Maine DOE offers resources for increasing rigor in science education

Science researchers and educators from Maine and across the country convened in Chicago last week to share tools and discuss policy to support effective science instruction.

Attendees included Maine DOE’s Science and Technology Specialist Shari Templeton and Director of Standards and Instruction Anita Bernhardt, who said ideas presented at the conference reinforced the need to ensure that all Maine students have equitable access to high quality science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) learning that will open doors to STEM career pathways. An additional takeaway was that as states like Maine work to provide equitable access to STEM, educators need to focus on students explaining phenomena – not just learning science facts.

As a starting point, Maine educators can use the EQuIP rubric to review science lessons and units.  The rigor of science instruction can be increased by designing lessons that require students to use science knowledge to solve problems, examine patterns, explore systems and, most importantly, explain the science behind what they see and experience. In short, educators can increase rigor along with student understanding by utilizing the three-dimensional instruction and learning as envisioned in A Framework for K-12 Science Education, the seminal report on science and engineering education released by the National Research Council. This approach is consistent with the intended implementation of Maine’s current standards.

In identifying the skills needed for success, the majority of Fortune 500 executives noted how skills for success have changed over the past four plus decades. In 1970, the necessary skills included reading, writing and math. In 2015, Fortune 500 executives recognize that the skills needed for success are innovation, problem solving, teamwork and communication.

Careful alignment to the Framework and the Equip rubric will support the movement  of instruction from a set of discrete facts to making meaning of our world and will develop those skills needed for success in the 21st century. Examples of lesson ideas that have been vetted through the use of the Equip rubric, Classroom Sample Tasks, have been released by Achieve to support educators as they make connections between mathematics and science standards. These tasks provide examples of what classroom instruction might look like in a three-dimensional setting.

For more information or technical assistance related to STEM education in Maine, please contact Maine DOE’s Science and Technology Specialist Shari Templeton at shari.templeton@maine.gov or 624-6880.

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