Do You Teach in a Phenomenal Classroom?

What does your science classroom look or sound like? Are you using phenomena to engage students in learning? Are your students compelled to want to figure things out in the science classroom? When a school or district contacts the AIMS Center to help them with their professional learning program in science, we start by asking these three basic questions.

Science classrooms need to be places where students are engaged in learning, and where learning is delivered in a way that piques their inquisitiveness and allows them to ask questions. Teachers should facilitate learning opportunities that provide students with authentic experiences that help to make sense of meaningful phenomena, questions, and problems.

Phenomena is defined as a fact, occurrence, or circumstance observed or observable.  These can be introduced in a variety of ways. First of all, they need to be engaging and to be the initial hook that grabs students’ attention. As educators, we must critically evaluate the phenomena that we present. Whether the phenomena is a discrepant or discrete event doesn’t necessarily matter, but it needs to be the thread that runs through an entire science lesson or unit. In other words, make the phenomena good. Is it an interesting connection or a storyline that compels students to figure things out?

Science classroom phenomena work well when they are the driving force of the learning, and phenomena should always be used in a purposeful way. If every student is exposed to the same phenomena, then we have a level playing field. The commonality is that the curriculum is open and viewed equally. Each student can see how the science they are studying is relevant. Curriculum that is relevant to every student creates an atmosphere of buy-in. Students can identify with their learning and they will want to learn.

So, ask yourself these three questions: What does your science classroom look or sound like? Are you using phenomena to engage students in learning? Are your students compelled to want to figure things out in the science classroom? Kudos to you if you answered yes to all of the above, but if your answer was no, make it your goal to teach in a “phenomenal” science classroom.

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