Science

We help teachers, coaches, and administrators define and work towards a common vision of what it means to know, learn, and teach science, including learning how to embed literacy practices into science instruction.

We know the power of engaging as learners. We engage educators in the kinds of learning experiences that improve students' knowledge of science. This allows educators to reflect on current practices, learn new ways of working, and determine quality instruction in science.

We understand the power of shared experiences. We often ask participants to engage their students in common tasks or units and bring back artifacts of practice for discussion, reflection, and further planning.

Professional Development

Our professional development courses range from short, targeted workshops to courses that are embedded in multi-year and multi-discipline school, district, or state partnerships. Our courses are most effective when teachers work side-by-side with professionals that support classroom instruction, such as coaches, administrators, and central office educators. Additional courses are available for leaders to support science teaching and learning.

chemistry classroom

Our professional development courses help science educators

  • Select and enact lessons to meet 21st century standards and workforce expectations
  • Support students in reading and writing about science as a way to build science knowledge and strengthen their literacy practices
  • Engage students in meaningful data analysis and laboratory investigations to develop evidence-based scientific understandings
  • Use formative assessments and students' prior knowledge to differentiate instruction
  • Use academic discussions to deepen students' sense making of science concepts
  • Support students in using self-assessment strategies and metacognitive tools to advance their learning
  • Study student work to identify what students know and can do and determine instructional next steps
  • Use and learn from the IFL's science instructional materials

Instructional Materials

IFL science bookletsThe IFL offers two types of instructional materials in science: Science Units and Building Literacy and Science Knowledge (BLSK) task sets. Both are designed to help ensure that students develop conceptual understanding of fundamental scientific concepts and to apprentice students in the ways of reading, writing, talking, and reasoning in science. Our Science Units and BLSK task sets can be used as:

  • high-quality curricula to advance student learning and to fill in gaps in existing curricula;
  • models of coherent and challenging curricula to advance educator learning; and
  • templates to guide the development and revision of school, district, or state curricula.

The IFL offers professional development to help educators use and learn from our instructional materials.

What's the difference between Science Units and BLSK task sets?

Science Units take students through a full arc of a concept. Students engage in data analysis, laboratory investigations, and text-based reading and writing tasks. Units are designed to replace, not supplement, traditional units.

BLSKs include target reading and writing tasks that complement traditional science instruction. BLSKs support students' literacy development in addition to building their knowledge of science concepts.

Science Units

Science Units prepare students to meet 21st century standards and workforce expectations. Students are apprenticed to read, write, think, talk, inquire, and reason like scientists as they develop their understanding of the unit's driving concepts and enhance their literacy proficiency. All units follow the same three-part structure:

First, students engage in an activation task to uncover their preconceptions about the unit's driving concepts.

Next, students engage in a series of concept development lessons to advance their understanding of the unit's driving concepts. Students read, write, talk, and analyze data. Where appropriate, students engage in laboratories to further conceptual development and to build laboratory skills.

Lastly, students engage in an application lesson in which they apply what they learned to new and real-world settings. Science Units are designed to be educative for teachers as they shift their teaching to help students meet the challenges of new standards. Science Units include:

  • activities, readings, and laboratory experiences for students to analyze data and develop conceptual understanding;
  • questions and reflection points to foster rich student interactions;
  • guidance on how to differentiate tasks for the variety of learners in today's classrooms;
  • assistance on how to help students engage in the intellectual struggle of learning;
  • opportunities for students to reflect on and monitor their own learning;
  • conceptual stories that provide "look for" points for teachers and administrators; and
  • formative and summative assessments.

Building Literacy and Science Knowledge Tasks

New standards and new assessments call for new ways of working in science classrooms. Science teachers are charged with advancing students' knowledge of science concepts while also supporting them to read and write about texts. The IFL's Building Literacy and Science Knowledge (BLSK) task sets are designed to provide students with opportunities to practice using one or more science texts to build and present knowledge in science. BLSKs are designed around complex science text(s) and text-based tasks. Students are supported to read the text(s) multiple times and for different purposes, including to build science and literacy knowledge, connect visuals and text, graphically represent ideas, and connect ideas across text. Students are supported to engage in a text-based writing and talk with questions and prompts that guide student-to-student discussion and sense-making. BLSKs span 3-5 days and can be flexibly integrated into existing curricula and courses of study. The IFL offers BLSK-specific professional development to support teachers and other educators to use and learn from these materials.

Contact us at ifl@pitt.edu for more information.