Teacher Professional Development in the Age of NGSS

Presenters: Sara Heredia, Bethany Sjoberg, Jessica Thompson

This session focuses on two professional development approaches to helping middle school and high school teachers develop an understanding of the standards and collaborate to address common problems of practice. Heredia will provide an overview of how Exploratorium’s Teacher Institute has been adapting its professional development to address the changing instructional landscape. Thompson will speak about her work building Local Improvement Networks that support ambitious and equitable teaching practice.


Sara C. Heredia, Postdoctoral Researcher Learning Research Scientist, Exploratorium Teacher Institute
Sara C. Heredia is a postdoctoral researcher at the Exploratorium Teacher Institute. Her research focuses on helping secondary science teachers in the Bay Area make sense of the NGSS and the shifts required to align their practice to this new vision for science education. In particular, she is developing a planning tool that supports their modification of hands-on inquiry activities into practice-rich, three-dimensional learning opportunities. Previously, Heredia worked on a long-term school-embedded professional development program at the University of Colorado, Boulder, which is designed to support high school biology in the design and enactment of formative assessment in evolution. Her dissertation analyzed how the teachers’ school and district context influenced their sensemaking about formative assessment tools and practices. Heredia has a BA in Environmental, Population, and Organismic Biology from the University of Colorado, Boulder; an MA in Secondary Science Education from The City College of New York; and a PhD in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Colorado, Boulder. 

Bethany Sjoberg, Secondary Science Specialist, Highline Public Schools
Bethany Sjoberg is a secondary science specialist at Highline Public Schools in Washington. In this role, she provides job-embedded professional learning, which includes science studio days and individual coaching. She has collaborated with Jessica Thompson’s research group at the University of Washington to engage teachers in collaborative inquiry cycles aimed at improving students’ scientific models, explanations, and arguments. Sjoberg leads teams of teachers in aligning curriculum frameworks and assessment to the NGSS as they transition to full NGSS implementation. She is passionate about improving science education and is especially committed to supporting teachers in providing equitable, culturally responsive science teaching and learning for the diverse student population of Highline Public Schools. Previously, she taught science courses in biology, chemistry, integrated physical science, AP biology, and anatomy and physiology for six years at Technology, Engineering & Communications High School in White Center. In this role, she collaborated to create STEM units for a 9th-grade integrated science course and worked on a shared leadership team to implement standards-based instruction and grading practices across the school. Sjoberg has a BS in Chemistry and a master’s degree in Teaching from the University of Washington. She is currently pursuing a master’s in Educational Leadership at the University of Washington, Bothell.

Jessica Thompson, Assistant Professor, University of Washington
Jessica Thompson is an assistant professor at the University of Washington’s College of Education. Her scholarship focuses on building K–12 networks that support novice and experienced science teachers in learning ambitious and equitable teaching practices. She is the PI on federally funded projects that support the development of local improvement networks with science teachers, coaches, and principals in nine secondary schools and five elementary schools. Thompson also runs an after-school girls' program, STARS Students Tackling Authentic and Relevant Science, with April Luehmann (University of Rochester) and Angie Calabrese Barton (Michigan State University). This line of research generates knowledge about how to learn from and with ethnic minority girls' engagement in scientific inquiry in an out of school context. She received a dissertation fellowship from the American Association of University Women and the 2007 Selma Greenberg Dissertation Award for an earlier version of this project. Thompson has a background in biology and chemistry, and she taught high school and middle school science as well as a drop-out prevention course for eight years in North Carolina and Washington State. At the University of Washington, she teaches secondary and elementary science teaching methods courses, Teacher Learning and School Change, and Culturally Responsive Math and Science Teaching.