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Sciatto.Recommendation.Andrew Falk

Sciatto.Recommendation.Andrew Falk

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Published by: dsciatto on Apr 02, 2011
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04/02/2011

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SCHOOL OF EDUCATION - Teacher Education

Dr. Andrew Falk, Science Teacher Educator 610 EAST UNIVERSITY AVENUE, RM 1228 ANN ARBOR, MI 48109-1259 510-213-3255 (c) 734-647-9158 (f) ahfalk@umich.edu

March 25, 2011 To Whom It May Concern: I’m writing to recommend Danielle Sciatto as a creative and skilled beginning High School Science Teacher. Danielle was a student in my Secondary Science Methods course last semester at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. The course was a demanding one, requiring participants to integrate guiding principles for science teaching and learning formulated from research with specific teaching practices that they enacted and refined over the course of the semester. In addition to synthesizing ideas from readings from a variety of sources, participants planned several specified science teaching activities, rehearsed them with peers, enacted them with secondary students, and modified their designs based on analysis of video of their enactments. Over the semester, Danielle showed herself to be a capable designer of structured inquiry-based lessons, a skilled facilitator of learning activities, a thoughtful adapter of her own practice based on student thinking, and a productive member of a larger group of colleagues. An important part of supporting students in developing proficiency with both the content and nature of science is involving them in the process of inquiry – engaging in the collection and examination of data as evidence in relation to questions about the natural world. Danielle can readily design and enact inquiry activities that engage students in analyzing and using data to answer questions. For example, in launching a larger investigation of the question “Why do plants need sunlight?” she had students make observations of plants grown under different light conditions, and asked them to hypothesize as to why the differences they observed occurred. She also designed an activity that engaged students in examining the body structures of dissected sea lamprey and perch specimens in order to make and support scientific arguments about whether one of the two creatures was responsible for wounds (shown in pictures) that had been observed on the bodies of Lake Trout. Both examples illustrate the way Danielle designs opportunities for students to develop understanding of the natural world based in evidence drawn from their observations. The design of activities is only a first crucial step; implementing them in a way that pushes students to think deeply and participate fairly is also essential. Danielle is a skilled facilitator of small and large group conversations with students around science content. In reviewing video of her teaching for this letter, I watched her follow up on ambiguous student responses, pressing them to completely articulate their ideas - a key aspect of both science and learning. She also explicitly made an effort to call on or draw out ideas from a variety of students, supporting broader participation in and learning through discussion. And she invited other students to build or comment on each other’s ideas, supporting the kinds of student-student interaction that can often be elusive. No design or enactment is perfect, and an important part of teaching is reflecting on classroom interactions to improve one’s practice. While many beginning teachers fall into a trap of thinking only about their own actions, in her reflections on videos of her teaching Danielle focused on students’ ideas that she could build on or could use to inform revisions to the lesson. For example, she recognized that she could build on students’ ideas about ‘fish that eat other

fish’ toward more general understandings of predators and predation. She also recognized that overfishing was a compelling alternative explanation for the decline in trout population for multiple students, and that incorporating data showing the size of trout catches over the time of the decline into the lesson would provide important evidence to address the idea. Teaching is becoming increasingly collaborative within departments and schools, and a critical part of teachers being able to capitalize on collaborative time is their ability to talk about their teaching with each other. This is difficult for many teachers because it can feel like personal critique, or like there are not clear viable alternatives. In records of Danielle debriefing of lessons by and with her peers, I saw her providing productive feedback focused specifically on the features of the lesson, as opposed to the people teaching it. She balanced affirming positive aspects of teaching with identifying areas for improvement, and when she did the latter, offered multiple alternative ways to approach that part of the lesson. In a recent conversation with Danielle’s current field instructor, he reported to me that with her in their seminar sessions, he feels almost as if he can sit back and observe – she is such a skilled participant in and facilitator of those conversations. I believe Danielle will be a valuable asset to her students, her department, and her school community; I hope that you will take advantage of everything she has to offer. Sincerely,

Andrew Falk

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