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Science Leadership Plan

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Paul Soppit

on 9 August 2013

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Transcript of Science Leadership Plan

Science Leadership Action Plan
How will we improve science communication in the school and community?
How will we incorporate new technologies in the department?
How will we continue to grow as a department?
What is my vision for the Biology Department?
Paul Soppit
How will our department accommodate today's learners?
What are the attributes of a Department Leader?
My vision for the Biology department is to be one which is focused heavily on enhanced student learning, where student choice determines much of the learning inside and outside of the classroom. The department will constantly evolve to provide the technological tools to support the acquisition of learning skills rather than curriculum based knowledge, and create learning experiences that will stiumulate life-long scientific learning and inquiry.
" Putting aside the value of particular programs that give students more discretion about what they are doing, the irrefutable fact is that students always have a choice about whether they will learn. We may be able to force them to complete an assignment, but we can't compel them to learn effectively or to care about what they are doing. The bottom line is that "teaching requires the consent of students, and discontent will not be chased away by the exercise of power."(27) No wonder that expanding the realm in which the learner's consent is sought tends to enhance learning."
- Alfie Kohn (1993) "Choices for Children: Why and How to Let Students Decide
Giving students choice in their learning promotes the intrinsic motivation needed to complete the task to the best of their ability, thus enhancing their learning skills.
Science teaching in some schools seems to follow a pattern of telling students what they need to learn, illustrating the concepts with good demonstrations and then, if time permits, providing students with a practical experience in which they can "apply" what they were to have learned previously.

Traditionally, students are often taught the background or theories behind scientific principles before they complete labs or activities in order to prove the theory. In Ontario, the curriculum guidelines and approved textbooks generally follow this sequence.

Over the last 20 years, there has been growing recognition that the ideas we teach in our classes do not simply or automatically replace or supersede the ideas that students bring to our classes. "Simply telling them what's wrong with their conceptions and telling them the 'right' conceptions will have little or no effect" (Knight, 2003, p. 43).

We have found that we need to provide students with opportunities to explore their own understanding of scientific principles BEFORE they can really learn the best current explanation of these principles. If students are not given time to confront their own ideas and build new understandings, they may simply memorize the right answer for the test and the opportunity to support significant conceptual change will be lost.

Ideally, our learning activities encourage students to take risks and make mistakes in a safe and supportive learning environment. These learning activities are structured so that students can use their prior knowledge and the outcomes of the activity to generate better explanations for the scientific concept being considered. As teachers, we believe our role is to help students clarify and extend their ideas in order to support enduring conceptual change.

-PASS - Promoting Authentic Secondary Science (2005). http://resources.educ.queensu.ca/pass
Promoting Conceptual Change
Teaching through strategies which promote conceptual change allows students to explore their previous misconceptions, discover why they are incorrect, and use their newly acquired information to explain why their model did not work.
Resources for promoting student directed learning and Conceptual change include:
Promoting Authentic Secondary Science (PASS)


Project for Enhanced Effective Learning


Encouraging education at home through positive relationships with parents undeniably improves student learning. Today smartphones and tablets make access to course resources and discussions possible at any time of the day.
How Will We Improve Communication With Parents?
Class Websites
Good Phone Calls home
Project Planning Nights
Encouraging class website's in the department will greatly increase communication with parents. These online environments not only allow accounts for students to work, but for parents to check their children’s progress, and to contact the teacher almost immediately through email. This method is far less intimidating than calling the school, and will stimulate more communication due to its ease. The website also provides parents and students with reminders for assignments and important dates, keeping parents involved with the student’s progression from start to finish. These website's will not only keep the parents more informed than before, but prevent the need for calls in many situations.

- Educationworld (2013)
"Project Planning" nights will be organized once or twice a semester to show parents and students what will be expected on upcoming "big projects" in each class, including exemplars of student work at different levels. These nights encourage student initiative to complete the project in pieces, starting early and taking their time rather than cramming at the last minute.
I was introduced to this idea in England and find it to be a very effective way to build a parent teacher relationship. Most parents relate a phone call home to a bad outcome. Breaking this stereotype will surprise and excite the parents , creating a positive learning outlook for their child and a good parent-teacher relationship. If the teacher later in the semester needs to make a call about the student regarding their poor performance the call will now be much easier to make due to the established relationship. After a good phone call home the student is normally rewarded by the parent, and so the student comes to school the next day feeling great and happy to be in that teacher's class.
If you are new to these ideas, feel free to pick one and try it, then expand your effort from there. The point of this is not to swamp yourself, but to try new things to increase communication.
A department is only as strong as its weakest member. Being a new teacher is very intimidating in today's world. So we must make every effort to help them improve their practice.
How will we help new teachers?
Offering a 'mentor' to every new teacher in the department provides a "one on one" source of growth. A mentor will provide the answers to most of the questions a new teacher in our department has.

The rest of the department will act as 'consultants', providing resources, safety knowledge, teaching strategies, and feedback as needed.

- Building Effective Mentoring Relationships (2010) Toronto District School Board
How will we share resources?
Providing a wealth of resources will help the development of a new teacher flourish. To help a new teacher succeed, and to provide the department with a wealth of new curriculum linked resources, a STAO department membership will be purchased.
Science Teachers Association of Ontario www.stao.ca

National Association of Biology Teachers www.nabt.org

National Science Teachers Association www.nsta.org

And a variety of Web Resources from The Queens Honour Specialist - Biology course from Summer 2013
How will the department continue to improve through reflective practice?
To assist with the development of New Teachers and continue to progress as a department, voluntary observations of each others classes will be authorized throughout the year.
How Will I Encourage Constant Professional Development?
Having access to current science resources, including breaking news and pd opportunities will provide staff with the resources to stay current and evolve their teaching methods
Some Science Websites and Journals include:

Discover http://discovermagazine.com/

Scientific American http://www.sciam.com/
What will we do to maintain a safe and comfortable atmosphere?
Creating a department safety policy and making sure that teachers in the department are properly trained to mix solutions, will improve the safety of the department and the confidence of the staff in each other.

It will also teach some very important required skills to any new teachers entering the department and provide a protocol for safety in the classroom during any activity.
How will we determine the budget?
The department will have a budgeting meeting before the big purchases are made for the year. The meeting will review the budget through ideas presented by each section of the department (Biology/Chemistry/Physics). We will work on arriving at a conclusion on the budget together, with each section of the department creating three lists of resources for their part of the department. An “A” list of must have materials no matter what the budget, a “B” list of resources that would be nice to have if there is room on the budget, and a “C” list of wishful resources that may not be essential to the budget now, but should be considered for future budget's. Through a democratic process of discussion we will arrive at the budget for the year, with a "big purchase" made once a year for one section of the department.
The world is becoming ever more technology savvy everyday. As a department in an ever-progressing field such as science, we must keep providing our learners with the technological tools to succeed
Our department will promote The 12 Principles of Teaching for Quality Learning
1. Share intellectual control with students.
2. Look for occasions when students can work out part (or all) of the content or instructions.
3. Provide opportunities for choice and independent decision-making.
4. Provide diverse range of ways of experiencing success.
5. Promote talk which is exploratory, tentative and hypothetical.
6. Encourage students to learn from other students' questions and comments.
7. Build a classroom environment that supports risk-taking.
8. Use a wide variety of intellectually challenging teaching procedures.
9. Use teaching procedures that are designed to promote specific aspects of quality learning.
10. Develop students' awareness of the big picture: how various activities fit together and link to the big ideas.
11. Regularly raise students' awareness of the nature of different aspects of quality learning.
12. Promote assessment as part of the learning process.

- Principles of Teaching for Quality Learning (2013) http://educ.queensu.ca/ar/t4ql.html

- The use of netbooks, Smartboard's, Smartsync remotes and Ipad's in the classroom to accommodate learners and promote blended learning.

In order to move into this next stage of my career as a department head, I will need to possess the following characteristics.
The attributes of a leader as described by the Honour Specialist Course at Queens
When browsing the discussion boards on this topic, it is easy to see what qualities are wanted most in a leader.

