Round Rock ISD

"By Science Folks for Science Folks" Round Rock ISD ADI Implementation Journey

Q: How did ADI first come to the attention of RRISD?

Our district science specialist attended a Texas Science Education Leadership Association meeting at ESC Region 13 in Austin, TX where Vic Sampson facilitated a session on ADI. The eight stages gave our team a vision for what inquiry-based instruction could look like in the science classroom in a step-by-step framework for doing science.

A clear understanding of the discipline and practices of science through the lens of engaging, and authentic learning experiences for all students was evident within the ADI model, and we appreciated that the model was written, “by science folks for science folks.” The focus on authenticity engaged students in the aligned content required by our rigorous standards; the focus on science processes and skills gave all students the opportunity to participate in the practices of science that are often missing in more traditional instruction. The focus on these processes has allowed teachers to incorporate robust literacy strategies into their classes, giving students an avenue to develop science literacy.

We found that such practices were difficult to incorporate into PBL models, which lacked discipline-specific practices. In our observations of students engaged in PBL lessons, we noticed that, though engaged in a project, students were not consistently mastering science content. Additionally, educators struggled with “getting” students to generate robust guiding questions - it felt coerced. For the time required for such projects, a lot of learning must be packed into these experiences! After all - a significant amount of learning is required by our standards!

Q: What other factors drove RRISD to implement ADI?

Round Rock ISD is committed to providing equitable learning experiences for all students. This includes efforts to close not only gaps in academic achievement but also in eliminating opportunity gaps. We wanted - and continue to want - all students to have the opportunity to engage in ADI. A student’s opportunity to participate in the practices of science should not be limited to a specific campus or type of class.

In RRISD, we offer on-level, Pre-AP, and AP science courses in all high schools. We do not separate Talented and Gifted students into specific classes in our Middle School science courses. Instead, we train teachers to differentiate for individual students in their classes, and ADI has been a tremendous help with that differentiation.

Q: How did you structure your district-wide rollout?

After learning more about ADI, four district science curriculum and instruction members attended the ADI Train the Trainer. We knew that, when we rolled out ADI, we wanted to make sure it was for everyone.

To ensure teacher representation across the district, we recruited one teacher representative for 6th, 7th, and 8th from every middle school campus, and one biology, chemistry, and physics teacher from each high school campus - this was our “Science Cadre” who received the first training that we offered in Round Rock. At this point, the middle school and biology ADI books had been published, and our Middle School Science Cadre was ready to jump on board. (Our High School Cadre opted to wait one more year in anticipation of new resources that have since been published - we did not want to burden teachers with creating their own resources while still learning the model.)

The middle school teachers in the cadre determined which topics within their curriculum were a good fit to use ADI as an instructional model. Then, they were given the freedom to rearranged the days within their scope and sequence to allow for the instructional time they would need. The Science Cadre became a place for us to run each new ADI lab that the Cadre agreed they would like to do through a “dress rehearsal” with our curriculum and instructional coach team.

To do this, we purchased the materials for the small team and ran through each step of the ADI in our meeting. We would go through the ADI, not as students, but fully engaged as educators troubleshooting every aspect of the lesson. One thing the team found invaluable was to come up with our own justifications. We would collaboratively create the “ideal” board based on what students needed to know and then work backward to make sure adequate differentiation and scaffolds were in place for our students. The ADI labs can be edited, and we sometimes had to add information to the introduction to make sure it fully aligned with our standards or substitute materials for others that we had. While editing, however, we worked to maintain the fidelity of the model. In this way, we made sure that teachers were truly prepared and confident in introducing their PLC teams to ADI.

*There are plenty of areas where our educators are still growing. For example, Stage 5 is not a “lecture,” or a place to revert back to a Powerpoint/notes model. It is still a work in progress, but we are getting there!

Once all the teachers were back on contract, we trained every member of each cadre member’s PLC. The Science Cadre agreed to try one ADI per semester the first year, but - to our surprise - by October they had all done one ADI decided they liked the model so much they wanted to do four ADI lessons instead of the two ADI lessons we had originally planned on! One of our teachers said she felt as if ADI gave her the ability to teach science the way she had always wanted to teach, her team agreed, and her campus is still going strong today!

Q: RRISD is also implementing Argument-Driven Engineering (ADE), how did that come about?

RRISD was asked to be part of a grant in 2016 with Vic Sampson and Todd Hutner through The University of Texas at Austin. That grant brought ADE to two middle schools that support students with diverse demographics. Teachers were - and still are - implementing the ADE design challenges in their science classes. These campuses saw a lot of success with ADE, especially with strong administrative support. The teachers did ADE the next two years as part of the grant and all of the teachers involved saw the value in keeping it in the curriculum, even after the grant ended. Teachers found that even though ADE takes a bit longer than ADI, the students learn how to think critically - which helps save time throughout the rest of the curriculum.

This past summer we trained middle and high school teachers from across the district who were interested in learning and using the model. They are working on what ADE looks like in our district in a similar way to what we did with ADI. One difference is this summer we had teachers work on creating ADEs for grades and courses that didn’t already have them. Biology has already done one and middle school teachers have or will do them after the winter break. We are going to continue to write additional ADEs before we take this to a larger group of teachers so right now it is two from each grade level or course. We are committed to using ADE, we just need more time with our teachers to train and support them. We are also interested in Argument-Driven Mathematics as we like the idea of consistency across science and math.

Q: What changes have you seen with regard to instruction since implementing ADI?

Our Curriculum and Instruction team has seen firsthand a remarkable shift in students and teachers as they implement ADI. We have seen teachers’ leadership capacity grow stemming from the way ADI was implemented through the cadre model. More teachers are stepping up, facilitating training, and writing their own ADI lessons - including one that is done in conjunction with the Google Expeditions team to bring virtual reality to the classroom! It’s rewarding to see the impact on student learning that these teachers are having beyond their own classroom through leading training, sharing on social media, and presenting at state and national conferences. It’s even more rewarding to see teachers so energized because they are teaching science the way they have always wanted!

ADI has made a significant impact on science instruction in Round Rock ISD. It has given us a research-based model to incorporate scientific inquiry into the classroom and provided a robust framework in which all students engage in the processes of science. The focus on these processes has allowed teachers to incorporate robust literacy strategies into their classes, giving students an avenue to develop science literacy. Most importantly, we are making sure all of our kids leave the classroom seeing themselves as scientists!

To hear more about RRISD's rollout of ADI, watch the short video here.