Welcome to SCIED 458!

SCIED 458:  Spring 2012

Teaching Science in the Elementary School


·      Ms. Elisebeth Boyer, 176 Chambers, eboyer@psu.edu

COURSE DESCRIPTION:  We have designed SCIED 458 based on research about how prospective teachers learn to teach elementary science, our own K-12 science teaching experiences, and our previous SCIED 458 classes. The course activities, assignments, readings, and placement experiences offer multiple opportunities for you to learn essential knowledge and practices to support children's curiosity about the world and their science learning. Our goal is for you to be knowledgeable, enthusiastic and talented teachers and for your students to enjoy, understand, and apply their scientific knowledge and practices in their own lives and the world around them.

GOALS:  Teaching is a sophisticated, complex and demanding profession and it is one of the most rewarding professions in the world! Learning to teach continues throughout your life, so in SCIED 458, we want to provide the best start possible.

As a result of your participation** in your SCIED 458 learning, you will:

·      Learn how to learn scientific concepts with understanding, and recognize the importance of self-motivated learning, subject matter knowledge, "big ideas," and crosscutting themes

·      Develop an orientation toward evidence-based, explanation-driven, scientific inquiry using the four strands of scientific proficiency

·      Develop understanding of, and classroom uses of, research-, standards-, and inquiry-oriented science teaching practices, and be reflective about your practices and their impact on children's learning

·      Develop research- and standards-based assessments of children's scientific ideas, before, during, and after teaching and learning, and use them to guide your planning, teaching and monitoring of children's learning

·      Implement appropriate national and state academic standards for science

·      Create, and/or adapt, and critique science curriculum resources

·      Plan and prepare for science instruction using the four strands of scientific proficiency, and the 5E Instructional Model

·      Understand and use appropriate scientific representations (models, charts, graphs, etc.) and practices with learners

·      Use scientific ways of talking and understand its role in children's learning

·      Understand, use and support children's uses of evidence-based explanation in science

·      Create, value, and maintain a collaborative classroom community in SCIED 458 and in your placement classroom

·      Create classroom learning environments that value, foster and support diversity (e.g., gender, race, socioeconomic status, ELL, differently abled, and exceptional learners) and engage all learners

·      Develop understandings of how to use technology tools for supporting science teaching, learning, and scientific inquiry

·      Develop an orientation for reflective practice and continuous professional learning

** NOTE:  Full participation means being in class on time, doing readings on time and reflecting on them fully, contributing often and thoughtfully to class discussions, completing assignments on time, doing your fair share of small-group work, and studying as deeply and thoroughly as you can, both in our SCIED 458 classroom and in your placement classroom, so that children will benefit from your learning and teaching. See the Professionalism rubric in TaskStream.


·      Michaels, S., Shouse, A. & Schweingruber, H. (2008).  Ready, Set, Science! Putting Research to Work in K-8 Classrooms (RSS) - hard copy available or free download at (http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=11882)

·      Wenham, M. Understanding Primary Science:  Ideas, Concepts, and Explanations. (2006). Paul Chapman Publishing. ** Hard copy available in PSU bookstore.

·      NSTA Student Membership (see your instructor)

·      Selected readings that will be posted on TaskStream.

***PLEASE NOTE:  A lab fee ($15) is assessed automatically to cover the cost of consumable supplies used in class and in your placement teaching. It is also used to replenish software and computer equipment.

STATEMENT OF ACADEMIC INTEGRITY: A significant amount of collaboration is invited and expected within this course, for many assignments.  When you turn in an assignment, please be sure to (1) describe the nature of that collaboration, and (2) which members of your team completed which portions of the assignment.  As long as you report your collaborations accurately, our learning community will benefit.  However, we consider plagiarism (representing another's work as your own, without proper attribution) to be a grave violation of academic integrity.  This is especially important when using resources from online or other sources in your assignments; you must reference them with author, date, publication or source, and page numbers. Pre-service teachers who plagiarize or violate other key principles of the University and College academic integrity policies should not expect to pass this course.

STATEMENT OF COMPLIANCE WITH THE AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT OF 1990: Students with disabilities, including those with hearing and sight loss, who desire or need special accommodations for learning associated with a class should place the request through the Office of Disability Services in 116 Boucke Building. That office will notify the instructor as to reasonable accommodations.  Please refer to the Nondiscrimination Policy in the Student Guide to University Policies and Rules 1997. No accommodations can be made without written notification to the 458 instructor by the Office of Disability Services.


ATTENDANCE POLICY: The expectation for classroom teachers is that he/she is present, on time, and prepared for each day of the school year.  We have the same expectation for you during the DI block semester.  This course operates on the premise that meaning is co-constructed within a community of learners.  Therefore, your presence and participation at ALL classes is essential.  Each unexcused absence will result in a 2 point reduction in your professionalism grade.  Each late arrival or early exit will result in a 1 point reduction in your professionalism grade. Only University curricular and extracurricular activities, illness, injury, family emergency, or religious observance absences are considered excused

****Please contact the instructor BEFORE class as soon as an unavoidable absence is known. You are responsible for all readings and assignments for that class, even if your absence is considered excused. Your instructor may also ask you to make up work from that class. If unexcused or excused absences exceed FOUR, this is considered excessive and you may be asked to withdraw from the course. Students are responsible for all class information when absent. This attendance policy is consistent with the university-wide policy on class attendance (see Senate policy 42-27 at http://senate.psu.edu/policies/42-00.html - 42-27).  

