handle guest teachers or substitutes. Subs are naturally hesitant to take on a big, messy lab experiment, and are ill-prepared to step in on an ongoing science project. Take the initiative (and the time) to leave explicit instructions for your guests. It helps if you have a bullet-proof procedure in place that all students are aware of when you are absent, so that they can continue to work seamlessly while you’re away. Even the youngest students can be prepared to help a substitute teacher with procedures and tasks. Students will enjoy the independence as you groom them to take ownership of their classroom and their work.

If you missed these helpful tips, download our webinar, The New Science Teacher here. Stay tuned for more information on our Cutting Edge Science webinar on July 18 that prepares teachers for the Next Generation Science Standards—there’s limited seating—hurry and reserve yours!

Tags: science teachers, new science teachers, science standards, on demand webinar

Q&A: Setting Reading Goals with Early Learners, Part II

Posted by Colleen Cadieux on Dec 17, 2011 5:30:00 AM

Webinar with Christina BainbridgeAs you may know, last Saturday we presented strategies in a webinar hosted by Marygrove Master in the Art of Teaching (MAT): “Goal-Setting and Reading Fluency.” It was designed to help struggling readers take control of their reading by setting reading goals to help increase their motivation, fluency growth, and overall grade level performance. The material was based on the research I conducted as a student in the MAT program. We received some wonderful feedback, and I would like to answer more of your questions here. Last time, we discussed the differences between grade level and reading level, and how students should always cold-read for these assessments.

Today, we will discuss motivation, parent communication and keeping students on track. If you still have questions, feel free to leave a comment and I’ll tackle those in a later blog post!

Q. How do parents keep informed about their child’s progress?

If you are using a program like DIBELS®, or AIMSweb®, you have access to some amazing graphs that you can print out to share with parents.  As part of my project, parents received weekly notes after each progress monitoring assessment. Now, I rely on my own communication methods such as bi-weekly newsletters, conferences, phone calls and my classroom website. Of course, my students are always eager to tell their families when they have successes!

Q. What if students aren’t making appropriate growth on their graph?

A. It may be time to re-assess their goal or the other interventions you are doing in the classroom.  One of the keys to the success of student charting and goal setting is having lots of conversation with students about their graphs and goals.  Student goals are always up for negotiation if they aren’t making progress that aligns with their goal, or, if the opposite happens: they make better progress than they thought they would!  Think about the instructional interventions you are doing with these students. The general rule is: If insignificant growth is made over a period of three weeks, the instructional intervention needs to be re-evaluated.

Q. Motivation was a big part of your project.  But how do you motivate your students to read?

A. I love to read. I think, personally, a lot of my students’ interest in books and reading comes from my positive attitude, which I’m sure you all convey, too.  I have a huge classroom library, and I conduct several read alouds each day for instructional purposes—(and to get my students excited about reading new books.)  In my classroom, I have a “100 Club” where students can document books they read outside of school, and can achieve levels in a “club” when they reach certain number milestones.  I also offer children the chance to earn the privilege of eating lunch with me on Fridays. One of the ways they can earn lunch is by documenting the Accelerated Reader tests they take. (Every 13th test earns you “Lunch Bunch” on Friday!) They can also earn a “Lunch Bunch” for each level of the “100 Club” they achieve.

That wraps up this round of questions. I will address any more that come in as needed. Please don’t hesitate to ask. Your question could help clarify something for someone else. We appreciate the feedback.

If you haven’t already, click the button below to view the webinar, access my full research report, and tools you can use to start getting improved reading results in your classroom, today!

Have a great holiday,


Marygrove MAT alum Christina Bainbridge discusses goal-setting for greater reading fluencyChristina Bainbridge, Marygrove MAT ’09 currently teaches a first and second grade split class at Central Elementary in White Pigeon, Michigan. She has incorporated her master-level teaching practices into an award-winning website: Mrs. Bainbridge’s Class, which she loyally tends to every week. Teachers all over the country love her for it, and you will, too. Check it out!



View the Goal-setting and Reading Fluenc

Tags: struggling readers, reading fluency, on demand webinar, early learners, setting reading goals

Q&A: Setting Reading Goals with Early Learners, Part I

Posted by Colleen Cadieux on Dec 16, 2011 3:15:00 PM

Webinar with Christina BainbridgeFirst of all, thank you to everyone who was able to attend our webinar hosted by Marygrove Master in the Art of Teaching (MAT) last Saturday! If you missed it, we presented a strategy to help struggling readers take control of their reading by setting reading goals to help increase their motivation, fluency growth, and overall grade level performance. It was a great session of learning and sharing.

I was (and still am!) so thrilled to have been asked to present the research I gathered while I was a Marygrove MAT student. Just like the program itself, I wanted to offer a relevant strategy that teachers can immediately apply in their classrooms— and get results.

After the webinar, I received some very good questions about student goal-tracking and oral reading fluency, so I will begin to address them here. If you still have questions, feel free to leave a comment below and I’ll tackle those in a later blog post!

Q. Did your students read passages at their grade-level, or at their reading level?

A. Most oral reading fluency measures that allow for weekly progress monitoring have students tested weekly at their reading level. My students were tested at their reading level. Keep in mind that the goal is to get them to grade-level. The rule of thumb is: If you are monitoring a student’s progress out-of-grade-level, they have to make twice the progress in half the time, to get them into a grade-level appropriate book. So, if I am testing second grade students who read at a first grade level, they have to make the first grade end-of-year goal in the middle of the year. (That should be a guiding force in setting goals for your students.) Also, if you are using DIBELS®, AIMSweb®, or any other oral reading fluency measure with all students— when all students are tested (typically three times per year)— all students are tested with grade-level materials, even if it isn’t necessarily their reading level.

Q. Did your students do cold reads or were they able to practice their pieces before they were tested?

Oral reading fluency assessments should be cold reads.  We are assessing the skills our students have when they encounter unknown pieces of text.  If you are using an oral reading fluency intervention program (e.g. The Six Minute Solution), students ARE re-reading the same passage throughout the week and charting their growth on that same passage.  However, for assessment purposes, students should not have encountered their passage prior to the assessment.

Well, that is all I have for today. I will address more questions this weekend.  Feel free to leave me a comment in the section below. Our Goal-Setting & Reading Fluency Webinar can be viewed in its entirety by clicking on the button below. You'll also get access to my full research report and tools to start getting improved reading results in your classroom.

Have a great start to your weekend, and I’ll answer more questions on Saturday.


Christina Bainbridge, Marygrove MAT '09 discusses reading goalsChristina Bainbridge, Marygrove MAT ’09 currently teaches a first and second grade split class at Central Elementary in White Pigeon, Michigan. She has incorporated her master-level teaching practices into an award-winning website: Mrs. Bainbridge’s Class, which she loyally tends to every week. Teachers all over the country love her for it, and you will, too. Check it out!



View the Goal-setting and Reading Fluenc

Tags: struggling readers, reading fluency, goal-setting for early learners, on demand webinar

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