Theory and Research in Teaching Secondary School Science


Fall 2008


Instructor:                 Mike G. Rivas, Ph.D.

Classroom:                ED 1130

Class Time:               Wed. 7:00 PM – 9:50 PM

Telephone:                Office 818.677.6792

                                    Cell    818.355.0013


Office Hours:                        Tue. 3-4 p.m., Wed. 7 -8 p.m., and by appointment

                                    ED 2115A Student lab code 0538845


Required Texts        

Š      Buckingham, Marcus, Clifton, Donald, O. (2001).  Now, Discover Your Strengths.  The Free Press. (must be new)


Recommended Texts


Š      American Psychological Association.  2001.  Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (5th edition).  Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.  You can also use APA format at

Š      Science California Academic Content Standards.  (Download at http:/ if needed)





The faculty of the Michael D. Eisner College of Education, regionally focused and nationally recognized, is committed to Excellence through Innovation.  We believe excellence includes the acquisition of professional knowledge, skills, and dispositions and is demonstrated by the growth and renewal of ethical and caring professionals - faculty, staff, candidates - and those they serve.  Innovation occurs through collaborative partnerships among communities of diverse learners who engage in creative and reflective thinking.  To this end we continually strive to achieve the following competencies and values that form the foundation of the Conceptual Framework.


  1. We value academic excellence in the acquisition of professional knowledge and skills.
  2. We value the use of evidence for the purposes of monitoring candidate growth, determining the impact of our programs, and informing ongoing program and unit renewal.  To this end we foster a culture of evidence.
  3. We value ethical practice and what it means to become ethical and caring professionals.
  4. We value collaborative partnerships within the College of Education as well as across disciplines with other CSUN faculty, P-12 faculty, and other members of regional and national educational and service communities.
  5. We value diversity in styles of practice and are united in a dedication to acknowledging, learning about, and addressing the varied strengths, interests, and needs of communities of diverse learners.
  6. We value creative and reflective thinking and practice.




Attendance Policy


            Attendance and participation are crucial components of this course.  Ideas presented in class by the instructor and your colleagues need to be heard and critiqued for individual and collective growth to take place.  If you will be absent, it is your responsibility to make prior contact me.


Make-up Policy


Assignments are due at the time designated on WebCT.  Late work will not be accepted though the professor reserves the right to make individual decisions based on extenuating circumstances so that some credit can be earned.  As a developed practice, the professor will hold off making a final determination regarding the specific issue until the end of class when a track record or pattern of behavior can be ascertained.  That record will help determine whether the work will be accepted.


Plagiarism Policy


            Cheating or plagiarism on a test or other assignment will result in automatic failure on that specific item and possible failure in the course.  In addition, there will be a referral to the Academic Ethics Committee.  Never forget that character counts in the Big


Professional Expectations


As a student in a graduate class, you are expected to exhibit the behaviors of professional educators and professional students. This includes active and positive participation in class. Students are expected to treat their fellow students, the faculty, and guests with respect and courtesy. This also relates to the use of cell phones, pagers, computers, and other electronic devices.  Class should only be interrupted by emergencies.






Email is the best means of communication on campus.  Please check your CSUN account regularly (you can have it forwarded to another account if desired).  Though email is quite effective, please do not think we will get an instant response, especially over the weekend.  I will attempt to get back to you within 48-72 hours or sooner.



Instructional Philosophy and Course Overview


Content Description


            This course will examine the present status, recent developments, and current trends in science education. Emphasis will be given to the identification and evaluation of concepts resulting from recent research for inclusion in the secondary school science program. Consideration will be given to research studies dealing with the rationale and structure of significant new approaches to science teaching.


Student Learning Outcomes for MA Programs:  Secondary Education MA Candidates will develop as professional educators who demonstrate:


1.  REFLECTIVE PRACTICE by critically examining their subject knowledge, pedagogical content knowledge, and pedagogical skills to improve their diverse students’ learning;

2.  THEORETICAL UNDERSTANDING by reading, synthesizing, and evaluating educational theory and research in their field and applying research findings to their practice in diverse classroom settings;

4.  EDUCATIONAL AWARENESS by knowing current discipline-based and current general educational issues and how those impact schools; and


Classroom Norms


1.  You are expected to come to class prepared to discuss topics critically, having finished all reading, writing, and group assignments before class.

