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Equity. Access. Excellence.

Professional Development for Science Educators

Effective teacher practice is refined through a structured, collaborative effort among teachers within the school system.

We offer professional learning sessions to deepen science teacher knowledge of pedagogy and content and sessions to guide district leaders to effectively support this type of teaching. Our professional development protocols assume that good teaching can be learned, and that such learning depends on district structures that facilitate ongoing professional learning.

Contact us at dana-k12@austin.utexas.edu to learn more about how we can bring these professional learning sessions to you.

Science Professional Learning Sessions

  • A Framework for K-12 Science Education

    In this session, you will gain a working knowledge of the most current research on what every student should know about science, reflecting on ways that research guides science educators in efforts to ensure equity and access for all students.

    Through a series of engaging activities and conversations, you will learn key instructional practices to support students’ understanding of scientific knowledge and to apply recurring themes as a bridge among science disciplines. You will explore ways to build an organizational framework to support students’ enduring understanding of science and also consider how research-based progressions of core ideas can support instructional decisions.

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  • Elementary Science TEKS: From Standards to Assessment

    Today’s educational system requires teachers to use standards to inform instruction and assessment. However, navigating multiple sets of standards for a variety of subjects can be daunting for elementary teachers.

    In this two-day session, K–5 educators will study the structure of the science TEKS to build a deeper understanding of what standards require students to know and be able to do in elementary science. Participants will also engage in a structured process that allows for collaborative study and use of the standards to guide decisions around teaching, learning, and assessment.

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  • Middle School Science TEKS: From Standards to Assessment

    In this session, middle school educators will learn how to use a set of structured tools to strengthen alignment through collaborative conversations focused on the middle school science TEKS. Using these tools, teachers will explore how to use the standards effectively to guide decisions around teaching, learning, and assessment.

    Educators will collaborate with fellow participants to deepen their understanding of the structure of the standards by identifying the purpose of the four components that make up a standard and how each of the components relates to one another. Session participants will apply their understanding of the structure of the standards to decisions made about instruction and assessment. They will write student success criteria that are aligned to the middle school standards, using a process designed to intentionally integrate science practices and science concepts.

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  • Biology TEKS: From Standards to Assessment

    Biology educators will learn how to use a set of structured tools to strengthen alignment through collaborative conversations focused on the biology TEKS. Using these tools, participants will explore how to use the standards effectively to guide decisions around teaching, learning, and assessment.

    Participants will collaborate to deepen their understanding of the structure of the standards by identifying the purpose of the four components that make up a standard and how each of the components relates to each other. Participants will also apply their understanding of the structure of the standards to decisions made about instruction and assessment. Using a process designed to intentionally integrate science practices and science concepts, participants will write student success criteria that are aligned to the biology standards.

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  • Systems Thinking in Biology

    Several important themes pervade all domains of science. Known as recurring themes in the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS), they help students develop a coherent and scientifically based view of the natural world. Among these themes are systems, patterns, scale and proportion, structure and function, cause and effect, energy and matter, and change and constancy. Incorporating a systems approach in science teaching and learning allows students to investigate and make sense of the complex world by defining it in terms of these recurring themes.

    In this session, you will investigate the application of research-based recurring themes, which provide students with an organizational framework for making connections that promote deep understanding of topics in high school biology. You will engage in a series of inquiry-based activities designed to highlight the use of these recurring themes in biological systems.

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  • STAAR Biology: Assessment Activities for the Texas Readiness Standards

    In this session, you will learn an effective strategy for preparing students for the biology end-of-course exam under the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) system. This strategy centers on the Dana Center publication STAAR Biology: Assessment Activities for the Texas Readiness Standards, which provides hands-on biology assessment activities and gives students the opportunity to review content in all 16 biology readiness standards that are tested on the end-of-course exam.

    You will engage in some of the assessment activities and learn techniques for successfully implementing the teaching strategies embedded in STAAR Biology, including an “at-a-glance” strategy for monitoring student progress. Students’ performance on these activities will give you valuable insight into how well they understand the content assessed on STAAR, which will guide you in adjusting instruction to improve student achievement.

