Kirsten Franklin on the role of teachers and academic discourse – POP13

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Brandon Krueger
Brandon Krueger
Kevin Mulryne
Kevin Mulryne

In our second kernel of wisdom from Kirsten Franklin, she manages to cover a wide range of issues in a short time! First of all, Brandon asks her about the role of the teacher.

How would you say the role of teachers is changing as you support them with the NGSS guidelines?

Kirsten Franklin
Kirsten Franklin

Kirsten thinks that, in common with the Common Core approaches, teachers are moving more towards becoming facilitators rather than deliverers of information and facts. For example in science, teachers can start off a lesson with some kind of phenomena. This can be an object, a provocative question or a video – something which the children have to talk about, wrestle with and come up with an explanation of what it is
or how it works. Inquiry is a large part of the process.

Kirsten has experience of this when she brought Ghost Shrimp into First Grade.

What does Kirsten recommend to teachers with regard to
student learning behaviours? How do you create a safe and positive
classroom culture?

Academic Discourse is one area Kirsten has really focused on. This can be a foundation for a lot of other things which happen in science – and across the curriculum. We want children to be talking and behaving like scientists do and academic discourse is what scientists use.

However, meaningful and deep discourse is easier said than done
– it takes some explicit instruction.

The teacher needs to create a classroom climate which supports the exchange of ideas in a safe and positive environment. Kids need to be respectful, attentive and reflective. Kirsten recommends taking the first few weeks with a class to establish the culture. This can be done via class meetings – prompts, sentence starters etc.

Academic Discourse resources:

Kirsten Franklin on science teaching – how to organise teacher support and student academic proficiency – POP12

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Brandon Krueger
Brandon Krueger
Kevin Mulryne
Kevin Mulryne

In education for 28 years, Kirsten is an elementary grade teacher and teacher on special assignment coordinating Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards implementation for the Petaluma State Schools in Petaluma State, California.

Kirsten did not come into teaching as a science specialist but took an opportunity to develop her skills in this area and she realised the importance of providing a high-quality science education to students, beginning at the earliest grades.

I really got hooked on science as a vehicle to provide meaningful and engaging learning for students that can be emigrated across the curriculum.

Kirsten Franklin
Kirsten Franklin

Eventually, Kirsten took up a role full-time, supporting teachers. She now loves working with adult learners and providing trainings for teachers.

What are the main aims of the role?

Kirsten does whatever she can to support teachers in providing quality science instruction to their students, based on the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). She does a lot of networking and searching for resources which she shares with teachers. This is essential so they can make the shifts in their practice that the NGSS requires.

Kirsten puts on workshops, writes a column in the district newsletter and works with individual teachers by request. She helps them to design lessons or even comes in and delivers model lessons.

Professional Learning Networks

This is a group of elementary teachers who are working on how to embed discourse in their science instruction. Kirsten has been developing this area as well.

Stages of development

Kirsten says that they spent the first 2 years in the Development Stage. This involved making teachers to understand the background and the rationale behind the NGSS as well as the architecture of the document. The colour coding and the columns can be really intimidating and overwhelming. Having worked with it, however, Kirsten sees it as a very useful blueprint for planning lessons and units.

NGSS is not a curriculum, it simply contains guidelines for what students should be able to do after instruction and all the learning experiences teachers provide for them.

The district is now in a Transition Stage. They are now working mostly on the delivery of instruction and what the ‘three dimensions’ look like:

  • Disciplinary core ideas – content
  • Cross-cutting concepts – thematic concepts which help student think like scientists and to make sense of what they are learning
  • Science and engineering practices – 8 different ways that students should be doing science

So Kirsten is working on what these look like in a classroom and how to adapt existing lessons to embed these. The assessment which is coming will be focussing on assessing students on all the three dimensions which have to be happening at the same time.

CSTA– Californian Science Teachers’ Association
NSTA – National Science Teachers’ Association


Kirsten on Twitter: