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Designing Effective Science Instruction: What Works in Science Classrooms by Anne Tweed
Review by Ernest Lilley
NSTA Press Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781935155065
Date: 14 October 2009 List Price $30.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

Better science education has been the battle cry of innovators and politicians alike for ever since Sputnik stole a march on our space program. using a content, understanding and environment (CUE) model, author Anne Tweed offers an abundance of practical ideas on how to delineate important content, engage and involve students with the subject and create an environment where teachers and students are willing to invest themselves in learning.

Designing Effective Science Instruction sets out to do something about the sad fact that students are often turned off by science, robbing the world of the bright young minds it needs to meet the future's challenges, and the students of the experience of understanding how science works and the awareness that science isn't just something geniuses and dorks do...it's for everyone.

From the book:

1. What essential learning are you including in your lessons and unit of study? (Content-C)
2. What learning experiences will you provide to develop student conceptual understanding? (Understanding--U)
3. How will you and our students support a positive classroom environment that supports learning by all students? (Environment-E)
The DESI (Designing Effective Science Instruction) approach has three parts: Content, Understanding, and Environment. I'm surprised that the authors resisted the impulse to make that the 3 Cs of science: Content, comprehension, and confidence...because it that's what the approach boils down to in the end.

The book encourages teachers to put science in context, presenting the big picture to provide a framework for facts, which in turn allows the student to explore the interrelatedness of concepts, and ultimately to have confidence in their ability to understand science. First, though, the teacher has to believe that it's possible, and this is just the book to do the job. It's full of step by step design tips for creating lesson plans, doing assessments of comprehension, and managing the tension between teaching students to be "metacognitive" science thinkers, while succeeding in a metric driven scoring system.

DESI has an extremely systematic approach to getting teachers over the hurdles they fact in teaching science in an environment where they're pushed to engage all the students, not just the ones for whom a particular subject or style of teaching comes naturally. The author provides an excellent blend of theoretical framework and solid example, and its clear that she's taking her own advice, beginning with the belief that teachers can learn to be effective in developing both the next generation of scientists, whether they're professionals in labs, or citizen scientists wondering about the world they live in.

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