Going Above and Beyond – Exemplary Science Teaching

Teachers are memorable. They shape our growing minds, guide us, and walk with us through the learning process. If you asked me my favorite science teacher I’ve ever had, I could tell you right away that it was my 11th grade anatomy teacher, Mrs. Glass. But I also vividly remember my 8th grade algebra 1 teacher being one of my least favorite teachers.

So, what makes a teacher stand out among the rest in all our years of formal education? As future teachers, how do we strive to be exemplary inside and outside of the classroom?

Exemplary Teachers are…

  • Effective Communicators – Teachers need to communicate clear expectations with their students but also have open communication with their parents and families, as learning happens at home too. Exemplary teachers are goal-oriented and have dialogue with individual students to help them succeed.
  • Challenging but Realistic – Memorable teachers push students to go beyond what they know what they can do by creating challenging projects, activities, or assessments for their students. Students should feel stretched academically; even though it can be uncomfortable, it leads to growth and a stronger sense of self-worth.
  • Empathetic & Relational – Students should feel seen and known by their teacher, not just in the classroom, but also outside of it. When students know their teacher cares, they will be more motivated and invested in their learning and can lean on their teacher for support. More on empathy in the classroom, check out this article.
Check out this article about the relationship between evidence and empathy.
  • Good Listeners – It is important that students know that their teacher wants to hear their voice and input! Teachers should listen intently to their questions and their individual experiences, as listening is a simple way of showing students that you care.
  • Flexible – Exemplary teachers should be accommodating to the individual needs of the students and able to adapt as the semester progresses. Teachers can help students succeed by working with them when they are struggling outside of class and be available.

While there is no formula to exemplary teaching, there are some important features to include in the classroom that can increase the positive impact on students’ overall learning experience.

1. Experiential Learning & Real World Application

Whether it is a chemistry, biology, anatomy, or physics classroom, hands-on, interactive experiences can increase student engagement. When emotions are connected to learning experiences, knowledge is better stored and retrieved in long-term memory. In an anatomy class, taking students who are interest in a medical career to an orthopedic lab to observe and perform surgeries on real cadavers would connect their real world interests to class content. Experiential learning could be lab experiments, nature walks, scavenger hunts, and tactile activities and could be applied in a range of subjects.

2. Cooperative Learning

Learning becomes memorable students engage not only with the content, but with each other. Collaboration is key when incorporating group activities and projects into lesson plans. To facilitate effective cooperative learning, provide students with specific roles, leave space for discussing their questions, and emphasize the importance of using everyone’s different strengths.

3. Inquiry-Based Activities

Inquiry teaching in science is crucial because it encompasses the scientific method, critical thinking, scientific problem solving, and scientific reasoning. Encourage students to make observations, analyze and interpret data, and develop answers to questions they have about content. Throughout the inquiry process, students will develop skills that can be transformative in understanding and applying science, but also in making real world decisions.

Check out this Target Inquiry link to learn more about inquiry and explore useful, inquiry-based teaching materials in various science subjects.

Being an exemplary teacher takes time, effort, and practice! Continue implementing these key ideas into your classroom and you can leave an impact on your students that they will remember forever.


  1. Hi Rachel!

    I love you blog post! You brought up some great ideas, I really like your real world application section and how you talked about getting them emotionally connected to what they are learning. Your example of bringing students to a cadaver lab for an anatomy class sounds super cool! I like how you went above bringing professionals into the classroom. Do you have any other suggestions of ways to connect real world jobs to what students are learning?

  2. Hi Grace! Thanks so much for your comments and insights. I agree, there is definitely a balance between effectively presenting content as well as being well-rounded in the ways we interact with our students in our role as a teacher. I think in the future to incorporate experiential learning, I would love to take my students outdoors to observe where and how science interacts around us. But also depending on the subject, taking field trips that dive deeper into certain fields of study, such as touring a research lab, having a panel of medical professionals come and speak to my class, or going to science conferences or career fairs I think would be beneficial for my students someday.

  3. Hi Rachel!
    I really enjoyed this entire post, with my favorite section definitely being the “exemplary teachers are…” section. I think it can be really easy for us to get caught up in the “what” and “how” of our classrooms, constantly wondering which activities would be good to do and how we can successfully present content to our students. And while, of course, delivering content to our students is absolutely essential, the way in which we treat our students is also a key part of what makes teachers exemplary, and I am so glad you touched on that and reminded me of it. The point that resonated with me most was “Challenging but Realistic”. My chemistry teacher in high school pushed me really hard and stretched me more than I thought I could go, but I really do now have a greater self-image in terms of chemistry because of it. What is an experiential learning activity that you want to do in your classroom some day?

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