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Do you want the Science CoP to be a place where science teachers discuss issues of practice?

Science teachers -- and those who wouldn't consider themselves science teachers but who do teach adults science,

I was hoping this CoP would be a place to engage in discussion of practice and theory about teaching adults science. Were you hoping that too? If so, that will only be possible if you join in the discussion. Now is the time.

I have two questions for you, and then an update on the science videos review project:

1. Have you been thinking about -- and using -- science content standards? If so, what standards? The CCSS? The College and Career Ready (CCR) standards for adults? Your state K-12 or adult education standards? The Framework for K-12 Science Education (National Research Council [NRC], 2012 ? Something else? As at least one wag put it, our problem is not that we don't have standards; we have too many different and competing standards! So how are you dealing with this? If you like the standards you are using tell us about them, and why you like them.

2. Do you use project-based learning to teach science? There is evidence, from a recent study of the use of a project-based Inquiry science curriculum in urban middle school science education that  "Curriculum materials with opportunities to engage in science practices are shown to have a positive impact on next generation science learning outcomes." (SRI Education Results from a one-year randomized Control Trial, Technical Report, June 2014) If you use project-based learning, what do you do, and how do you use it?

As you may know, I have been working as a volunteer with a small group of volunteer science teachers here who have built an adult education science teaching (free) online videos list and who have been reviewing some of these videos. (See my earlier posts to get the web addresses for the list and the reviews.) I am also beginning to present the list and the video reviews to other adult education science teachers and professional developers in various conferences. (NCTN Open Education Resources webinar on October 21st, NCTN annual conference in November, free NJALL Webinar in Webinar, and I hope next spring at COABE in Colorado, and at the Massachusetts MCAE Network conference.) Perhaps others. It would be great to meet you at one of these. The upcoming webinars are free!

Most important to me, however, and I hope for you, is to realize the potential of this CoP for building a highly interactive community of teachers of science to adults. Now is the time. You are the one(s) to make this happen. You can start by replying to one of my earlier posts about the science videos, by replying to one or both of my questions in this post, or by raising your own questions here.

David J. Rosen


Susan K. Cowles's picture
One hundred

David, thanks for this posting.  This is a busy time of year, as many instructional programs are just beginning.  However, I hope that members of this discussion list will take the time to comment on your questions.

Project-based learning (PBL) has long been an interest of mine, and I look forward to responses from those who use PBL in instruction.  Anyone?  Successes? Failures?

Susan's picture

As I stated in my profile, I am Tutor Coordinator at YCST.  My work involves finding and training volunteer tutors for our adult learners, so that they can pass the 2014 GED.  My hope is that this course will give me ideas that I can share with tutors, knowing that they have a college degree, but are not necessarily trained to teach.  It has been my experience that GED science classes are read the passage and answer the questions.  My goal would be that tutors and teachers would use the scientific process to develop adults that think scientifically!  That is a hard sell for those teachers and tutors who feel pressure to concentrate on math and rla.  Can anyone out there help me with ways to make science more interactive and less sit and get?   

Susan K. Cowles's picture
One hundred

Hello, Beverly,

Thanks for your comments.  I agree with you that many test prep classes in adult ed used to concentrate on reading comprehension, even for science.  As you probably know, much of the GED Science assessment changed almost a year ago, so you are right in thinking about the ways in which tutors and teachers might change their teaching about science.  I am not sure from your posting if you are taking a LINCS online course already and if so, that you are responding to a question within that course as well as this thread.  If you are not reviewing a LINCS online science course, here is some information.

One quick step you might find useful is to go to the Learning Portal for LINCS online courses:  You will use the same password as you have used to come to the discussion section of LINCS.  I think that the first LINCS course, "Engaging Adult Learners in Science" would be a great way to start.  Volunteer tutors could do this at their own pace and time, or if it is possible, you might have a study circle approach whereby a few tutors come together to discuss the course and the changes in practice that the course suggests.

Engaging Adult Learners in Science: The purpose of this course is to introduce ABE and ASE instructors to the relevance and importance of science in the ABE/ASE classroom and how to incorporate scientific practices.

Scientific Practices in Context: Curricular Planning and Lesson Development: This course builds on the first science course, Engaging Adult Learners in Science, and focuses on curriculum design and lesson planning and development within the context of an adult education science unit.

Project-Based Science Instruction for Career Preparation: This course connects scientific practices to science content and the use of science in adults' daily lives, especially in work and career-related contexts.

Please let us know if you give these a try and find them useful.  If it is unlikely that tutors will do an entire course (usually a total time commitment per course of approximately 2.5 hours over whatever number of days/weeks that the participant chooses), there will be content that you will probably want to include in the tutor training that you already offer.

