Educator Professional Development

An Exemplary Professional Development Program

CSU East Bay’s Integrated Middle School Science (IMSS) Partnership

In late 2010, the National Science Foundation Math Science Partnership awarded California State University East Bay (CSUEB) a $12 million grant to implement a comprehensive model to transform middle school science instruction, learning, and ongoing science professional development, and to produce science education research in the San Francisco Bay Area. IMSS is aligned with the Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards and grounded in an extensive body of research and evidence-based best practices in science instruction and learning, professional development, systemic change, adult learning theory, and education research. Completing its third year of a five-year project, IMSS represents a broad inter- and intra-agency collaboration with the CSUEB College of Science and College of Education and Allied Studies; San Francisco Exploratorium; and Alameda, Santa Clara, and San Mateo County Offices of Education; and 10 school districts in four counties. 

Figure 1, below, shows the multi-tiered approach to professional development, beginning with a spring District Leadership Institute with ten (10) IMSS partner district teams comprised of district, site, and IMSS-trained Teacher Leaders from each district, and others critical to systemic change in the district.

Figure 1.  IMSS Multi-tiered PD Model

Figure 1: Multi-tiered approach

Increased Scope.  By Year 3, constituents include 34 middle schools (from 13 in Year 1) across 10 districts (from 4 in Year 1) in four counties (from 2 in Year 1), 200 middle school teachers (including 60 who have been designated and prepared by the project to serve as IMSS Teacher Leaders), 30 site administrators, four county offices of education. We started with only 4 districts, 26 teacher leaders and 18 administrators in year 1.  More teachers and administrators are being added from existing partner districts in the summer and fall of 2013.

Transitioning from IMSS-led to Teacher Leader-Led.  IMSS is now transitioning from IMSS-led PD to district/site/teacher leader-led. Each district leadership team has completed their action plan for sustainability and scaling. However, each has reported limited resources for science professional development and instruction. Most will continue to need district support infrastructures strengthened through the partnerships developed in this project. Participant districts are at different stages of readiness for this transition. Addressing these challenges will be a key focus of our September 2013 advisory board meeting.

Value of Lesson Study and Professional Learning Communities. Within the context of professional learning communities, teacher leaders collaborated with disciplinary faculty and science education specialists from partner county offices and the Exploratorium to develop and refine “instructional cases” (core science themes anchored in inquiry-based, hands-on instructional activities).  In these communities of practice, lesson study proved to be a highly valued and successful mechanism for collaboration on the development and refinement of these units, as well as improvement of classroom practice (via cycles of observation, feedback, reflection).  When facilitated well, trust, mentoring, and productive working relationships were the outcomes for the teachers, many of whom were previously accustomed to working in isolation and without support.

Outcomes for Lesson Study

(1) Lesson Study outcomes for teacher leaders and non-teacher leadersinclude:

De-privatized teaching practice and promote teacher learning and agency through collaboration
Deepened own subject matter knowledge
Increased ability to adapt/change lessons to meet the learning needs of students
Increased focus on student thinking; aiding teachers to become more skillful in understanding how their students learn

(2) Lesson Study outcomes for schools and districts include:

District and site level recognition of lesson study as key collaboration and professional development for science teachers
De-privatized teaching practices
Trained teacher leaders in the process of lesson study
Research is used by Teacher leaders to inform their instructional practices

Lesson Study Guide & Training Manual.  This guide is in development and it is anticipated that it will be completed by mid September.  It has been developed to provide facilitators of lesson study with a clear set of steps and related tools to use throughout the lesson study process. It is intended to help the facilitator prepare and to focus all participants on the most important issues during their time together. The tools and references contained within the guide aid the facilitator in guiding the lesson study team in conversation and thinking. This guide can be adapted for use across other academic subjects.  To support sustainability and scaling of lesson study, we are collaborating with Sacramento State University to create videos that can be used in conjunction with the facilitator guide as a train-the trainer tool and with newly formed lesson study teams.

Development and Refinement of Online Instructional Cases (IC’s). Each IC module contains a series of three to twelve lessons, focused on key science concepts and practices. The ICs integrate science practices and Common Core State Standards to improve student learning.  IMSS middle school science teacher leaders, CSUEB science faculty, instructional experts from multiple county offices of education, and organizations such as the Exploratorium all collaboratively developed the ICs. The table, below, lists the ICs developed to-date by discipline.  For more details on these student-centered science lessons, visit the IMSS website at

Table 1.  Instructional Cases by Discipline

table 1: instructional design

Lessons within each IC integrate science practices and writing into curriculum, instruction and assessment.  Each IC aligns with the K-12 Science Framework (NRC, 2011) and the Common Core State Standards (with a focus on argumentative writing in science).  Each IC “module” includes lesson plans, activities, samples of student work, and performance and formative assessments. All ICs have been piloted by middle school teachers and have a research lesson that is revised through the lesson study process. We encourage teachers to use the lessons and provide feedback. Lessons are revised and updated each summer.

For more information about IMSS, please contact Dr. Jeff Seitz, IMSS Principal Investigator at or Dr. Rachelle DiStefano, IMSS Co-Investigator and Co-Director, and Director for the Center for Science & Research at the CSU East Bay’s Institute for STEM Education, at