They are in order:

- A Good Communicator
- An honest/ethical and fair individual
- Someone who is always striving to succeed and provides opportunities to succeed
- Is adaptable to other ideas
- Has a positive attitude
- Is a risk taker who will make decisions when needed
- Inspiring / Passionate
What Are My Attributes Of A Leader?
I feel my best attribute is that I am fair and equitable. My ability to put myself in somebody else's shoes has always shown my passion for making sure that everyone involved is progressing as much as they can. For this reason, I am very good at considering every idea put forward. I also feel that my ability to admit when I am wrong and encourage more research into the area helps maintain my respectability.

There are two attributes that I would like to improve in order to become a better leader. First, I would like to expand my thinking to accommodate a variety of different styles of learning. While I feel that I do a good job now, I know that my four years of experience leave me inept in some situations. Being thirsty for experience, immersing myself in new styles of teaching should help solve this. The second trait I would like to improve are my communication skills. While I am good at communicating when I have had time to process my answer, I find that I sometimes struggle to convey my thoughts correctly when asked a question "off the cuff". I will conquer this through preparation and experience by involving myself in more department duties so I am comfortable with more situations.
Improving Science Literacy
Understanding the terminology is very important to any topic and builds literacy skills that cross curriculum boundaries and provide essential skills for lifetime learning.

The Think Literacy Program has provided some ways to improve literacy inside the classroom including using Word Walls to show the "greater picture", so student's can see how different topics tie together.

An idea I discovered through the Think Literacy Program and was supported through my Honours course discussion forum was keeping a science journal. This journal is used to reflect on work and to analyze different scientific articles.

- http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/studentsuccess/thinkliteracy/
- A department Wiki which will house department resources, pd opportunities, a safety policy, and discussion topics for future budget items
- An interactive website (D2L or Edmodo) for each classroom that promotes online discussion, proper research from creditable sources (turnitin.com dropbox), and constant communication and feedback with students and parents
- The use of Vernier software for electronic data logging when conducting experiments.
- The use of Virtual Researcher On Call (VROC) software to provide online chats with experts in their fields on demand.

Technology Initiatives that will be promoted in our department:
Some Tips To Remember When Decision Making
Define, as specifically as possible, what the decision is that needs to be made. Is this really your decision or someone else's? Do you really need to make a decision? (If you do not have at least two options, there is no decision to be made.) When does the decision need to be made? Why is this decision important to you?

Brainstorm, and write down as many alternatives as you can think of. Be sure to use your resources (experienced friends and family, the Internet, etc.) to find out more about the implications of each option.

Visualize the outcome of each alternative. Do you feel more satisfied with one outcome than with the others?

Do a reality check. Cross off those alternatives that most likely will not occur.

Once you have made your decision, get moving on it. Worrying or second-guessing yourself will only cause stress. You have done your very best. Remember, no decision is set in stone!

- United States Small Business Administration. Making Decisions. http://www.sba.gov/content/making-decisions
And any other technology initiatives that are supported by the department!!!

Feel free to find what works for you and your class!
Some other resources include the following:
Final Thoughts:
My plan to implement leadership in my teaching practice will not be without challenges. Asking a department of experienced teachers to abandon strategies that work in favor of student-directed alternatives which they are uncomfortable with, will be a tough idea to sell. Strongly encouraging advancements in technology will mean more work for all, especially those who are uncomfortable when working with computers. Increasing communication through websites and project planning nights will ask for more time commitment from these teachers, and these ideas may not get the reception from parents that I have hoped. However I do feel that if the teachers of my department can commit themselves to trying some of these initiatives at a time, seeing what works well and what doesn't, I feel our department will grow through our experimentation in education and ultimately become a department of enhanced learning that provides alternatives of teaching in each room. It is this variety that will better prepare students for post-secondary education and the world of work than ever before.

My idea of democratic discussion when decision making will be useful to determine budgets and safety procedures, however tough decisions will need to be made. When an important call is needed, I will not have a problem making that call knowing that whoever makes the concession of their argument will not be forgotten, but instead rewarded in a later decision. My colleagues will know I am fair and confident in their abilities as teachers, and that we can succeed as a department despite any funding limitations.

This course has changed my perception of how to run a classroom and how to lead a department, expanding my knowledge base into realms which I had never explored. The vast amount of tools that I have acquired through the content and discussions will serve purpose throughout my career and provide more opportunities to improve in the future. I am excited to take this with me as I progress in my career and in life.
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