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Using coaching mentality in classrooms is topic of new book by education studies professor

May 29, 2014
Dr. Mickey Kolis, UW-Eau Claire associate professor of education studies.

EAU CLAIRE — "Science inquiry is the game and learning the intended outcome," said Dr. Mickey Kolis, an associate professor of education studies at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, describing his recently published book, "Brainball (Science Edition): Teaching Inquiry Science as a Team Sport."

The strategies in "Brainball," co-authored with Todd Lenz, a high school science teacher and UW-Eau Claire alumnus, provide a framework for teachers on how to use a coaching mentality in the classroom while focusing students on conducting content inquiry.

"'Brainball' is meant to be an 'intellectual game,'" Kolis said. "It emphasizes a team concept, clear goal and external audience; all the things that make games, games."

Using "Brainball" helps convert a classroom into a team by developing a clear purpose, appreciation of diversity, and intellectual, emotional and social support, Kolis said.

"It provides an external audience for student learning performances and empowers the learners to own their learning and answer their own questions." Kolis said.

Lenz is applying the concepts outlined in the book to his classroom at Altoona High School, Kolis said.

Todd Lenz

"After completing my master's program and 10 years of teaching, I totally revamped my teaching style based on what I learned from Mickey, who was the lead professor of the cohort I was in during my master's work," Lenz said. "The biggest shift in my classroom is that I was intentional in teaching students the skills, knowledge and dispositions necessary to do inquiry-based learning. More specifically, it means leading students through a process where they make observations on specific areas of the content, develop a question they want to answer, develop a possible answer to that question, test their answer through experimental design, analyze their data mathematically and derive conclusions from their data."

In addition to thinking in an inquiry way, students also are taught how to act as scientists, Lenz said.

"This is more than just learning how to use a Bunsen burner or graduated cylinder," Lenz said. "It means learning how to get along in a community by using the gifts and talents you have to help everyone. It means being a person who seeks beneficial solutions, takes responsibility for self and others, strives for understanding, displays perseverance and has a passion for excellence. This approach has really made the content much more meaningful to students."

Kolis, a published author on various education topics, said collaborating with other professionals on his work is a way to help others in the field.

"I believe helping others grow professionally is part of my job," Kolis said. "I have published two books as the sole author and two books with co-authors. Working collaboratively helps me grow as well."

Kolis' areas of expertise include science education, backward design and essential questions, assessment data and curriculum feedback loop, collaborative leadership, and team-teaching and student cohorts.

For more information on "Brainball (Science Edition): Teaching Inquiry Science as a Team Sport," through Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, contact Dr. Mickey Kolis at or 715-836-4960.



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