The Knowles Academy offers state-of-the-art professional development experiences for teachers. All Academy courses are designed and facilitated by experienced teachers who understand the complexities of teaching in today’s world.

Through this Knowles Academy course, science teachers will work in small, collaborative groups as they learn to increase the cognitive demand of their lessons and provide more opportunities for students to talk about science—tactics that lead to an increase in student engagement.

Designing Instructional Tasks to Increase Student Engagement and Learning in Science

This sustained professional development course is designed to support teachers who aim to provide their students with a connected and conceptual understanding of science content. Through an introductory three-day, in-person workshop; a one-day, concluding in-person workshop; and ongoing coaching, this course will help science teachers provide increased opportunities for students to learn by increasing their use of high cognitive demand tasks and scientific talk in their classrooms. Teachers will become more closely acquainted with the disciplinary practices described by the Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Science Standards, as well as the 5 Practices for Orchestrating Task-Based Discussions in Science. Using these resources as a framework, teachers will learn to engage students in authentic science in ways that are aligned with the changing landscape of education in the U.S.

Course Objectives:

  • Identify the cognitive demands of tasks and consider how the tasks influence students’ opportunities to learn
  • Outline the content of an upcoming unit and consider how the tasks in their textbook/curriculum support students’ opportunities to learn
  • Plan lessons using a cognitively demanding task
  • Gain experience considering the alignment of the scientific goal and the task, and other enactment factors, by providing feedback on other teachers’ lessons
  • Analyze data from lessons, including other participants’ lessons and their own, to reflect on students’ opportunities to learn science
  • Develop strategies to analyze and support the scientific talk in their classroom


Teachers will receive ongoing coaching that is initiated by a three-day, in-person workshop and concluded by a one-day, in-person workshop.

Day 1: Tasks in the Curriculum: Exploring Cognitive Demand
  • Engage in scientific tasks as learners
  • Explore the cognitive demands of scientific tasks
  • Modify tasks to increase cognitive demand
  • Analyze current unit for cognitive demand
Day 2: Tasks in Our Lesson Plans: Supporting Opportunities to Learn
  • Revisit cognitive demands of tasks
  • Explore and understand the 5 Practices for Orchestrating Task-Based Discussions in Science
Day 3: Tasks in Our Lesson Plans: Supporting Our Students’ Opportunities
  • Establish conditions for critical friendship
  • Plan a lesson using the 5 Practices
  • Organize and plan for collecting and analyzing data from that lesson
Between Workshops
  • Teach the lesson planned on Day 3
  • Analyze data and reflect on the lesson with other participants
Day 4: Tasks in Enactment: Supporting Student Discourse
  • Explore scientific talk in classrooms frameworks
  • Examine cases of scientific talk in classrooms
  • Reflect on the talk that happens in your own classroom
  • Plan a lesson that focuses on talk for your classroom

Scholarships are available for Knowles Academy courses (select yes to the financial aid question on the registration form for more information).

Designing Instructional Tasks to Increase Student Engagement and Learning in Science

Date: July 16–18, 2019 with follow-up dates throughout the school year (TBD)
Time: 8:30 a.m.–4:00 p.m. (coffee and lunch will be provided)
Location: Moorestown, New Jersey
Price: $800

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Academy Services

All Knowles Academy courses can be customized to meet the specific needs of schools and/or districts. Please use the below form to request information about custom services.

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