Classroom Caffeine

A Conversation with Kaylee Laub

December 21, 2021 Lindsay Persohn Season 2 Episode 16
Classroom Caffeine
A Conversation with Kaylee Laub
Show Notes Transcript

Kaylee Laub talks to us about science education, problem-based learning, student research, and teaching with technology. Kaylee is a secondary science teacher and teacher mentor at Alta Sierra Intermediate School in Clovis, California. Her research investigates secondary students’ sensemaking in science with problem-based learning centered on local community issues, place-based education, science literacy practices, multimodal literacy, and student argumentation on controversial science topics. Ms. Laub holds a bachelor’s degree in Biology and a Masters in the Art of Teaching from California State University, Fresno.

To cite this episode:
Persohn, L. (Host). (2021, Dec 21). A conversation with Kaylee Laub. (Season 2, No. 16) [Audio podcast episode]. In Classroom Caffeine Podcast series. https://www.classroomcaffeine.com/guests. DOI: 10.5240/2904-8FB8-03A3-4040-0D5B-G

Lindsay Persohn:

Education Research has a problem. The work of brilliant education researchers often doesn't reach the practice of brilliant teachers. But the questions and challenges from teachers' practice sometimes don't become the work of education researchers. Classroom Caffeine is here to help. In a new episode every other week, I talk with an education researcher or a classroom teacher about what they have learned from their work in education, and what questions they still pursue. In this episode, Kaylee Laub talks to us about science education, problem-based learning, student research, and teaching with technology. Kaylee is a secondary science teacher and teacher mentor at Alta Sierra Intermediate School in Clovis, California. Her research investigates secondary students' sense making in science with problem-based learning centered on local community issues, place-based education, science literacy practices, multimodal literacy, and student argumentation on controversial science topics. Ms. Laub holds a bachelor's degree in biology and a Master's in the Art of Teaching from California State University, Fresno. For more information about our guests, stay tuned to the end of this episode. So pour a cup of your favorite morning drink and join me your host, Lindsay Persohn, for Classroom Caffeine research to energize your teaching practice. Kaylee, thank you for joining me. Welcome to the show.

Kaylee Laub:

Thank you for having me, Lindsay.

Lindsay Persohn:

From your own experiences and education, will you share with us one or two moments that inform your thinking now?

Kaylee Laub:

So I have to say I've only been teaching for five years but at the beginning of my teaching experience, I would teach strictly by the book, and quite literally by the book. And I was always told you have to teach by the standard, teach by the standard. And what I've come to discover is that we need to incorporate other skills for our students to master and they can utilize in the real world. So that was one thing that has informed my thinking. Also, kind of a misconception, especially since I work at a school district that has so much technology and with students always being on their phone, or they have grown up with this technology since kindergarten and being on iPads, I was under the assumption that these students, they are experts at technology. And I'm not just talking about like applications or being able to use like Google Slides and things like that. But actually being able to research online and knowing how to read internet resources and things like that that's not explicitly taught in our schools. And that's not explicitly stated in our standards or a lesson in a textbook. So that's something that I think is really important, especially in science education, which is my field. So those things have definitely shaped the way I create lessons now and hopefully give my students those skills to take on

Lindsay Persohn:

I think you're absolutely right. I think that with them. while, of course, we should give kids a lot of credit for what they know and what they bring to our classrooms, I think we do often assume that because they have technology in their hands, they can be critical consumers of how they use that. And yeah, I think you do discover pretty quickly that some of that also needs to be taught. They need some guidance as to how to navigate online resources and how to use tools in order to demonstrate their learning, because I think so much of particularly what adolescents do with technology is social in nature. And that's not to say that we don't learn from the social stuff, but it's not quite the same as what we might expect from them in academics.

Kaylee Laub:

Yeah, definitely.

Lindsay Persohn:

Yeah, that's a really great point. So, Kaylee, what do you want listeners to know about your work?

