Kermin Martinez-Hernandez

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Early on my career development I realized that being exposed to authentic research it is necessary for meaningful learning. Therefore, I have adopted this philosophy into my teaching to help my students make the connections between the classroom concepts, the laboratory, and the real world. Authentic research it is a relatively new teaching and research approach in the science education revolution that I strongly believe in it. This approach is an essential component in the recently available framework by the National Academy of Sciences: “A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas”, although it can be translated to students at all levels. Throughout the report it is highlighted the importance of authentic research and inquiry opportunities for our students, the new generation of future scientists and engineers. As a teacher I would provide activities in the classroom where students can use inquiry, think critically, and problem solve. One way to achieve this is through authentic research where students can generate their own interests and desire to solve a problem. The integration of content knowledge intertwined with the design of learning opportunities for scientific inquiry and engineering is fundamental to engage our students at all levels and whenever possible I would integrate this into my teaching.

As my ultimate teaching goal, I envision an interactive and enjoyable class in which students will be able to observe and interact with the chemistry real-life applications. I will avoid as much as possible the “spoon feeding” of knowledge; I will try to present the chemistry concepts and their uses. I think that by presenting and applying the chemistry concepts to real-life situations, the students will be able to understand them and would facilitate their learning. At the end of a class, I would expect the students to be able to make connections between chemistry concepts and the outside world as well as with their area of study. I personally believe that if a student is able to explain a concept to another person, then, he/she understands it and as a result meaningful learning has occurred. Therefore, another goal for my class will be group discussions to improve students’ communications skills and facilitate their learning.

I think that I would like to teach in this way because I feel that the way instruction has been imparted lately in some instances does not address students’ needs or provide opportunities that are in parallel with the current technological advancements. Therefore, students should be motivated and engaged in learning and we need to fuel them with new ways of teaching that could provide such opportunities that might promote learning in a meaningful way.

Finally, I am a chemical educator that come from the constructivist school of thinking and believes in “learning-by-doing.” I use in my teaching and learning, techniques such as inquiry-based, problem-based learning (PBL), and process oriented guided inquiry learning (POGIL), to help students develop their process skills (e.g.,critical thinking, problem solving, and communication). I conduct an interactive and enjoyable class in which students are able to experience and interact with real-life applications of the concept(s) learned in class and understand its relevance to their lives. To address the needs of various learners, I use inquiry-based laboratories where the students design their own procedure and participate in groups, POGIL activities where students explore the concepts and are guided to construct, deepen, or refine their understanding of the concepts discussed in class via teams, and PBL projects to allow students apply their knowledge to an authentic situation outside of the classroom.

For additional information about my work in the Fellows Program, please see my report on Problem-Based Learning with Middle School Students:  Engaging Pre-Service Teachers with Authentic Science Teaching in an After School Setting