Developing Learning Experiences to Promote Enduring Understanding in the Physical Sciences

The High School Earth/Environmental Science, Chemistry and Physics Groups of NISMED conducted a professional development program for 34 Physical Science Teachers of Regional Science High Schools on April 20-24, 2009 at the Science Teacher Training Center (STTC), UP NISMED. This program was designed specifically for physical sciences teachers of regional science high schools. The content of the course was holistic and integrative to enable these teachers to use the backward design model. The model enabled the teachers to break away from teaching that is grounded in textbook coverage only, which leaves students with a superficial grasp of key science ideas and with misunderstandings about what teachers thought they had learned.

Dr. Amelia Punzalan orients the participants regarding the training program.

The program provided opportunities for the participants to: (1) become aware of the “enduring” understandings that will anchor a physical science teaching unit, i.e., the big ideas at the heart of the discipline having enduring value beyond the classroom which are based on the six facets of understanding (explain, interpret, apply, perspective, empathy and self-knowledge); (2) recognize and critique essential questions, which provide the focus and direction for sustaining inquiry and for organizing meaningful and connected learning, as part of instructional units; (3) determine acceptable evidence that students have attained the desired understanding and proficiencies before proceeding to plan teaching and learning experiences; (4) plan learning experiences and instruction organized around enduring understandings and their essential questions; (5) work collaboratively and cooperatively with others to solve problems and arrive at a collective decision; (6) undertake independent study and develop good time management; (7) present their draft unit plans before the class for feedback; and (8) correct their own misconceptions during the discussions and sharing of feedback.

Sessions for the five-day program were conducted in two modes: plenary and workshops. The outputs of the participants were unit plans in their respective science subject area which included assessment tasks with accompanying rubrics to assess performance standards.