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Science Curriculum Interview with Ms. Stefanie Fluke

Jamar Johnson University of St. Thomas

Research Professor: Dr. Liz Johnson November 29th, 2013

Science Curriculum Interview Abstract As the world enters into a 21st century economy and global marketplace, American students must be equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge to compete. One of the primary areas that American students lag behind in is science aptitude, where they are no longer

seen as being the leaders of scientific thought. In order to shed more light on how the curriculum development process can influence a student to better compete, an interview was conducted with an Environmental Systems and AP Environmental Science teacher, Ms. Stefanie Fluke. The interview explored the difficulties of creating a curriculum and how Ms. Flukes background has allowed her to provide unique insight into the curriculum planning process and how one science curriculum could help students compete with other science students across the world.

Science Curriculum Interview As education has moved into the 21st century, it has had to adapt to the changing world and economies that demand that students be trained in disciplines that will directly impact their ability to work in a more global economy that is driven by technology and science. Because future students will enter into a global marketplace and compete for jobs, it is important that science curriculums in the United States are pushing students to perform at least as well as the other highly industrialized nations around the world, if not higher than those nations. According

to the most recent Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study released in 2011 from the National Center for Educational Statistics, 4th grade students scored in the top ten of their science test but were outpaced by six other countries, while 8th grade students scored in the top 23 but were outpaced by at least 12 other countries (U.S. Department of Education, 2011). While this is but one indicator of how current science instruction is impacting students in America competing with other countries, the report does shed light on how much more our ground our students have to gain in order to be on track to compete with other students across the world. In thinking about how to start changing the dynamic of science students in America lagging behind their global counterparts, I sought out to interview a science curriculum writer from my district; Ms. Stefanie Fluke has been teaching for over five years and has been writing the curriculum for the courses, Environmental Systems and AP Environmental Science, for over two years. I have worked underneath her as a teacher of Environmental Systems for five months, so I had the unique perspective of utilizing the science curriculum that we discussed, which I think allowed us to dive deeper into the curriculum to gain a better understanding of how the curriculum has the potential to help our kids compete globally, and also where the curriculum has shortcomings.

Science Curriculum Interview The first question posed to Ms. Fluke was What unique traits and experiences do you bring to the curriculum development process and what skills do you think a good curriculum writer should possess? Although this was a rather lengthy question, Ms. Fluke answered it succinctly: I think that I have a few different characteristics that allow me to be a successful curriculum writer. One trait is that I have extensive school training in the subject that I write curriculum for and I have even worked in the environmental industry. This allows

me to have unique insight into the current science that our students need to know in order to be successful when they enter into college. Being a current teacher also helps me because I see every day the impact of the curriculum decisions that I have made with my fellow curriculum writers; if a lesson doesnt go well I can change the curriculum in the moment and send it out to fellow teachers instead of waiting for a teacher to tell me how a part of the curriculum didnt work well with students, (S. Fluke, personal communication, October 29th, 2013). Her response to what skills should a curriculum writer possess was, Curriculum writers and developers should not be perfectionists, as there will always be something else that you can do to change the curriculum. They should also be open to collaboration from all stakeholders as their insight can provide the missing key to making the curriculum a success. These responses allowed me to reflect on the current skills that I possess that can help me in the curriculum writing process. While I am not a specialist in a particular field like Ms. Fluke, I do possess the interpersonal skills that Ms. Fluke referenced, which should help me as I begin to be involved with more facets of the curriculum development process.

Science Curriculum Interview

I then wanted to inquire about a unique situation to our district, as our curriculum writers arent writing a curriculum just for their school, as they must write a curriculum that is applicable to upwards of 13 campuses across the city of Houston. This situation is different than most writers who are primarily concerned with just the administration, students and community members involved with their campus (Oliva, 2013). Her response to this unique and challenging situation was: It can be quite daunting when you think about how the curriculum that you make must not only work for your students and campus administration, but it has to be adaptable enough to fit the needs of each of our campuses in the district. Luckily my primary curriculum partner and I only have to think about the context of six schools, but that too is a challenge. For me, I try my best to think through what would the lowest performing students need to be successful, what would the highest performing students need to be successful, and how can I get a diverse set of students more interested in science through this curriculum, (S. Fluke, personal communication, October 29th, 2013). Having to plan for such a diverse group of situations is challenging, but Ms. Fluke has a fellow teacher who assists her with the curriculum development process and helps to give her better context. I think that this is an essential part of what allows Ms. Fluke to write a successful curriculum, as the task does some too daunting to tackle individually. The final question that was asked of Ms. Fluke concerned How does she decide what the curriculum goals and objectives are and how is the sequence of these goals decided? According to the State Department of Education in Connecticut, the grade-level and course objectives represent the core of the curriculum andinclude clear expectations for what each learner is expected to know and be able to do and how it will be measured, (2006). This underscores the

Science Curriculum Interview importance of this section of the curriculum development process and is why this was the final question of our interview:

This is without a doubt the most difficult part of the curriculum development process for me and my co-writer. At times, I feel as though my expertise in the subject matter slows me down immensely as I develop the sequence of learning objectives as there is such an array of topics that I want the students to learn; I have to constantly think about what are the most essential topics and skills that students must know by the end of the year and what are the topics that we can brush over that may not be as helpful to developing a well-rounded student. To help me I reference textbooks and other schools curriculum guide to give me insight into how we can structure the learning goals so that they naturally build upon one another. This is also where my current experience as a teacher is helpful as I can think through realistically what students can accomplish in a day, a week, and a month. While this is the most challenging part of the process, I think that it is actually the most enjoyable once you see the year fully planned out and developed, (S. Fluke, personal communication, October 29th, 2013). Reflecting upon the interview I have gained much deeper insight into the curriculum development process and the extensive work that goes into just one courses curriculum. As I think about my future as a curriculum developer, I will need to spend more time within a specific educational field so that I can provide better insight into what should be included in a science curriculum to ensure that students are being pushed to achieve and outrank other countries around the world. I truly believe that with better curriculums, American students can achieve at the highest levels of science around the world and be set up for success in the 21st century.

Science Curriculum Interview References Connecticut State Department of Education. (2006, November 3rd). Guide to the curriculum development: Purposes, practices, procedures. Retrieved from

Oliva, P. F. & Gordon, William II. (2013). Developing the curriculum. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson. U.S. Department of Education. (2011). Trends in international mathematics and science study. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics.