Team work makes the dream work: Science Expert Mentors via ZOOM

Many educators are happy to teach in a silo- “Just leave me alone to do my thing!” they say, as they close the classroom door.  

Not so with GId. We know that together we are better.

Guided Inquiry Design workshops and strategies support teams of teachers and their librarian to work together. As they collaboratively design the unit they each recognize the strengths in their team members. They then make plans to leverage those strengths to support all students’ learning.  As a GId facilitator it is amazing to watch people say- “I didn’t know you did that!” as they learn the possibilities in the collaboration.  

Sometimes that looks like switching out students.  Once students identify an area of interest each teacher can take a group that has a topic related to some larger umbrella aspect and the students can work with those students and that teacher for a time period.  Sometimes they switch based on what they decide to Create, but in this case the team used the content area expertise of each teacher on the team to support the students who were doing experiments on that topic. One of the teachers on the team, Raquel described it this way.

 One of the challenges that I’ve seen over many years teaching science was connecting students with mentors or role models that could support students with their science projects. Students with family or friends who are scientists have been able to interact with scientists to ask questions or get advice. In the past, each science teacher only has had the time to meet with her own students. With the structure we designed for the science project using GId, each Earth Science teacher was able to support any Earth Science student. For example, I met with all of the students who were interested in Astronomy.

In these new groups the teachers wanted to set students up with content area experts. During the remote learning when many people were working from home- experts had more time to Zoom with students.  This team used this opportunity to connect to the local community. Raquel describes how they thoughtfully sought out women and BIPOC experts so the students could see themselves in the work.

More importantly, we were able to host a variety of guests to meet with our students over Zoom to support our students with their projects. The visiting STEM experts included undergraduate and graduate students and staff from Harvard College, the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and UMass Boston. Students had their questions answered by experts, got ideas on how to conduct their research and gained access to remote telescopes and other resources. All of the guest scientists were women and some BIPOC. The projects show the influence of the guest researchers. These women gave our students important advice on how to design experiments while also serving as role models to students.

Taking time to design the unit gave these teachers time to think about all the aspects that they wanted to incorporate in the learning.  They used each others’ expertise and strengths to create an impact for all students.  Courtney made the handouts, Raquel worked on the experts and arranged for them to Zoom with students, and Susan created the curated set of materials and video lessons on information literacy and loaded them on the library page libguide.  Everyone had a role and working in concert the students were the beneficiaries of that collaboration.

I’m so glad Guided Inquiry Design supports teams to accomplish this high level of collaboration to meet the needs of all learners, and beyond!

Leslie Maniotes, PhD

Author Guided Inquiry Design


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