Cheers, Susan

Lori_Savage's picture

Hello- I have been teaching project based learning in science to Adult Basic education students for 17 years here at Rogue Community College. My background is in Biology, Genetics and I taught High School Science in Los Angeles before coming to Oregon. I have fond memories of working with you Susan on the Ocean Sciences curriculum a few years ago, and went, as an educator, to sea on your recommendation! I also teach computer and math classes. To address your questions David. 1. The curriculum I have used in class is based on the standards I started out with in K-12 and recently I have used the GED 2014 framework (Ch. 2 Assessment guide for educators) to make sure that I am covering the key components they are expected to know in my classes.  I am fortunate in that as the science teacher, I get the freedom to designate what to teach when.  I've developed three term long classes, a.Astronomy, Earth and Ocean Science, b. Life Science (Biology) and c. Physics and Chemistry. The courses all include the integral science practices, such as Reading for understanding, determining central ideas, hypotheses and conclusions, scientific thinking, analyzing data, reading and interpreting graphs, charts...etc.. And I use the various themes of the term to teach them. Your second question David, 2. Definitely yes. Projects usually are only for within one class period (1.5 hour) but I have successfully had longer projects as well- depending on the students at the time. I concur that the richest thinking for students comes when they have to investigate for themselves and then share their discoveries with others. I try to turn much of the cognitive load over to the students, though they fight it at first! (just tell us what is going to happen). An aside is that I always use short videos in class! Visualization is so important! Main problems I encounter? I often try to get too much done in a class and run out of time. I rarely use the exact same lessons and every term I come up with "fantastic" ideas that take 10x my allotted prep time to prepare. For years I've wanted to prepare curriculum to help other Adult Education teachers with science, I've experienced many rewards of students kindling a love for science and then sometimes even pursuing it for their future careers, and would love to share that. 

Susan K. Cowles's picture
One hundred


Hi, Lori,

How nice to hear from you!  For those of you who want to check out a project that Lori worked on, look for Ocean Science Station at

Lori, we would all benefit from your expertise and your years of work to bring science out of the margins of our work!  Let's explore ways in which that might be done, but in the meantime, could you please tell us more about your course on Astronomy, Earth, and Ocean Science?  Also, would it be possible for you to describe one of your one-class projects, as well as perhaps an example of one of the longer ones?  It would be so helpful to have specific examples in front of us as we talk about these issues.

Cheers, Susan's picture

Yes, I think that project Based Science makes sense for our adult learners.  Many of them are tactile/kinesthetic learners anyway.  Hands-on will help them grasp important scientific concepts.  How can I get teachers to buy into the extra work involved in project based lessons?

Susan K. Cowles's picture
One hundred


Hello, Beverly,

This is an excellent question!  It does take time to construct an activity that is based on learning through projects.  However, there are so many good examples freely available on the web, that it isn't necessary to take the time to construct one.  I'd suggest that tutors and teachers in your program be encouraged to try something, especially if it is a project that doesn't take too much time over many weeks.  Might it be possible to have a small study circle of instructors interested in trying one?  (Strength in numbers!)  They might try some of the offerings we've suggested and then discuss the experience.  I have found that the results of project-based learning are so positive for learners and instructors that people then are so enthusiastic about repeating the process.  Start small!

Are the tutors in your program there as volunteers?

What has been the experience of the rest of you in this community of practice?  Has there been a lot of resistance to trying project-based learning?  Have your programs offered professional development on the practice? 



Glenda Rose's picture
One hundred


When I was in my Adult ED ESOL classroom, I often used  project-based learning with science.  I did so for various reasons, not the least of which is that I wanted my students to know what was involved in a science fair project so that they would be equipped to help their kiddos.  We had various science projects, but the one that really sticks out was on the growth rate of plants under different conditions.  They chose WAY too many variables (light, container, soil type), so we had to talk about scientific concepts like hypothesis testing, confounding variables, and correlates.  If you look closely at their final presentation, you'll notice that it's not put together exactly in the right order.  That's mainly because this was a "teacher as guide" project, and I only intervened when I was asked to do so.  Here's the link to my Dropbox:

There were also several mini-PBL experiments on different scientific topics that came up through our theme-based approach to ESL: absorption and reflection of heat, vacuums, how seeds grow, greenhouse effect, sound waves... I can't remember them all.

Interestingly, I found that the English we used during our science lessons caused students to focus more on content and be less concerned about their English, which means they spoke more, wrote more, and were more engaged overall. 

I've kept some of the materials on a Pinterest board (a great place to get all kinds of things for the classroom, including experiment ideas, project ideas, and graphic organizers):

Glenda L. Rose
PD Center Specialist
Texas Research-based Adult Instruction Network


Susan K. Cowles's picture
One hundred

Hi, Glenda,

Thanks for sharing your experiences with project based learning science projects in ESOL.  I can certainly understand how learners would "forget" they were in an ESOL class when they were so engaged in a project as you describe.  I have had a similar experience, in that students "forgot" (or lost their fear) that they were using math skills.  Perhaps it was because they could see the connection between the content and the need to use math.   As in your case where the students needed to communicate in English to participate in the project, other students needed to use math skills, but the focus was on the content and the skills were developed anyway.

Thanks also for your connection to your Pinterest board.  I like the sheet you have posted that compares project-based learning with problem-based learning.  Both have important places in teaching and learning.

It would be great to hear from others about their about writing in?