Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Teacher: Science Education Is Transforming with the Times

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Teacher: Science Education Is Transforming with the Times

Article excerpt

[Editor's note: In recognition of Teacher Appreciation Week, The Topeka Capital-Journal invited area educators to have their say on issues in education that they feel are important today. Tim Ellis, in his second year at Washburn Rural High, teaches science and coaches debate. He is a Knowles teaching fellow, a program that recognizes talented young STEM teachers around the country, and this year he was Auburn-Washburn's Horizon Award nominee.]

Controversy surrounding K-12 education in Kansas over the past year has been ample. From the changes to teacher tenure to the debates over unlicensed educators and school finance, Kansas is considering changes that will have a lasting effect on the way students are taught for the foreseeable future. It's understandable that these controversies make headlines, but another equally important shift is happening that the public might be less aware of.

The dynamic of teaching may be even more in flux in the classroom than in the statehouse. Anyone who has seen the 1986 classic "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" knows that a teacher-centered, lecture-driven classroom isn't ideal for all students.

The need for a change in the classroom has only increased as technology has become more accessible, and access to information that used to be reserved for teachers is now ubiquitous. Additionally, a mound of research has shown that classrooms that are too focused on the teacher are more likely to leave students behind. In response to this research, as well as societal changes, the role of the teacher is evolving.

In few places are these changes more apparent than the science and math classrooms, where teachers today are less likely to focus on specific content skills, and more likely to focus on problem solving and critical thinking, which will be essential for all students after graduation. In both fields, the passage of new standards -- the Common Core State Standards for math in 2010 and the Next Generation Science Standards for science in 2013 -- are leading the way in these innovations.

Both sets of standards support a more holistic view of teaching. No longer is the focus on memorizing answers to individual problems, like multiplication tables in math or on taxonomy in biology. …

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