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Teaching In High Gear: My Shift Toward a Student-Driven, Inquiry-Based Science Classroom


In her game-changing new book, Teaching in High Gear: My Shift Toward a Student-Driven, Inquiry-Based Science Classroom, middle grades teacher Marsha Ratzel describes how she acquired the knowledge and skills to evolve her classroom from a traditional "teacher at the top" environment to a space where students are eager to accept ownership of their learning adventure.

Marsha's transformational journey was marked by a gradual shift toward student-driven learning and bolstered with encouragement from a powerful global network of like-minded educators ready to collaborate on behalf of kids.

As I climbed higher in my teaching practices, I had to shift gears and learn to seek out colleagues who helped me figure out the questions to ask myself and strategies to get me up the hill.... With my Personal Learning Network's support, I found my momentum. I was able to take the small successes that I was experiencing with students and build those into some bigger feats. (p. 94)

In her interactive eBook, Marsha includes insightful tips about creating a professional network capable of supporting the shift to "less teacher, more student." She also shares advice and resources that can help science, mathematics and other K12 teachers guide students to pursue their passions and assume more responsibility for their own intellectual growth. As Marsha says:

Once you’ve tasted this kind of teaching—seen students learn so much more in your classes than they ever have learned before—then the fun of it, the reward of it, is so great that you strive to get back into this kind of flow every time you walk into the classroom. (p. 96)

About the author

Marsha RatzelMarsha Ratzel is a National Board-certified science and math teacher in the Blue Valley (KS) School District and a popular blogger (Reflections of a Techie). In the past three years she has taught 6th and 8th grade science and 8th grade algebra. Ratzel has also written about connected learning and expert teaching practice for Education Week, Voices from the Learning Revolution, Educational Horizons and other publications.

This 110-page eBook is the latest in a series of short, practitioner-written works from Powerful Learning Press, designed to energize teachers and school leaders as they make the shift to digitally infused, inquiry-driven teaching and learning.

This digital book includes:

  • Dozens of color photos
  • A welcome video from Marsha
  • Many links to Marsha's helpful downloads and other resources
  • A look inside Marsha's classroom showing how she developed and applied concepts in the book

Want to preview before you buy? Read the Introduction at our Voices from the Learning Revolution blog or Chapter 8, Coaching in the Classroom, at Middleweb.

 What they're saying

Bill FerriterAt its core, Teaching in High Gear is the transparent tale of a reflective teacher working to change her practice and to create a learning space that best serves her students. By painting an honest picture of what “changing practice” looks like in action – by sharing her fears, describing her struggles, and celebrating her successes – Ratzel reminds us all that “excellent teaching is not so much something we achieve as something we pursue.” - from the Foreword by teacher-author Bill Ferriter

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  1. Tweet from MindShift 4 Star Review

    Posted by on 20th Jan 2014

    I wanted to share these comments offered on Twitter by MindShift Editor Tina Barseghian:

    "Great book! Practical tips on getting students to spend more time on learning and put more energy into it."

    (Tina didn't assign stars, but this platform requires some, so I took a guess. - John Norton, PLPress)

  2. A Clear Pathway for Any Educator 5 Star Review

    Posted by on 27th Dec 2013

    In Teaching in High Gear, you get to witness first hand the evolution of an educator who decides to create a learning environment that works for all students. (Marsha Ratzel's) classroom moves beyond the four walls in her school. Her students become co-creators and deliverers of the content. Her parents and personal learning network get first hand access to their progress and performance thanks to the power of social media. Her school now has a model of a 21st century educator.

    Just as important, Marsha discovers a powerful life lesson about this process of becoming an inquiry-based, student-driven educator.

    "My students’ strength meant they were willing to dig down deep when what they really wanted was to quit. Some people never learn that finding the answer or doing something successful is mostly overcoming fear that it can’t be done (p 95)."

    In the future, students who have Mrs. Ratzel as their teacher will reap the benefits of her courage to become better. This book provides a clear pathway for any educator to follow the trail she has blazed.

    (Excerpted from the review by Matt Renwick at http://bit.ly/19tgCIJ)

  3. Must-Read for STEM teachers 5 Star Review

    Posted by on 16th Dec 2013

    What a book! An absolute “must read” for all STEM teachers!


  4. An important book about professional growth & student empowerment 5 Star Review

    Posted by on 10th Dec 2013

    In Teaching in High Gear: My Shift Toward a Student-Driven, Inquiry-Based Science Classroom, Marsha Ratzel gives us a first-hand look into how personal learning networks are driving extraordinary change in education by introducing teachers to new adjacent possibilities.

    Describing several individual challenge points that forced her to explore the boundaries of her practice – and the symbiotic relationships that she developed with digital colleagues walking through similar professional doors – Ratzel’s story is essentially the tale of one teacher committed to using social spaces and digital tools to regain her intellectual agency.

    Her narrative serves as an empowering reminder to practitioners that there is a fundamental difference between professional development and professional growth. While professional development assumes that learners are passive participants ready to be molded into something new by experts, professional growth depends on active, engaged learners who are willing to identify their own weaknesses, set their own targets, and find their own partners with passion and expertise to learn alongside – whether that learning takes place in person or online.

    But don’t be fooled: Teaching in High Gear is more than just a book about the changing nature of adult learning in today’s schoolhouse. It is, more importantly, a book about one woman’s efforts to reimagine the relationship between the teachers, the content and the kids in today’s science classrooms.

    Recognizing that her students – caught up in a system that rewarded memorization of basic facts instead of innovative thinking – had lost the natural curiosity that defines the scientists who move the world forward, Ratzel began exploring ways to help “the kiddos” in her care to regain their intellectual agency. Amplifying student voice, developing perseverance and thinking flexibly became instructional priorities in Ratzel’s classroom. Big themes and key vocabulary – essential concepts and terms that crossed domains – served as cognitive hooks for students wrestling with new ideas together; and thicker questions developed by individual learners turned into starting points for passion-based studies.

    (from the Foreword)

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