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  • Physical Science: From Planning to Assessment

    This session offers professional learning experiences that are rooted in teaching middle school physical science concepts. Participants will explore recent research about teaching and learning physical science, and will analyze the physical science TEKS to determine how they should be used to guide planning, instruction, and assessment. Common physical science topics will be discussed, including:

    • Chemical Reactions
    • Force and Motion
    • The Periodic Table
    • Properties of Elements

    Science educators will also engage in student-friendly, hands-on lessons that cover key middle school physical science standards. In addition, they will explore how scientific practices can enhance and deepen student learning.

    The session will provide opportunities for active learning of new teaching strategies, the use of resources that are designed to support student learning of key physical science content, and collaboration with peers. During this two-day session, participants will consider the impact that integrating physical science content, scientific practices, and recurring themes can have on student learning.

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  • Scientific Argumentation

    Success in science requires analytical and critical thinking skills as students observe events and processes; synthesize information; understand charts, graphs, and diagrams; and make sense of specialized vocabulary used in science. It is important to build students’ capacity for effective argumentation and explanatory writing in science as they make and defend claims, demonstrate what they know, or describe events and processes they have read about or observed. Students must also distinguish unsubstantiated opinion from claims supported by evidence.

    In this two-day session designed for secondary science educators, participants will engage in scientific tasks with a focus on specific skills central to writing and defending scientific arguments, reporting findings of investigations, and synthesizing research while attending to the credibility of the research sources.

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  • Understanding Chemistry: Formative Assessment Activities for the Texas Standards

    In this session, you will learn an effective strategy for assessing student understanding of the Chemistry TEKS.

    This strategy centers on the Dana Center publication STAAR Chemistry: Assessment Activities for the Texas Readiness Standards, which provides hands-on chemistry assessment activities that give students the opportunity to review the content in the chemistry standards.

    Students’ performance on these activities will give you valuable insight into how well they understand the content, which will guide you in adjusting instruction to improve student achievement.

    You will engage in some of the assessment activities, and you will learn techniques for successfully implementing the teaching strategies embedded in STAAR Chemistry, including an “at-a-glance” strategy for monitoring student progress.

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  • Teaching Energy for Deeper Understanding

    Energy is an integral part of our everyday lives, but it is an abstract concept that can be difficult to understand and teach. In this session, you will deepen your understanding of energy, focusing on energy in living and nonliving systems, the difference between energy and forces, tracking energy transfer, and different ways to represent complex scientific ideas. You will engage in a series of inquiry-based investigations designed to challenge your current understanding of energy, and you will use scientific argumentation to make sense of the science.

    The content addressed in this session is directly connected to the science TEKS content standards on Force, Motion, and Energy and Matter and Energy.

    While the resource is written for Grades 6–8, it has been used to deepen the science content knowledge of teachers from kindergarten through high school.

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  • Teaching Matter for Deeper Understanding

    In this session, you will deepen your understanding of matter, focusing on the physical and chemical properties of matter, the Periodic Table of Elements, chemical formulas, density, chemical equations, and the atom. You will engage in a series of inquiry-based investigations, and you will use scientific argumentation to gain a deeper understanding of matter and of the interactions among various types of matter.

    While the resource is written for Grades 6–8, it has been used to deepen the science content knowledge of teachers from kindergarten through high school.

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  • Using Formative Assessment to Guide Instruction – Grades K–5

    Research shows that well-planned formative assessment is one of the most effective strategies for improving student achievement. This session offers an in-depth examination of the characteristics of effective formative assessment and provides opportunities to engage in a variety of techniques to gather data and assess student learning quickly and effectively.

    In this session, you will use a set of Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for Science from a sample unit of study and apply a simple process to develop a learning progression and determine key points within the unit to assess student understanding of concepts in science. In addition, you will examine formative assessment data to determine appropriate adjustments to instruction that can improve student understanding of concepts in science.

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  • Using Recurring Themes to Improve Science Teaching and Learning – Grades K–5

    Several important themes pervade all domains of science. Known as recurring themes in the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS), they help students develop a coherent and scientifically based understanding of the natural world. Among these themes are systems and system models; patterns; cause and effect; scale, proportion, and quantity; energy and matter; structure and function; and stability and change.

    In this session, participants will explore the recurring themes, identify where the recurring themes are evident in the standards, investigate the themes’ role in science teaching and learning, and consider how integrating these themes into science teaching and learning leads to deeper understanding and application of science content.

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Collaborative Online Professional Learning

Engage with experts and educators with our collaborative online courses for professional learning. These sessions are more than a webinar. They are an interactive and engaging learning experience.

Learn more