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Letting Students Guide Their Learning in Middle School Science—How and Why Should We Do It?

Monday, July 15, 2019 @ 3:00 pm - 4:00 pm EDT

Presented by Anthony Baker, Project Director, Next Generation Science, Digital Promise; Emi Iwatani, Learning Sciences Researcher, Digital Promise; and Katie Leist, Science Teacher, Middletown Middle School, OH
Hosted by Sierra Noakes, Senior Research Project Manager, Digital Promise

Sponsored by Digital Promise



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Reimagining science instruction to be driven by student questions and investigation is central to the vision of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). This idea is also at the heart of the deeper learning competencies developed by the Hewlett Foundation, which contend that students should “be active participants in their education…immersed in a challenging curriculum that requires them to seek out and acquire new knowledge, apply what they have learned, and build upon that to create new knowledge.”

Driven by this goal, 18 teachers from three districts in the League of Innovative Schools, along with curriculum writers and researchers from Digital Promise, formed a Challenge Collaborative—a cross-sector effort to co-design solutions for real challenges facing public education—to create NGSS-aligned materials and gain a better understanding of how deeper learning can occur in student-centered science classrooms.

Join this edWebinar to discuss the processes around the Challenge Collaborative that led to pedagogical shifts and impacted student outcomes, hear from teachers involved in the study, and learn more about how challenge-based learning can meet the goals of the NGSS while giving students agency to lead their learning. This edWebinar will be of interest to K-12 teachers, school and district leaders, and researchers. There will be time to get your questions answered at the end of the presentation.

About the Presenters

Anthony Baker works on learning experience initiatives involving the Next Generation Science Standards at Digital Promise, always looking for opportunities to increase equity and student choice in science instruction. Prior to joining Digital Promise, he worked as a high school science teacher, curriculum consultant and science coordinator for the State of Illinois.


Emi Iwatani is a learning sciences researcher at Digital Promise. As an education researcher, she studies K-12 learning initiatives related to deeper learning, student-centered learning, science and computational thinking, and learning technologies, paying particular attention to cultural responsiveness. Her eclectic background includes teaching project-based science, educational programming for at-risk youth, and doctoral work in philosophy of science and educational research methodology.


Katie Leist is a science teacher at Middletown Middle School in Middletown Ohio, a suburb of Cincinnati.


About the Host

At Digital Promise, Sierra Noakes leads collaborative, research-based projects driven by authentic needs. By co-designing systemic improvements to the edtech marketplace with key stakeholders, such as education leaders and educators, Sierra hopes to infuse research into edtech product design and help educators make edtech decisions based on classroom needs. Prior to joining Digital Promise, Sierra was an educator and the curriculum coordinator for the Brooklyn Autism Center and received her M.Ed. from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.



To participate in the live edWebinar, log in with current version of Google Chrome or install the meeting app prior to the edWebinar on your computer, your Apple device, or Android device.  If you have a firewall in your location, you can participate on your mobile device using your cellular data (not your local network).

The edWebinar recording will be posted to this page the day after the presentation.

Join the Research and Evidence in Edtech communities to network with educators, participate in online discussions, receive invitations to upcoming edWebinars, and view recordings of previous programs to earn CE certificates.

Digital Promise was created with the mission to accelerate innovation in education to improve opportunities to learn.

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