Making the Best of the Science MCA: Sharing Best Practices for Middle School Science

Making the Best of the Science MCA: Sharing Best Practices for Middle School Science

 At St. Olaf College, Northfield Minnesota July 7 -July 9, 2014

Workshop Description

Standardized tests in science can have various effects on science instruction.  At best, they can provide data to teachers and motivate schools to put resources into science education, formalize the curriculum and support the sharing of best practices.  On the other hand, they can also generate stress and result in increased coverage of content knowledge or test-taking skills at the expense of engaging students in the processes and practices of science (Falk and Drayton, 2004).

In this workshop, we aim to bring together middle school science teachers from neighboring districts into dialogue about ways to make the best of the MCA.  We believe that middle school is an important time in science education when students have the opportunity to formalize and deepen their understanding of the nature of science and make connections across disciplines.  We will focus our discussions on two questions. 1. How should we prioritize decisions about what to teach?  2. How can we implement investigations of central concepts to help students improve their scientific thinking and perform better on the MCAs?   As we explore strategies to integrate science inquiry and content, we will spend focused time discussing strategies to help students improve in the most challenging areas: making arguments with data and evidence, and identifying bias in scientific investigations and claims.

We encourage groups of teachers from across grade-levels within the same school or district to apply, as we aim to engage teachers dialogue both within and across grade-levels.  Teachers will receive a $400 stipend as compensation for their time and additional reimbursement for mileage.  Additionally, teachers, or teams of teachers from each school, will receive a stipend to purchase resources that will help them implement a new idea in their science classrooms.

Workshop Schedule (Tentative )

July 7

  • Morning: •Introductions. MDE Science Assessment Specialist presents.
  • Afternoon: •Within-school synthesis and sharing: How do you prioritize what to teach?  Within grade-level discussion: How can we frame big ideas for students?  Whole-group discussion: How do we help students identify bias in science?

July 8

  • Morning: Content-area learning with scientists and experts.
  • Afternoon:  •Within-grade level workshop: How can we implement more effective unit plans? Within-school dialogue: What common strategies make sense for us?

July 9

  • Morning: Content-area learning with scientists and experts.
  • Afternoon:  •Within grade-level discussions: How can we assess students’ evidence-based explanations? Within-school discussion about future plans. Reception.

Please contact Emily Mohl ( with any questions or to receive an application form. Applications received by May 9, 2014 will be given full consideration.

Link to application form