Science Teaching Series

Internet Resources

I. Developing Scientific Literacy

II. Developing Scientific Reasoning

III. Developing Scientific Understanding

IV. Developing Scientific Problem Solving

V. Developing Scientific Research Skills

VI. Resources for Teaching Science


Source: PACT Handbook - Science Teaching Event Candidate Handbook 2008-2009; Performance Assessment for Calfiornia Teachers

Academic Language:  Academic language is the language needed by students to understand and communicate in the academic disciplines.  Academic language includes such things as specialized vocabulary, conventional text structures within a field (e.g., essays, lab reports) and other language-related activities typical of classrooms, (e.g., expressing disagreement, discussing an issue, asking for clarification).  Academic language includes both productive and receptive modalities (see below).

Assessment:  Evidence teachers collect of student prior knowledge, thinking, or learning in order to evaluate what students understand and how they are thinking.  Informal assessments include such things as student questions and responses during instruction and teacher observations of students as they work.  Formal assessments may include such things as quizzes, homework assignments, lab reports, papers, journals, and projects.

Central focus:  The target of the student learning that the standards, learning objectives, instructional tasks, and assessments within a learning segment are intended to produce.  A central focus can be expressed by a theme, overarching concept, or essential question. 

Curriculum content:  The student learning that is expected to occur, including various areas of knowledge, e.g., facts, concepts, procedures, methods of inquiry and making judgments.

Engaging students in learning:  When students are actively increasing their knowledge, skills, and abilities related to the learning objectives for the lesson.  This is in contrast to participating in learning tasks where the students complete the activities, but little learning takes place because the tasks are not well-designed and/or implemented.

English Language Development standards:  The standards in the English-Language Development Standards for California Public Schools (California Department of Education).  This document organizes standards for English Learners in reading, writing, speaking, and listening in English according to sequential stages of development of English proficiency.  It is intended to identify what English Learners must know and be able to do as they move toward full fluency in English.

Guiding question:  Questions used by PACT to identify the focus of each rubric, i.e., what it measures about the candidate’s teaching practice as documented in the Teaching Event.  Each rubric level descriptor provides an answer to the related guiding question at a different level of performance.  (See Rubric level descriptor)

Language Demands:  In the context of learning in classrooms, language demands are descriptions of the language students need to effectively participate in classroom tasks.  This includes demands related to listening, speaking, reading, writing, and shifting between those modalities.  These demands can be vocabulary, features of text-types, and other language demands (e.g., sharing ideas with a partner, listening to instructions).  The degree of language demand also varies with the cognitive complexity of the content, a student’s current language development, a student’s relevant knowledge and experience, and the context in which the language demand occurs (e.g., participating in a discussion with or without notes).  Teachers can draw upon students’ language strengths (including language abilities in another language or context) and supply scaffolds to enable students to understand or produce language beyond their current level of mastery.

Learning Objectives:  Student learning outcomes to be achieved by the end of the lesson. See chapter 6.

Learning Segment:  A set of lessons that build one upon another toward a central purpose, with a clearly defined beginning and end.

Learning Tasks:  Purposefully designed activities in which students engage (not just participate – see Engagement in Learning) to meet the learning objectives for the lesson.

Productive modalities:  Ways that students communicate to others, e.g., speaking, writing, drawing.  Assessment of productive modalities focuses on student communication of their own understanding or interpretation.  Examples of students’ demonstration of productive abilities with respect to understanding curriculum content are writing an analysis, drawing and labeling a scale model, sculpting a figure from clay.

Receptive modalities:  Ways that students receive communications from others, e.g., listening, reading, viewing.  Assessment of receptive modalities focuses on student communication of their understanding of the meaning of communications from others.  Because this is done through a productive modality, assessment of students’ skills and abilities with respect to receptive modalities is not as straightforward as that of productive modalities.  Examples of students’ demonstration of receptive abilities with respect to curriculum content are using tonal qualities of voice to help convey meaning from a passage read aloud, restating a classmate’s comment, describing how the key and tempo of a piece of music set a mood.

Redesignated English Learners:  Students whose primary language is other than English and who have been reclassified from English Learners to Fluent English Proficient (FEP) by meeting district criteria for English proficiency.

Routines and working structures:  Regular processes for conducting activities within a classroom.  Once they are established, the rules and norms for routines and working structures are understood by the teacher and students and help classroom activities flow efficiently.  Examples are roles during groupwork, how students signal that they have a question, procedures for taking turns during discussions, norms for what the rest of the class does when the teacher is working with a small group, types of questions expected to be asked when exploring a problem.

Rubric level descriptor:  The text that describes performance at a particular rubric level.

Scaffolding:  A special type of instructional support to allow students to do a task that they cannot yet do independently.  Like scaffolding for buildings under construction, the support is designed to be temporary and to be removed or gradually reduced as students learn to do the task by themselves.

Student academic content standards:  A set of knowledge, skills, and abilities that students are to learn by the end of a particular grade, grade level, or course.  California’s student academic content standards are published by the California Department of Education.  They guide curriculum and instruction in California public schools.