It is hard to believe that two years has gone by so quickly. At the same time, it seems like it has been eons since I started this program. I have grown a lot as an educator, having gone through this challenging and rewarding process known as the masters in science education cohort. I can still remember first semester, Professor Rivas talking about the “big rocks” in our life and how we have to prioritize what it is we really need. I put this program high on my list of priorities and in doing so, I made many sacrifices in order to successfully complete this program. In exchange for these sacrifices, I gained an immense amount of knowledge and practice in science education. Now, I confidently call myself a professional educator.
As I think back on all the activities and projects that I completed over the past two years I am astounded that I was able to complete them all in that short amount of time. From researching, analyzing and presenting current educational research and theory I gained not only a sense of the past educational techniques, but new strategies to improve the quality of student learning in my classroom. Presenting information for the panel discussions in Professor Rivas’s class with other students gave me new insights and perspectives into key areas of education. One of the strongest benefits of the masters program for me was collaborating with colleagues within the cohort. I gained innumerable ideas and guidance from the vast experience of my colleagues. In preparing for the many papers, panels and presentations in class, I have not only become a better researcher, but my overall understanding of student learning has increased greatly.
One key idea from Professor Foley’s class that has really taken root in my pedagogy is that students begin as novice learners and have many misconceptions that are necessary steps to learning. By creating situations that allow them to be educational apprentices to a more advanced learner we help guide them toward becoming expert learners. I have already begun making some of these changes in my teaching approach within my classroom. I have increased collaborative assignments, and increased inquiry based labs. I have begun to use virtual labs and simulations as reinforcement tools of complex laboratory experiments and abstract ideas. I have also begun to create more visual support for abstract ideas, such as my Holloway Help video collection available on my website. When designing lessons, I now consider what research has shown to be successful. When I have an idea of what may work within my classroom I also now have the tools to create an appropriate action research project to test my hypothesis. When investigating new teaching approaches, I look for data to justify with what and how I choose to engage students. I also learned the value of reflecting on the successes and weaknesses of my lessons.
In addition to pedagogical knowledge, I also learned a great deal of technical skill thanks primarily to Professor Herr’s classes. Not only did I learn the skills required to build and maintain a professional website, but I learned several uses of current technology that can increase students learning. I learned the use of spreadsheets, photo manipulation, video editing, and the use of Google Sites and Docs just to name a few. These tools enhance my delivery and extend my time with students by allowing them to access additional information and lessons from home via the internet. I now maintain several websites each for a different purpose. Students have responded very positively to my additions in the class, whether it be the PhysTec game I developed for my action research project or the vast amount of resources available on my website. I even have students from other schools and other countries using my website and leaving me positive feedback. Participating in lab activities in Professor Herr’s class also helped remind me what it feels like to be a student and the importance of presenting material in a logical and clear manner. By sharing ideas and projects within the cohort I also gained many ideas on how to increase curiosity, engagement and performance from the expertise of my colleagues. I learned how to create and execute meaningful labs and activities such as one of the many discrepant events we designed and shared, both in class and online.
Another important component of the program for me was professional development. Many discussions in both Professor Rivas’s and Professor Cheng’s class have helped me to expect more from professional development and to strive to be a leader in changing the way teachers interact and grow. I have begun to share ideas learned from the masters program with my colleagues at my high school and have applied to present my findings from my action research project at the NSTA conference next Spring. Not only do I feel like I have grown as an educator, but I want to continue growing. I have learned so much in two short years that it feels like it has been longer. I have a long list of changes that I want to include in my classroom and ideas I want to experiment with.
In conclusion, the masters in science education program has instilled in me a desire to continue to improve. I plan to seek out professional development and stay abreast of current research. I hope to inspire others and share the skills, techniques and knowledge that I have gained. I hope to continue to engage students and guide them toward science expertise and further educational pursuit. I have a stronger sense of the requirements of leadership and hope to continue to take more responsibility in guiding my school in a positive direction with policy, collaboration and increased feedback. More over, I hope to continue to increase my strengths, correct my misconceptions and provide students the tools needed to be successful in school and in life.