Remember that in the next generation model of instruction, the teacher tunes the inquiry environment, gradually adjusting student supports, helping them engage appropriately with the material, redirecting and monitoring them. They are acting in every way as a coach, helping students interact with content rather than gatekeeping it.
The sixth habit of highly effective teachers is giving immediate helpful feedback as a coach and not an expert. You can see how important this role is looking at the image above. Teachers in this role don’t get between the content and the student, but rather help to strengthen the connection and interaction between the two. This isn’t just our experience of what works in top-performing classrooms … it is what NGSS is actively asking for. In fact, this concept goes back to the National Research Council’s A Framework for K-12 Science Education and even the Carnegie Corporation’s publication The Opportunity Equation: Transforming Mathematics and Science Education for Citizenship and the Global Economy.
Effective STEM instruction capitalizes on students’ early interest and experiences, identifies and builds on what they know, and provides them with experiences to engage them in the practices of science and sustain their interest.
Today, there is a new definition of effective STEM instruction, which is a model of teaching that capitalizes on students' early interest and experiences (intentionally nurturing their development), identifies and builds on what they know (scaffolding their knowledge and skills), and provides students with the experiences to engage them in the practices of science and sustain their interest. Again, how do you sustain their interest? By having a rigorous, purposeful and challenging curriculum.
This is a major step forward. If you look at the two pictures above, you’ll see a significant difference between the two. The one on the left shows the “I do, you do” traditional model in which the teacher demonstrates and students repeat. This is a completely backwards approach, and actively works again development of the practices and a full release of responsibility. After all, if I do it, then we do it, what’s left for you – the student – to do?
In the picture on the right, students are engaging with the practices of science and engineering directly. This is the “you do” model. And if students can’t yet do it on their own, then the teacher will think about it with them and figure out a way together. The teacher can be a thought partner, especially at the beginning, and continuing in that coaching role through the checkpoints as time goes on.
Students check in regularly with the teacher, using the teacher as a thought partner when necessary. The teacher coaches rather than acts as expert, helping redirect students, draw out the meaning from their words and fine-tune their approach.
That doesn’t mean the teacher tells students the answer. Instead, the teacher asks students difficult and specific questions that cause them to actually think, assess what they have written so far, make connections and think about what was learned previously. Doing this helps students to build a framework of understanding.
Here you see the steps of claim-evidence reasoning, and then an example of what that might look like in a student conclusion.
Even after students have created and carried out their plans, you can still act as a coach to guide them through their conclusion in the form of claim-evidence-reasoning. This is a model of writing that uses a specific progression from question to hypothesis to claim to evidence to reasoning. This is something you can implement tomorrow to help students form conclusions based on evidence they gather in their experiments. Students read this to you, and you listen for each piece of the model, from initial question to final, consistent reasoning. Doing so not only helps students deepen their ability to form conclusions, but it ensure students are at all times using those science and engineering practices and engaging with the skills they’re supposed to be mastering.