IL Teacher Says IQWST Helps Students “Think Better”

This month’s interview features Brian Klaft @BKd204Sci, an 8th grade science teacher at Francis Granger Middle School in Aurora, IL. We asked Brian what changes he has observed in his classroom since using IQWST, and here is what he had to say.

Activate Learning: In what ways has using IQWST affected your classroom culture?

Brian: IQWST has improved the culture for both teacher and students. IQWST has given me the structured classroom resource I was lacking as I brought the NGSS framework to my students. Prior to IQWST, I was trying to self-design units and lessons that captured the spirit of NGSS. IQWST’s structure has given me the ability to focus on my delivery and lesson management rather than lesson design. I find myself working on the presentation aspect of teaching more since I’ve been using the IQWST materials. From the student perspective, IQWST has helped my students tap into their background knowledge. They have been able to see that they have an abundance of science knowledge; knowledge they did not know they had. This has translated into a more confident group of science learners. That confidence has made my classroom culture one that is discussion based, and full of science argumentation. IQWST has allowed me to focus on the details, and has given my students a huge lift in how they view themselves.

AL: What are some ways that your students are demonstrating success in science as they use IQWST?

Brian: IQWST has allowed my students to demonstrate success in their modeling. My students worked through the earth science unit, “How is Earth Changing?” and the models that my class made that displayed how the plates move were fantastic. The understanding of the science principles my students showed not only impressed me, but also proved their understanding. In the past, students gained approval from teacher feedback. With IQWST, students can see their growth and feel a strong sense of pride in their work. They don’t just look to me as their teacher for approval, but look inward for self approval, and to their peers for support. This aspect has enhanced their success. They feel so successful with what they are doing. This realization coming from them is more important and powerful than just the approval from their teacher.

AL: How have the materials themselves supported you as a science educator?

Brian: I appreciate the scripted guides in the teacher manual. I have not taught earth science in 20 years, and the scripts helped me stay on point and gave my students solid lessons to build onto their background knowledge. The activities also have been a huge plus. They are not just “labs” that are used to teach content; they are connective devices that help to anchor science practices. They are simple in design, but yet add a deeper understanding to the DCIs they address. Other curricular series have larger, complex labs, but they can often confuse students with their depth. The IQWST activities help the science “pop” in the eyes of the students. The light bulbs I have seen go off in my students heads has never been so evident. They really understand the science practices that the activities demonstrate. The activities have huge “Ah-ha” factors. From start to finish, the materials help teachers put students in the position to learn, and provides students the ability to understand the science practices that are outlined in NGSS.

AL: IQWST focuses on reading, writing, and talking science--as students also “do” science. How do the reading and writing activities support your students as learners?

Brian: They are so understandable. A common concern of other materials is the reading level of the book. The IQWST readings are at the proper level and don’t “over science” the topic. The readings have just the right amount of depth to enhance student understanding. The writing portion of the articles is not too over-reaching. They give the students a platform that they are able to respond to confidently. I do not get vague responses. Rather, I have responses that are based on what the students have grown to know as they have worked through a lesson. I am reading confident student work.

AL: What particular pedagogical practice or strategy has been particularly useful to you? (e.g., reading strategies, the Driving Question Board, assessment strategies, CER framework)

Brian: The Driving Question Board (DQB) is the one aspect of NGSS pedagogy that I have to work on the most. The dedicated help with DQB in the teacher resources is a huge help. With each DQB, I am gaining not just implementation understanding, but the confidence needed to make this an important part of my classroom. I am now able to look for different ways to connect DQB aspects in a class, as well as experiment with different media to display student questions. The DQB will be a frequent agenda item in my PLC time next year and the guides provided by IQWST will help give all faculty at my middle school a common understanding by which we can utilize DQBs in our classrooms.

AL: What differentiates IQWST from other science curricula?

Brian: This is easy, it is student-focused. Other resources are more of a glorified science encyclopedia. IQWST is based upon the development of student understanding through student-focused activities, reading and writing articles, and spirited claim, evidence, reasoning (CER) discussions. I have not come across a text series in 25 years of education that approaches science education in this manner. This platform will give teachers the structure to teach NGSS PEs with confidence, and provide students the opportunity to see and realize their “inner scientist” in many new and unique ways.

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