STEMteachersNYC hosted 4 full Modeling InstructionTM workshops this summer.  During this time, we also hosted 4 high school interns. This provided us with some unique perspectives about what it is like for students to witness teachers engaged in professional development.  Personally, I was curious to hear what students would pick up on, and what they thought about watching teachers learn. Yi Li, STEMteachersNYC’s Operations and Research Director, guided these four 16 year old students and encouraged them to observe teachers on their learning journey as they participated in a highly effective teaching method known as Modeling Instruction. Yi assigned the interns the task of writing reflections, and much of what I read is simply worth sharing.

The student observers quickly noticed one of the key ingredients of the Modeling approach:

“Whiteboarding is one of the most important activities in modeling instruction. It gives the teachers chances to demonstrate that they fully understand the material. The teachers were asked to do a hands-­on activity and then they’d share their results on whiteboards.They looked at each other’s boards with surprise and listened to what others said, learning from their colleagues.”

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Interestingly, these teens, like many teachers who come across this method for the first time, realized, “This is a very different way of teaching compared to experiments I did in my own school.” Rather intuitively they began to see, “The whole process is really similar to how a scientist conducts research. This includes the preparation for the experiment, the experiment, and the discussion after the can quickly grasp and have an idea about how everything works in the classroom and gradually develop the scientist’s thoughts in their mind. I love this.”

Again similarly to what teachers say after attending a Modeling workshop, the student observers felt that the workshop “opened their eyes.” They insightfully saw that;

“Modeling Instruction makes students think like scientists. Instead of lecturing students and encouraging them to memorize what they are taught, a good Modeling instruction teacher shows how doing science in the classroom is similar to how scientists do their job in the real world.”

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Touchingly, the student interns were keenly aware of and impressed by the type of dedicated teachers that show up to professional development during their coveted summer vacation.

 “The teachers here were all willing to engage in the workshop. Their passions for teaching, or in other words, teaching in modeling instruction, were shown not only by words, but also by their natural expressions and actions.”

“What’s more, the teachers here chose to attend these full day workshops instead of traveling and resting with their families and friends. Their professional development in modeling instruction would be the best gifts for their students.”

Ahh how satisfying to hear students noticing the dedication and motivation of so many teachers.  As a teacher and a Modeler myself, I found the students reflections on target and quite insightful. High quality professional development, like what STEMteachersNYC and AMTA provide, truly is a gift to their students.