Noted local educator backs new MI science teaching standards

Nov 12, 2015

From Kindergarten through 12th grade, Michigan is adopting new standards for teaching science. One Lansing area educator supports the standards. Current State speaks with the Ingham Intermediate School District’s Rob Stephenson.

State leaders have set what seems to be a lofty goal for Michigan’s K-12 science students. By 2022, officials want 85 percent of them to be proficient in the subject. We have quite a way to go. Two years ago, more than 80 percent of Michigan’s elementary and middle school students failed the science portion of the old MEAP test.

Many Michigan educators are confident that new standards, formally approved on Tuesday by the State Board of Education, will lead to greater science proficiency.

The new standards are aimed at getting young learners to think more like scientists.

Current State talks with a supporter of the new science teaching standards. Rob Stephenson is a former Michigan Teacher of the Year. He’s a science, technology, engineering and math consultant for the Ingham Intermediate School District.


 What will change about how we teach science in Michigan schools?

 If you think about traditional science… a teacher may ask a question, the students respond…either ‘yes’ or ‘no’ with an evaluative response.

 What we’re going to be seeing (is) the kids are going to be looking at phenomenon. They’re going to try to grapple with the meaning of that phenomenon without information just being handed to them. The students are really doing the heavy lifting as they’re trying to understand these phenomenon…asking questions and developing explanations for what is that they’re seeing. 

Why is instruction involving real-world examples more important now than it was in the past?

What we’ve discovered is if we want students to really understand science, they have to ‘do’ science. But what these standards are asking is how we’re going to go deeper and make sure that the students really understand the connections for the content itself so they can understand and explain that phenomenon and even identify it in other examples in the natural world. 
Many Michigan students are failing science.  Are you confident that these standards will make an impact?
It really is a matter of shifting the way we are teaching the science and giving experiences for students, so that they can construct an explanation, so that they can develop a model on an assessment, which is vastly different from a fill in the blank or multiple choice or something memorized on assessment previously.  We have to be patient and optimistic at the same time.