April 14, 2016

Helping teachers orchestrate an engaging STEM classroom

Teachers are like conductors in orchestras. They strive to facilitate a perfect lesson while enabling their students to demonstrate their skills and talents within harmonious classrooms. In doing so, they continue to seek professional development opportunities that allow them to stretch their lessons from beyond the textbook. With the current Next Generation Science Standards and Common Core State Standards adoption, teachers must be able to conduct students through these challenging transitions of deeper conceptual understanding.

The Tiger Woods Learning Center provides a variety of trainings for teachers in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Depending on their needs, they select one of the four week-long STEM topics to further enhance their instruction. 

Teachers interacting in a STEM professional development workshop at the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, California

In the “Bringing Common Core Math to Life” training, teachers engage in discussions about the importance of both conceptual and procedural fluency. Rather than having students simply memorize the formula for the volume of a rectangular prism, teachers are encouraged to have students discover V = lwh for themselves through hands-on manipulatives. Upon discovery, students are then guided to explain to others their path to the formula, which contributes to retention of their newfound knowledge. 

“I really liked the hands-on exploration of volume with the unifix cubes because volume is a difficult concept for students, and I know that the information will stick when they have a real, contextual example,” one teacher said.

As the popular saying goes, “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I may remember. Involve me and I learn.” We all learned how to effectively use our smartphones by simply exploring its features in our own hands, rather than reading through the commonly ignored user guide. In the “Technology Tools” training, teachers choose from various web-based programs to learn such as Prezi, Animoto and Socrative. By the end of each session, they’ll have explored the tool from the perspective of a student, set up their own classroom accounts and developed projects that they can immediately share with their students and fellow teachers. New and unfamiliar web-based programs can be daunting at first glance, very much like how students see concepts of photosynthesis and systems of linear equations for the very first time. However, dedicating the time to explore and work through any challenges will eventually lead to new growth.

Professional development enables teachers to find new ways to orchestrate an engaging STEM classroom. With the current transition into NGSS and CCSS, new and different activities have become available to allow students to further develop their critical thinking skills. Educators now have access to more innovative resources and trainings than before, and it’s time to share this wealth of knowledge to improve the education of our youth.

Learn more about the Tiger Woods Learning Center’s professional development opportunities.

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