2.  You are expected to become part of a community of lifelong learners: to express ideas clearly, to help those in need, and to ask questions when in doubt.

3.  You are to show respect to the learning community and to value your classmates. We challenge ideas not people.

4.  The goal of education is to learn to think and this class will provide opportunities to continue on that journey.


Scope and Sequence of Course in this Program


            This is your first course in the MA in Science Education program. During this course, we will work on enhancing your ability to analyze research through the examination of key issues related to teaching and learning in the secondary science classroom.  You will be given the freedom in this course to choose topics of interest related to the teaching and learning of science.  Each assignment is planned to insure breadth in your readings and for the explicit purpose of preparing you to read, write, and think as a graduate student.  APA style formatting will be used throughout the course to improve your ability to write as a merging scholar and prepare you to publish your action research.


Assignments and Assessments


            This course includes class participation and quizzes (as needed), short papers, panel work, current events, etc.  All assignments must be typed, double-spaced and submitted on WebCT at the appropriate due date. Each assignment or set of assignments is worth the listed points.  Grade will be determined by points earned/points possible.  Distribution is as follows:


1.  Class participation and quizzes                         10 pts.          

2.  Issue Paper                                                        20 pts.          

3.  Group Panel                                                       20 pts.          

4.  Conference Paper                                               20 pts.          

5.  Current Topics (4 @10)                                    40 pts.                      

6.  Final Project                                                       20 pts.          



A = Outstanding   The grade of “A” is reserved for those students whose performance is truly outstanding.  Performance reflects an outstanding level of competency attainment -- including critical analyses, information syntheses, and application of theory and research to practice.  Projects and exams are comprehensive, thoughtful, well organized, and clearly written.

B = Average   Performance surpasses a basic level of competency attainment, understanding, and skill, and indicates an ability to integrate and apply information.

C = Below average   Performance meets expectations for a basic level of competency attainment and understanding.

C- or Below = Unsatisfactory.  Performance does not meet expectations for a basic level of competency attainment and understanding. 


 Class participation and quizzes


            As mentioned previously, your participation is vital for the success of the class. You will be asked to help determine your participation grade during the semester through self reflection supported by evidence.  This will give you the opportunity to make adjustments as needed.  Quizzes will only be used if necessary and will be averaged in at the end.  I do not expect to need them, but I must be prepared in order for us to reach our goals.


Issue Paper


You will write a short paper in this class.  It will be an analysis/critique paper that will be 4-6 pages.  During the course, you will be exposed to many current, and sometimes, controversial issues that may ignite a certain interest within you.  You will be allowed to choose the topic and do additional research in order to satisfy the desire to know more.  The topic must be approved by the professor in advance (Week 11) or will not be accepted.  Use of a minimum of 6 outside sources with appropriate citation is required.  It must follow APA format




            You will be participating in a group panel that will debate a predetermined issue.  The professor will place you on these panels and assign topics and dates.  Each panel member will be responsible for writing an informational, 2-page position paper on the topic and the group will be responsible for conducting an educating activity that reflects advance thought.  You may use this paper or any notes during your interaction with the class, but do not read your presentation.  Use of a minimum of two outside sources is mandatory for outstanding work.  You will be graded on the paper and your part in the debate.  Do not forget we value people and challenge ideas! Expect an active exchange of ideas.  For some of you to be successful in this activity, you will have to move outside your comfort zone.  That is okay; I have never had a student become dysfunctional because of that.  Remember to make this activity concise and engaging...everyone in the class will appreciate it.  The purpose of this activity is to expose you to a range of issues related to teaching and increase your ability to articulate your thoughts orally and in writing.  The panel topics are listed below by number.  The bold words are the key concept being addressed.  The actual phrasing of the sentence may change after class discussion.  Each side must provide me with a supporting article for your colleagues to read one week ahead of time so that I can post it on WebCT.


 Panel Topics                                                                                                    


1. Inquiry is the most effect way to teach science.

2. Differentiated instruction is the most successful way to teach secondary science.

3. Reflective teaching practice is the most powerful tool to improve teaching and learning.

4.Student collaboration is the most effective way students learn. 


