Spring 2009 Tuesday Seminar Schedule


February 3                 


Jeff Winokur and Karen Worth
Center for Science Education, Education Development Center

“Designing Professional Development to Support Discussion and Writing in the Inquiry-Based Elementary Science Classroom”


Current research and practice provide more and more support for the critical role of language in the development of understanding in science.  This and the need to find time for science in the school day has led to increasing attention to connecting science and literacy through  the use of science books and science notebooks.  Often, these connections focus on developing literacy skills rather than on the authentic use of language to deepen students’ understanding of the nature of science and science content.   We will share some of our recent  work  from an NSF supported project to design professional development materials to help elementary teachers understand the role of language in science and how to make authentic connections between science and literacy.




February 17               


Richard Palmer

Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Massachusetts

“Engaging Stakeholders in Evaluating the Impacts of Climate Change: An Example from the Pacific Northwest”

The Fourth Assessment Report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) suggests that one of the most significant impacts of climate change will be on water. There is already evidence that long-term climate changes have begun to alter streamflow patterns throughout the world and in many locations, this will have severely negative impacts.

This talk will focus on the changes that have occurred and changes that are forecasted in the Northwestern portions of the US in the Puget Sound Region. In this region, changes have been particularly noticeable during spring and summer months, and these changes will likely continue throughout the 21st century. This talk explores our ability to evaluate such changes and the ability of regional water supply systems to meet future demands in the face of such changes. Specifically, this talk reviews how a wide range of stakeholders (including water utilities, state, city, and county governments, resources agencies and tribal nations) participated in a regional climate study to quantify the likely impacts of climate change on water supply for the cities of Seattle, Everett, Tacoma, and Bellevue, Washington, a metropolitan region containing 3.2 million residents. Three general circulation models (GCMs) captured future climate change for the Pacific Northwest and the outputs of these models and computer simulations estimated the likely impacts on water supply from 2000 to 2075.

Beyond the quantitative results of the study, this talk will focus on the procedures used to incorporate stakeholders into the planning process, techniques used to ensure that their interests were identified and considered, and challenges that occurred in generating consensus when opinions differed.


March 3             


Sandra Madden

Department of Teacher Education and Curriculum Studies, University of Massachusetts


“High School Mathematics Teachers¹ Evolving Understanding of Statistics”


Statistics has achieved a position of status in the secondary curriculum and understanding of statistics is essential for high school mathematics teachers if they are to engage students in thoughtful pursuit of statistical ideas. High school teachers typically are ill-prepared in the area of statistics. Using methods of design research, this study investigated 56 high school mathematics teachers¹ understanding of the statistical concept of comparing distributions and demonstrated that a modest four-day, statistics-oriented, technology-rich, professional development session may significantly improve teachers¹ understanding.  Teachers participated in a reflective, learner-centered classroom environment with the potential to impact their teaching practice.  The use of innovative statistical professional development materials for high school mathematics teachers used in this study will be discussed as will the methods used to assess their success. 




April 7                


Ronald Aaron

Professor Emeritus of Physics, Northeastern University


“Back to the Past - A 21st Century Introductory Physics Course for Majors in Biology and the Health Sciences”


This lecture is a partial answer to a "challenge" from a Committee of the National Academy of Sciences, National Research Council that considered physics courses suitable for Life and Health Sciences Students in the 21st century.  The report is reviewed by John Hopfield, President of the American Physical Society in a guest editorial that appeared in the November 2002 issue of Physics Today. It actually concentrated on research questions, while this talk is focused on teaching aspects of the involved problems.



April 21              


Rick Adrion

Computer Science, University of Massachusetts



May 5       



Katherine McNeill 
Lynch School of Education, Boston College


“Supporting Students in Using Evidence and Reasoning in Scientific Explanations and Arguments”


Argumentation and explanation have become increasingly prevalent as essential goals for science education in which students need to support claims using appropriate evidence and reasoning as well as consider and be critical of alternative explanations. Yet incorporating argumentation into classroom science is challenging and can be a long-term process. In order to help students and teachers with this difficult task, my

colleagues and I developed an instructional model that we adapted from Toulmin’s model of argumentation. In this talk, I will describe the instructional model as well as research studies in which we investigated how to support middle and high school students in scientific argumentation. Across the studies, we found that providing an explicit model, curricular scaffolds with context-specific support, and particular teacher instructional strategies increased the quality of students’ arguments.