Graduate Research Papers

Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching, and its implications on science education in the life sciences classroom

Alicia Danyel Schiller, University of Northern Iowa

A creative component, submitted, Master of Arts in Science Education

Keywords: Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching, PAEMST, Next Generation Science standards, NGSS, biology


The Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST) is an opportunity for science and math educators to reflect and analyze their classroom teaching techniques. My creative component centers around the PAEMST application. The PAEMST application requires one to describe many facets of the classroom in terms of instructional strategies and methodologies, provide a curriculum vitae, submit supporting letters from administration, colleagues, and students or parents, video tape a 40 minute instructional lesson, and then reflect, and analyze this videotape.

This application has benefited me professionally by: 1) increasing my reflection on my curriculum to more thoroughly match it to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS); 2) enhancing my ability to develop higher order questions; and 3) increasing my lesson writing skills. I have been spending numerous hours reflecting on my Biology curriculum and then re-writing units to more fully develop them in preparation for the videotaping segment of this process. To videotape my classroom and its routine, I first have to be able to convey to the reviewing committee the many aspects, and lessons and styles of instruction and learning that take place on any given day in my classroom. While this is second nature to many teachers, sculpting and molding one’s curriculum so a learning segment can be done in 40-45 minutes, instead of over 2-3 class periods, has taken a lot of reflection. I have seen huge growth in my higher order-thinking, question writing skills and lesson development as a result. I have taken several units, and implemented backward design strategies, and focused on the strength and quality of each lesson, making the unit stronger in its alignment with the Iowa Core and the Next Generation Science Standards.

The PAEMST application process helped me reflect on my teaching, as well as, guide my thinking to implementing and writing strong science curriculum. This was accomplished by demonstrating though the videotaped lesson I have worked hard to build a classroom that contributes to a school culture of respect, rapport, and fairness, where every student is supported. I have developed a productive group work template for lab scenarios identifying and developing group skills in how to initiate and run effective group conversations.

My science content and understanding of teaching is at the highest level. I feel I am able to connect my knowledge to my students by relating it to their experiences and make a connection to their everyday lives. This is essential if the goal of a lesson is for students to attain a true understanding of a concept instead of just having a “fun lab experience”. The lesson I videotaped is one utilizing numerous stations on the human skeleton. Through the uploaded supporting materials required for this application portfolio you will be able to observe higher order thinking, analysis, and compare and contrasting questions the students were required to complete for assessment after completion of this multi-faceted lesson. These conceptual questions were carefully designed to help insure critical thinking and concept development of the students in my classroom.

Segments of the narrative component require I analyze and explain the importance of certain professional development opportunities and its impact on my classroom and instructional strategies. Professional development opportunities and experiences have given me the opportunity to learn more about the craft of teaching, while networking and making connections with science classrooms, teachers, and science educational strategies that are successfully used around the world and in our country.