Kaylee Laub:

So kind of going back before I started researching this semester for my thesis, I spent over the summer planning this lesson, where I wanted my students to engage in problem-based learning around a local community problem and I focused on car collisions on the California Highway 99, particularly the section that passes through Fresno had the most fatalities according to this one article in 2018, this one study. And I thought, wow, this would be a really great opportunity. I'm teaching physics, so Newton's third law about car collisions and crashes, that this might be a good idea to kind of bring in this local issue for my students to solve. Over the summer, I kind of battled back and forth on whether or not I should allow my students to do their own research for a solution or whether I should give them different solutions to argue for which one the best one is. And then I came to the realization that I wanted it to really be student-driven, have student inquiry. So I let go of my control in my classroom, so to speak, and allowed my students to research for a solution that they thought was the best solution for our local problem, which was car collisions on Highway 99. And of course, because I realized that they didn't have that experience with scientific research, I did model research for them. And it was a very humbling experience for everyone, I think to, to find out that, okay, we need to know what keywords are and no, that's Google is not the resource that you got that information from, or even deciphering the difference between a blog or an opinion versus facts and data and how to read graphs. And I did this modeling activity with dropping cell phones. So kind of different problem that they designed a solution for that. And then we kind of went into our local problem. But what I discovered is that, with students being able to create their own solutions to this problem, there was so much diversity in their answers and their solutions that I myself, even though I did the research on the local community problem, to kind of make sure I knew exactly what issues I'd run into in the classroom, they came up with ideas that I would have never ever thought of. And they were kind of the teacher in the classroom teaching me about things. So it was really this like, democratic system of like, let me let me show you this, Ms. L. And I was like, oh, show me. And it was awesome. Some of the ideas were just out of this world. I had a student say, you know, Ms. L, there's poor lighting on Highway 99. And I was like, well, what, what's your solution? and even though a lot of students came up with lighting, this particular student said, well, bioluminescent trees, and that way, it's kind of like this environmentally friendly solution to this problem. And I would have never thought of that. And as a matter of fact, he was the only one that thought of that. And I was like, you have to share this with everyone in the classroom and share it with your group. So it made their conversations just so diverse. I just loved listening to everybody's conversations. And that was something that I did study in my research was, how they engaged in the sense making of science, where not only are they discussing what they saw and what they found online, but they were able to compare each other's solutions to one another, like, what are the benefits? What are the drawbacks to our solutions, and out of our solutions, which one do we think is going to be the best one? And granted, you'd have some students that are like, mine is the best, but others would probably hear someone else and go, You know what, I really liked your idea, because after hearing your benefits and your drawbacks, and knowing my own research for my solution, I think yours is the best and and there's also a lot more to it than just like the science aspect of it. They looked at the environmental impacts, they look at budget and economic standpoint, which is something really interesting to discuss with our students in a science classroom that you know what, science isn't always the answer. There's always these outside factors that come into play. When we're thinking of solutions in the real world of science. We have politics and everything else that go into it. So it was really a fun lesson. And I learned a lot from it and hope my students did as well.

Lindsay Persohn:

It sounds like they did and it's from what you've described, this sounds like what I think of when I think of true, authentic, interdisciplinary kind of learning, right? You're they're seeing how physics and economics actually work together. And they're learning so much about the social aspects of problem solving, that it can't just be your one solution and then that's what everyone does. It sounds like there was negotiation involved. There was even, you know, the communication of their own ideas. As those are some really complex topics that obviously we're going to serve your students very well in the future, too.

Kaylee Laub:

Yeah.

Lindsay Persohn:

So what's next for your students?

Kaylee Laub:

Well, I'm hoping that since this is something that we did in the beginning of the school year, and I gave them a problem for them to kind of discover what solutions are out there, I'm hoping that in later units, they will be able to come up with their own world or local problem that they want to design a solution for, especially when we talk about human impact. I know with eighth grade science, it's integrated science, so I teach physical and earth science, but we also end on life science and human impact. So they can come up with their own question. And it'll really be a true student inquiry driven lesson.

Lindsay Persohn:

What a wonderful scaffolded learning opportunity for them also, that you start with a real world problem and then end with them identifying their own real world problem. Some of the things you've said Kaylee reminded me of a conversation I had on the show with Alexandra Panos, who has done a lot of work with secondary students and and teachers of secondary topics. But in particular, she works with climate justice, and talks about how to navigate conversations that can be seen as controversial in, you know, conservative schooling environments, by just putting two texts together that seem to rub up against each other. They don't communicate, even though they may look similar, they don't communicate the same kind of information. And then allowing students to explore those texts, compare and contrast them themselves, and then arrive at their own conclusions by identifying you know, who wrote this report? And you know, where was it... who funded it? Right, all of those things that are really generative for questions and conversation.

