New Perspectives in Science Education

Edition 13

Accepted Abstracts

Struggles and successes of transitioning from a traditional middle school science sequential curriculum to a spiraled, engineering-focused curriculum: teacher perspectives

Peter N. Knutson, Dubuque Community Schools (United States)


As science department head at my middle school I have spearheaded, in conjunction with district personnel a mandated transition in middle school science curricula, per the State of Iowa Board of Education.  Previous to this transition, the curriculum was a traditional, sequential, continuum where 6th grade was earth science, 7th was life science, and 8th was physical science, and much was textbook-based.  The new curriculum, structured around the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), is now spiraled, and deviates from traditional textbook learning.  Each grade level will have components of earth, life, and physical science dispersed throughout each grade, all with a three-dimensional model that includes, inquiry, real-world connections, and engineering practices.  Although, from a curricular point of view, this approach is a benefit to students, the teachers who must implement this new curriculum have a steep learning curve.  Each teacher is currently assigned to their respective grades because that branch of science (earth, life, physical) was their area of expertise.  Teachers must now become competent in areas they have never taught, redesign and design anew curriculum activities and approaches, and attain materials and equipment for labs that are needed for execution of this new curriculum.  To complicate matters this needed to be done in a seven-month time frame.  As a leader in this process I have designed professional development opportunities to make this transition, advocated for time and materials for this transition at the district and building level, and navigate various teacher personalities, their preconceived expectations of their classroom, and engrained methodologies.  The presentation will focus on teacher perspectives of successes and struggles throughout this transitional process from a personal/emotional, professional collaboration, and curriculum development points of view.  Survey responses from science teachers involved in the process will highlight a myriad of successes, struggles, and personal feelings.  Many of the teachers were forced out of their comfort zone, experienced frustration and anger, exhibited stronger colleague collaboration, and felt excitement in new challenges.  Many times higher department of education choices are made; this is an examination of the process from the perspective of those who have to transition to the classroom.  

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