K-12 Teacher-Partner Profile

Ronald Reed

College/University: Cornell University
Project Title: CLIMB: Cornell's Learning Initiative in Medicine and Bioengineering
Partner School: Cortland Senior High School, Cortland, NY
Years Teaching: 30
Graduate Fellow Partner(s): Cassandra Guarino

How will you continue to integrate an aspect of GK-12 and your partnership with graduate students into your teaching, philosophy, etc.?

As a result of my summer research experience, listening to the lectures given by Cornell professors and the weekly workshops presented on lesson preparation, I am more convinced of the value of inquiry-based teaching and learning. A quality lecture can be done, but it is difficult to assess whether or not the material is being conveyed effectively until after the presentation has been completed. I think lectures have a place in our pedagogical “toolbox” and can be used occasionally. My goal this year will be to engage the students to a greater degree than I have done previously. That engagement will come in three areas: P.I.E. = physically, intellectually and emotionally. If I approach my lesson preparation asking the question, “What will my students DO today?” rather than “What will they hear today?” I want to believe they will gain a better understanding of and appreciation for the concepts and for the nature of science.

How has the GK-12 experience changed you, and how has your participation changed the GK-12 project?

As a self-professed evolutionary ecologist and macrobiologist, I learned so much about the techniques and procedures associated with biochemical engineering. Capturing crayfish and studying salamander behavior seemed so much easier than “trusting” that bacteria, phage, and genetically engineered plasmids were present in a test tube of broth or on Petri dish of agar. Even after weeks of performing certain protocols, I was only moderately confident of how they were done or why. It made me realize that some of my students might feel the same way during some of my lessons. This was a very humbling awareness, one that has given me an opportunity for reflection and professional growth. I became more convinced that many/most science investigations are done collaboratively and they should be. Independent research can be conducted, but there needs to be convenient and open communication between and among those who are investigating similar studies. Even in a high school classroom setting, maybe especially in these earliest experiences, students should be encouraged to work together to discuss alternative hypotheses to a question/problem, design experiments, combine and analyze data, and prepare meaningful conclusions for their work. The Friday lectures during the summer made me aware of the importance of keeping up, as much as possible, with current research. For the most part, public school teachers have few opportunities and even less time (particularly if you are coaching, advising, or involved in other extracurricular school activities) to read detailed science articles. On the other hand, there are several online journals offerings abstracts that give a glimpse of recent studies. Knowing the advances in biology should help us avoid teaching “old” information, could clarify misconceptions, and provide potential opportunities for developing new or modifying former lessons.
The difficult question of how I changed the GK-12 project haunts me. Perhaps the one thing I have done is serving as a positive role model for nine other teachers from across the Central New York Region of NY State. Even after three decades as a professional educator, I am seeking ways to improve my role as a teacher. I readily acknowledge and accept that the times, circumstances, and students are not the same as they were when I began teaching in 1980. I think of myself as the type of person who adapts to those changes, becomes one of the successful survivors and shares with his colleagues. I hope that has been reflected throughout my CLIMB experience and will continue to echo over the course of my career.