Kaylee Laub:

And when you were mentioning that, I was thinking about how, during the pandemic, I had just pulled out this was when the vaccine was first new. No one, there was no political anything about it just yet. It was like, hey, we just came out with a vaccine, and we didn't know much about it. And in my science class, I took that opportunity to say, hey, let's do a philosophical chairs activity. And that's an AVID strategy. It's, you have a pro and a con article about the vaccine. And based on what you read, in these articles, we have this sort of discussion about different ideas, and you draw your own conclusion or make your own claim about what you think. The question was, do you think that the COVID-19 vaccine will end the pandemic? And then we had two articles that they read about, you know, the unknowns about it, and the pros of it, and then we had our discussion, and that was actually what I wrote about and submitted to Language Arts, and it's currently under review. But it, it was a very engaging conversation, we had a lot of students that were all in about this discussion, they would flip flop back and forth with their ideas based on what they're hearing from either side. And they, they were all very much engaged in it. And I think being a part of a conservative area, and having that sort of discussion is really important, because regardless of what your political views are, or religious views are, I think having a respectful academic discussion is ultimately a skill in itself, that we need to be able to have a conversation where we're not beating people down or saying things that are just completely off the wall, like you need to be able to listen to what someone is saying before you respond. Like I agree with what you're saying, or I hear what you're saying. And then counter arguing to that point. That was something that I had done in my classroom that when he had mentioned about the work of Alex, that's what came to my mind was the work that I had done recently.

Lindsay Persohn:

I think it's so important, really, for all of us, but certainly for young people to understand how we can listen to each other and respectfully disagree, but then also have something to back that disagreement up with, you know, I really love that you brought an opinion question into a factual realm. Right? We can all have our opinion about facts. And I think that, you know, it's strange to think that we're living in sort of a post-truth society, but I think that's definitely the case. And helping kids to navigate that so that they are able to say, I think this or I believe this, but also have some idea of why they're thinking that way or why they, you know, why they believe that It is true. I think it's just so important for for young people, or, like I said, really for all of us. But certainly we're talking about young people here and how they can have those kinds of conversations with each other. So Kaylee, given the challenges of today's educational climate, what message do you want other teachers to hear?

Kaylee Laub:

Well, first, any teacher right now, working through a global pandemic-- thank you. I feel like we don't hear that enough. So just know you're doing a great job. I would say that, my overall message I would hope to tell other teachers based on what I've learned, is to let go a little bit of that control and allow your students that creative freedom and to look through research and to create their own solutions to problems, and not be strictly all about the standards all the time. I think it's really important to integrate those skills because I don't know where or when students start learning about research on their own but I think it's so critical, especially for science. I know, research may look different in different content areas. But for science, especially with what's going on in the world it's important for students to navigate through credible resources and how to read into factual information. I think that's super important for not only our classrooms, but I think in real world and in life, they need these skills.

Lindsay Persohn:

To be that really speaks to the future of a democratic society, whether or not folks are able to navigate resources on their own and tell fact from fiction. Well, Kaylee, I thank you so much for the work you're doing with students, I thank you for your contributions to the world of education, and I appreciate the time that you've spent talking with me today.

Kaylee Laub:

Thank you for having me, Lindsay.

Lindsay Persohn:

Absolutely. Ms. Kaylee Laub is a secondary science teacher and teacher mentor with five years of experience in teaching. Her research investigates secondary students sense making in science with problem-based learning centered on local community issues. Her work also explores place-based education, science literacy practices, multimodal literacy, and student argumentation on controversial science topics. She is pursuing publication of her work and she has presented at the California League of Schools CUE Technology Conference. Kaley is a science teacher and a teacher mentor at Alta Sierra Intermediate School in Clovis, California. Her school has earned the distinctions of National Blue Ribbon School, California Gold Ribbon School, California Distinguished School, National School to Watch, a Google Certified School and a Digital Citizenship Certified School. The school has one-to-one computer to student ratio. Ms Laub holds a bachelor's degree in biology and a Master's in the Art of Teaching from California State University, Fresno. For the good of all students, good research should inform good practice and vice versa. Listeners are invited to respond to an episode, learn more about our guests, search past episodes, or request a topic or conversation with a specific person through our website at ClassroomCaffeine.com. If you've learned something today or just enjoyed listening, please be encouraged to talk about what you heard with your colleagues, and subscribe and review this podcast through your podcast provider. As always, I raise my mug to you, teachers. Thanks for joining me.