available and adapting them to meet their own students’ needs. They planned to build a coherent and increasingly sophisticated set of units around a central concept in science that they would all explore together, in grade-level teams, with one unit to be undertaken in the fall and another in the spring. That way they could compare notes across the grades, focusing on a multiweek unit, examining what their students know and can do in each successive grade, and building up concepts over years rather than weeks. They would track what worked and what didn’t, sharing materials and techniques and maintaining an ongoing, schoolwide conversation.
The teachers and staff at Rosa Parks weren’t starting entirely from scratch. In their preparation they drew on many excellent national reports, such as the National Science Education Standards, Inquiry and the National Science Education Standards, Selecting Instructional Materials, and Benchmarks for Science Literacy. Ms. Goldenada often started breakfast meetings by passing around a photocopied vignette from one of these reports. Everyone would read the vignette and discuss it in light of ongoing work and the school’s science goals. That way the teachers would continue learning, from year to year, along with their kids.
Strong instructional leaders like Ms. Goldenada appreciate the complexity of teaching science well and create regular, recurring opportunities for their staff to build their knowledge and skill. There are many ways to build teachers’ knowledge and skill in addition to the school-level efforts described above. Opportunities for teacher learning can also be organized in university- or museum-based courses, teacher study groups, and mentoring. However it is organized, it is important to note that teacher learning is focused on important conceptual goals and that it encompasses features of productive teacher learning environments.
To teach science well, teachers must draw on a body of knowledge that can be divided into three broad, partially overlapping categories: knowledge of science, knowledge of how students learn science, and knowledge of how to teach science effectively.
In order to teach effectively, the teacher must first understand the subject being taught. There is a growing body of evidence that what a teacher knows about science influences the quality of instruction and has a powerful effect on the success and type of discussions that teachers can engage in and sustain with students. It is important to pay close attention to the particular things teachers