Note: An instructor might not consider an unavoidable absence legitimate if the student does not contact the instructor before the absence. Students will be held responsible for using only legitimate, unavoidable reasons for requesting a make-up in the event of a missed class or evaluative event.  Requests for missing class or an evaluative event due to reasons that are based on false claims may be considered violations of the policy on Academic Integrity (Policy 49-20). 


(1) SPELLING, PUNCTUATION AND GRAMMAR:  As you begin your career as an educator you will be expect you to write and speak as the educated person you are. Your written work must be spelled and punctuated correctly, and free of grammatical errors.

Our grading policy reflects the importance that we place on excellent communication. If an assignment turned in early contains more than four errors (spelling, punctuation, and/or grammar), it will be returned to you, to be submitted correctly by the due date. After the due date, points will be reduced for errors, as given in the rubric. If subsequent assignments are submitted with more than four errors, (1) points will be deducted, per the rubric, (2) you must correct all assignments before they are scored, and (3) your instructor may request that you attend the Writing Center (219 Boucke Building) to improve future assignments.

(2) ORGANIZATION, CLARITY AND COHERENCE:  Teachers write all kinds of documents and their writing must be clear, organized, and coherent across paragraphs. If assignments turned in early are not well organized, or hard to follow across paragraphs, they will be returned so that you can revise them. After the due date, points will be reduced (as given in the rubric) if the writing does not meet professional writing expectations. If subsequent written assignments are also of poor quality, points will be taken off per the rubric, and your instructor may request that you attend the Writing Center (219 Boucke Building) to improve future assignments.

GRADING POLICY:  Your final grade for SCIED 458 will be based on your performance as demonstrated by the evidence you assemble in a web-based portfolio in TaskStream, your science notebook, and your participation and professionalism in class. There are no extra credit opportunities. Preparation for and participation in assignments, both in and out of class, are part of your professional responsibility. Late assignments will not be accepted and will receive a zero, except for extraordinary extenuating circumstances as agreed upon beforehand, in writing, by your instructor. You may turn in assignments early for feedback, on TaskStream, until the due date. After that time, no further revisions will be accepted.

A "C" or better in SCIED 458 is required in the CEAED program. Grades will be assigned according to the total number of points earned during the semester:

A (93-100), A- (90-92)

B+ (87-89), B (83-86), B- (80-82)

C+ (77-79), C (70-76), D (65-70), F (<65)


Expectations for Learning Assignments: By the end of the course you will have overcome many challenges typically faced by preservice and early career elementary teachers.  Research on preservice elementary teachers learning to teach science shows that the following are typical challenges:

1. Historically, prospective elementary teachers have rarely had opportunities in their K-16 science classes to understand science deeply and to engage in scientific inquiry. So, they are often uncertain about how to help children to construct science knowledge through inquiry.

In SCIED 458, instructors have designed several science investigations the class will pursue, through scientific inquiry into questions, evidence, explanations, connections, and evaluation of the class's understanding and progress.  We will engage, as a collaborative learning community, in building scientific knowledge in the ways that you will teach children in your placement classroom.

2. It is important for teachers to organize their lessons and units around central scientific concepts so that the resulting storyline about how the world works is coherent and connected for children.

In SCIED 458, instructors have designed a coherent and connected storyline throughout the course, to engage you in constructing scientific and teaching knowledge and excellent teaching practices. The storyline about learning to teach elementary science builds on your own initial ideas and knowledge, and provides carefully chosen readings, video analyses, assignments, and professional learning opportunities. In your own planning, you will use all the resources in SCIED 458 to construct a coherent storyline for your lessons, so that children can successfully build scientific knowledge.

3. Teachers need to be knowledgeable about children's naïve science ideas, how to find out about them, what to do about them in planning and teaching, and how to support children in making progress towards more conceptually accurate scientific understanding of the world.

In SCIED 458, instructors have designed a series of investigations that you will do to understand learning in the context your placement classroom. These include researching, designing, completing and analyzing a whole-class assessment of children's thinking in your topic; designing, completing and analyzing interviews with two children, to understand their thinking more deeply; designing, completing and analyzing formative assessments while you are teaching; designing, completing and analyzing post-unit assessments, including children's scientific notebooks, their post-unit whole-class assessment, and your own notes from teaching; and preparing a video of your teaching with written commentary about how it provides evidence of (1) your progress as an elementary science teacher and of (2) your children's learning.

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Program Outcomes

TEPF Portfolio
The Portfolio uses evidence to showcase the overall capabilities and development of the teacher.
Domain A: Planning And Preparing For Student Learning
The Penn State teacher plans instruction and assessments based upon robust knowledge of subject matter, students and their learning and development, curriculum goals and standards, and the community.
Domain B: Teaching
The Penn State teacher actively encourages students' development and learning by creating a positive classroom learning environment, appropriately using a variety of instructional and assessment strategies and resources, including instructional technologies.
Domain C: Analyzing Student Learning & Inquiring into Teaching
The Penn State teacher continually and systematically inquires into the quality of their teaching and the conditions of schooling in order to enhance student learning and development.
Domain D: Fulfilling Professional Responsibilities
The Penn State teacher exhibits the highest standards of professionalism in all that he/she does.