“What’s Middle School like now?”

“What do you see when you walk into a middle school classroom in 2020?”

This is a question that I have been asked numerous times in the past couple of days by my housemates. They know that I am in the field and they are genuinely interested in what I am doing so I really appreciate the questions.

However, when I describe my day to them, I have to describe what i’ve observed thus far. Students have their heads on the desk for 30 out of the 44 minutes or they’re constantly watching youtube videos on their chrome books and just generally not being engaged and losing interest in school altogether.

Cropped shot of a university student falling asleep in the library

I do not believe in this as being education and neither does Duckworth.

Duckworth is a renowned psychologist who worked under the great Piaget and calls for many things in education after conducting some of her own research.

Duckworth calls for:

  • Creation of knowledge by students
  • Connecting new knowledge to preexisting schema
  • Uncover a topic, do not just cover it
  • Reward students for their thinking not necessarily the right answer
  • Implementing wait-time

I really admire these standards that she calls for in education as a whole but what I really enjoy about them is that they could be very rich and rewarding if implemented into science education.

Implementing Duckworth into Science Classrooms:

  • Using stations to create knowledge
  • Have students create CERs
  • Go to the “margins”
  • Have students create their own experiments
  • Ask probing questions with reflection time

Lesson Outline #1 – Demonstration Stations

  • Prepare two different demonstrations (ex. inertia demonstration with table cloth) for students to actually do that are related to the content in the unit that is being uncovered by the students
  • Set up four stations around the room (two of each demo)
  • Divide students into four different groups
  • Have students perform the demo themselves and then come up with a CER (Claim, Evidence, Reasoning) for the phenomena that is being observed
  • Have the groups switch stations and repeat
  • After the groups have been to both demonstration stations and completed the CER, have a class discussion about the CERs

I think that this is a great way to have students create their own knowledge, be curious, uncover a topic and have their thinking rewarded. This also relates to NGSS by tying in cross cutting concepts of cause and effect, structure and function and systems and system modeling (depending on the corresponding discipline and what demos are picked).

Lesson Outline #2 – Power Prompts

  • This lesson would be great for the end of a unit once the students have begun to master the content
  • Group the students into groups of three
  • Give each group a prompt, situation or question that they need to answer using their knowledge from the unit
    • These prompts could be: “Build a marble rollercoaster using your knowledge from the kinetics unit” or “There is an epidemic sweeping across the nation. Using your knowledge of bacteria, viruses, the immune system and treatments, determine if the epidemic is viral or bacterial and a course of action.”
  • Each group could have a different prompt or they could all have the same prompt
  • Groups would then present the solution they created to the prompt to the class

I think that this lesson outline is very Duckworthian. It challenges students to think about a solution for the prompt, create their own experiments and has them connect new knowledge to pre-existing schema. This is related to the NGSS because it relates the interdependence of science, engineering and technology. As well as the influence of science, engineering and technology on society and the natural world.

I hope that when my housemates ask me in the future about what a classroom looks like in 2020, I will be proud to say that it looks like these lessons and be confident that students are being exposed to the rich ideas of Duckworth.


  1. Hi Mason!
    I really like you post! I love how you are pulling other strategies into duckworthian teaching. I also really enjoy your power prompts concept that seems like a great way to get students engages and to show what they know! These lessons also seem very open ended, so how do you cover all the standards in teaching while having these open ended lessons?

  2. Great post Mason! I also see students during field frequently distracted and disengaged in the classroom. I think the power prompt lessons are a great way to engage students and allow them to explore different ways to tackle the question. How do you plan on creating prompts that generally interest the students? Would you allow them to create prompts for each other?

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.