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Archive - Profile of a PSP Teacher: Lori Matthews

Lori Matthews, eighth grade science teacher at Hampden’s Reeds Brook Middle School, was one of the pioneer teachers who attended the first Physical Sciences Partnership (PSP) collaboratives in the fall of 2010, and since then has become one of the Partnership’s most involved members. She has contributed her time and energy to multiple collaboratives, Curriculum Evaluation Task Forces, the Summer Academy, and the summer Teachers in Residence Program. She is currently piloting the PBIS (Project-Based Inquiry Science) curriculum in her classroom, along with eleven other PSP teachers. We asked Lori about her impressions of the program so far.

From Lori’s perspective, all of the hard work done by the curriculum evaluation task force – selecting and fine-tuning middle school science curricula – has paid off. The hands-on nature of the PBIS lessons is appealing to her students, even the ones who are not typically drawn in by more traditional approaches: “It really gives kids with a variety of learning styles a chance to stretch and learn… Even reluctant learners are involved in the projects as part of their team. They find that they are giving input or trying the activity in spite of themselves.” She feels that this high level of engagement leads to more careful observations, better writing, and increased learning.

The strength of the curriculum is only one of the benefits that Lori finds valuable about the PSP. The supports that the project provides in the forms of continued professional development and a strong community of colleagues are equally valuable. Lori appreciates the opportunity provided by collaborative meetings to hear thoughts and ideas from other teachers as well as university partners: “Collaboratives are important chances to have professional conversations about science and science teaching. Because of the variety of people in attendance, all countries are heard from, so to speak, from grad students to the PI’s to professionals to teachers.”

Teachers are also encouraged to share their teaching experiences through an online community forum in the form of journal entries. This allows more frequent feedback and communication than the collaboratives can provide. Lori finds this forum to be particularly useful: “ I underestimated the power, importance, fellowship, and camaraderie that the journals would provide. I look forward to reading other peoples’ entries to see both their struggles (which often match my own) and their successes. We buoy each other’s spirits, commiserate through the tough times, and give helpful and necessary feedback on what is working and what is a challenge.” Teachers can often feel isolated because they don’t have colleagues in the same school with whom they can talk to about day-to-day problems. The opportunity for ongoing communication between teachers is truly one of the greatest benefits that the PSP provides.

Lori’s very enthusiastic feedback about the PSP provides wonderful confirmation that the program is already having positive effects for both teachers and students. Researchers will be looking for more concrete evidence based on student assessments in future months, but for now, all indicators are pointing to a successful pilot year. Thank you to Lori Matthews for all of her hard work and for providing a window into her PSP experience.

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