Time frame of debate


Introduction        2-3 minutes each side

Body                 6-9 minutes each side

Q&A                 10-12 minutes Class

Close                2-3 minutes each side


Current Topics


You are required to write 4 responses to current topics.  The first will be on any topic in secondary science education and can come from any common source such as daily newspapers and weekly magazines.  The final three articles will be original research reporting articles from current, respected periodicals, which deal with specific, predetermined topics in secondary education.  Appropriate sources are journals like Science Education, Journal of Science Teacher Education, Journal of Research in Science Teaching, and The Science Teacher.  As with all your work, you will use APA style and the 2-page response will be submitted on WebCT.  This response should include a brief summary, analysis of the research conducted (i.e. analysis would include the strengths and weaknesses of the research protocol, how research was conducted), and reflection (your thoughts on the content/findings relating to its usefulness to you as an science educator) of the article.  The analysis and personal reflection should constitute the majority of the response.  This activity is designed to increase your ability to recognize and conduct quality research. It  will also improve your level of discernment and thus make you a wiser consumer of educational research.  You will  also be building a literature review base.


Conference Attendance and Reflection


            You will attend a science conference for science teachers during this semester.  Based on that attendance, you will submit a two-page analysis of a specific presentation you attended.  The analysis will include a brief summary, an evaluation of the research (strengths, weaknesses, and suggestions), and a personal application response.  Include a copy of the paper presented if it is available.




            You will videotape yourself teaching and write a reflection where you describe what is taking place and then analyze the effectiveness of your teaching.  In the analysis, I want you to answer the questions, “Are students learning during this teaching segment and what evidence do you have of their learning” and then reflect on the experience of videotaping yourself.  The reflection is an opportunity to synthesize ideas from the class and to consider your teaching strengths, explore what you might do differently, and discuss how you might use your current understanding of students’ learning to plan future lessons. 


Course Topics (Tentative), Assignments, and Readings


Week 1            8/27                 Topic:             Community Building/Class and Program                                                                                Intro/Syllabus/Panel Selection


Week 2            9/3                   Topic:             Classroom Community/Library

                                                Assignment: Find CTs and Panel sources


Week 3            9/10                 Topic:             Nature of Science Activity/Faculty Intro                                                       Assignment: CT #1

                                                Reading:        Self-Fulfilling Prophecy (WebCT)


Week4             9/17                 Topic:             Nature of Science/Faculty Intro/APA                                                                        Assignment:

                                                Reading:        Article AAAS- Chp. 1


Week 5            9/24                 Topic:             Student Strengths, Part I/APA                                                                       Assignment: Panel #1

                                                Reading:        NDS - Chps. 1-3


Week 6            10/1                 Topic:             Student Strengths, Part II/APA

                                                Assignment:   Take Internet Survey, CT# 2

                                                Reading:        NDS - Chps. 5-7


Week 7            10/8                 Topic:             Misconceptions in Science

                                                Assignment:   Panel # 2

                                                Reading:        Gardner – Unschooled Mind

                                                                        Article McComas- Myths


Week 8            10/15               Topic:             How People Learn, Part I,                                                                              Assignment: CE # 3, Jig Saw Prep

                                                Reading:        HPL Assigned Chapter


Week 9            10/22               Topic:             How People Learn, Part II

                                                Assignment: Panel # 3, Jig Saw Prep

                                                Reading:        HPL Assigned Chapter


Week 10          10/29               Topic:             CSTA Conference                                                                                                         


Week 11          11/5                 Topic:             Gender Learning Differences  , Part I,                                                            Conference Discussion          

Assignment: Issue Paper Topic, CE #4

                                                Reading:        Gurian - Chps. 1-2


Week 12          11/12               Topic:             Gender Learning Differences, Part II

Assignment: Panel # 4, Conference Reflection

                                                Reading:        Gurian - Chps. 5-6


Week 13          11/19               Topic:             Lesson Design in Science Teaching (Video)

                                                Assignment: Video Reflection, Panel #5 (if needed)



Week 14          11/26               Thanksgiving Reflection


Week 15          12/3                 Topic:             Paper Presentations (cont. next week if                                                                                 needed)

Assignment: Issue Paper


Week 16          12/10               Topic:             Video Viewing and Discussion