The Propello Press | Education Insights, Resources, and Tools

5 Tips for Keeping Up with the Changing Educational Landscape

The past few years have been more than a little challenging for educators. Rapidly evolving technology, a global pandemic, and the rise of distance and hybrid learning models forced many teachers into what feels like permanent reaction mode. Educators today are expected to swiftly adjust their processes and lesson plans to reflect new standards, keep students engaged amid near-constant uncertainty, and ensure academic success for a spectrum of learners. And they must do all of the above while remaining the well-composed, dependable presence children need.

The burden has been especially heavy for science teachers, who are tasked with preparing students for a future when STEM skills will be more critical than ever. Understanding and implementing a science-ready curriculum that meets new standards, like the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), and ensuring students master the material is no easy feat. 

Managing these ongoing changes while providing a safe, inclusive, and enriching classroom experience can be overwhelming for even the most experienced educators. Fortunately, there are steps that can make the job a little easier.

Here are five things you can do to keep up with the changing educational paradigms.

1. Accept Change and Commit to Ongoing Learning

Change is inevitable — especially in the world of science, where technology and research are constantly evolving. It’s crucial educators foster students’ natural curiosity and equip them with the skills to continue exploring and learning in new and changing environments. And sometimes, the best way to cultivate a love of learning and flexibility in the face of change is to model those behaviors yourself.

For example, you might share that you’re trying something new and equate it to an experiment. This helps students understand that new things don’t have to be scary and that facing the unknown can be exciting.

Or, if a student asks a challenging question, you might respond by saying, “That’s a great question! I don’t know the answer, but I’d like to learn too. Why don’t we investigate together?” This shows students that it's normal not to have all the answers and provides an opportunity to apply concepts you teach, like the scientific method, in real-time. It also demonstrates how they can use science to solve problems across disciplines.

Embracing change alongside students can help educators process the unfamiliar and get comfortable with shifting methodologies. It’s a helpful reminder that you don’t have to know everything to be a highly effective teacher, and we’re all learning every day.

2. Leverage Phenomena-Based Learning

Phenomena-based learning is a teaching approach utilized by the NGSS in which educators use observable events to help students understand complex concepts, answer challenging questions, and explore potential solutions to relevant problems. Unlike previous standards, which appeared more like a prescriptive checklist in which one standard could be “completed” in a single class period, new standards are more complex and can take days or weeks to master.

Phenomena-based learning helps deepen students’ exploration of concepts and apply scientific thinking to real-world situations. It can also be an excellent method for creating a future-focused classroom experience and allows you to tie your core knowledge lessons back to current and local events, which will change from year to year.

For example, you might explore nearby wildfires, droughts, or flooding when covering natural hazards. This adds relevance to each lesson and helps students better understand the world in which they live.

3. Use Inquiry-Based Instruction

Inquiry-based learning is a method that challenges students to ask questions and investigate real problems. Like phenomena-based learning, it helps students connect the science-ready curriculum they’re learning to things happening in the world around them. It encourages students to think critically and engage in problem-solving, ignites their creativity, and helps them learn to communicate their ideas effectively.

To leverage this learning approach in their classrooms, a teacher might introduce a complex problem and then guide students through the scientific process to find potential solutions. For example, you might use inquiry-based learning to challenge students to investigate the impact of pollution on the ocean and ask them to identify some ideas for addressing this issue. This might involve reviewing research about the leading causes of ocean pollution or narrowing the scope to a specific place, like the Great Barrier Reef.

Inquiry-based instruction helps students develop the skills to investigate claims and review evidence-based research before forming an opinion. This can be useful in the ongoing battle against misinformation and will prepare students to approach real-life problems through a scientific lens.

4. Embrace Your Role in Helping Kids Manage Challenges

While children may appear to adjust better to change than adults, many still struggle with recent challenges. The pandemic and other current events have exacerbated mental health concerns and can make it difficult for children to focus and absorb new information.In fact, this EdWeek article claims that teenagers’ brains aged in a matter of months during the stress and isolation of the pandemic lockdowns. Success in the classroom depends largely on how well students are prepared to learn. This means that, while an educator’s role is to help students master science concepts, they may also need to act as a mentor or counselor.

One way you can help students through challenges is to adopt an open-door policy. Let your students know they can come to you any time they need to talk — whether it’s related to a lesson or not. In some cases, teachers are among the few adults a child feels comfortable approaching with their concerns. Giving students a safe place to feel heard and acknowledged can significantly improve their mental well-being and ability to navigate life’s hurdles.

5. Use Resources Developed by Experts

To say educators have a lot on their shoulders is a gross understatement. Teaching while managing change and supporting students’ social and emotional development takes significant energy, which can leave  little time for developing engaging lesson plans. Fortunately, there are resources available to help.

Propello offers teachers flexible, standards-aligned curricula designed for the NGSS. This includes high-quality, expert-vetted labs, assignments, formative assessments, and more. You’ll also have access to an insights dashboard to help monitor student progress and identify areas where specific individuals or groups may need additional challenges or support.

Leveraging a flexible learning platform helps teachers save time, improve outcomes with a science-ready curriculum, and access ongoing training and support to help keep up with the evolving educational landscape. By alleviating some of the burden, you can focus more on connecting and engaging with your students and helping them achieve their best.