Dr. Sally Welch
LA Bldg., Rm 301
8425 W. McNichols Detroit, MI 48221
How does the Institute of Science and Mathematics Education help teachers teach science?
1. Prepare Effective K-12 Science Teachers
Goal: Prepare K-12 teacher education candidates in the content and practice of science as well as the principles and best practices of imaginative science education. This goal will be met by implementing several American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) recommendations regarding the preparation of prospective science teachers.
AAAS recommends that undergraduate teacher education programs be restructured to better prepare candidates in subject matter content and in pedagogical practice, and that college classrooms and laboratories should themselves be models of innovative teaching strategies
Mastery of science content must be ensured
That teachers should have command of the subject matter they teach may seem a statement of the obvious, but the percent of higher education institutions requiring students to take at least one course in the natural sciences dropped from 70 percent in 1964 to 34 percent in 1993. Colleges and universities with a lab science general education requirement dropped from 79 percent in 1964 to 30 percent in 1993. The absence of serious attention to science literacy at the college level is compounded by the fact that most science and mathematics in the elementary grades is taught by generalists who majored in elementary education and who were not exposed to all four natural science areas (physics, biology, chemistry, and geology).
The implications are clear in terms of the quality of science education in many self-contained classrooms. If a child is convinced that the seasons change because of Earth’s changing distance from the sun, it requires excellent knowledge of science and how science is learned to help a child understand the complex and often counterintuitive scientific principles that explain phenomena. At the very least, it is crucial that all science teachers are literate enough in science to address their students’ personal conceptions of scientific phenomena.
Intensive study of a science discipline increases the likelihood that future teachers will be able to understand science at a deep conceptual level and to reflect on important ideas, theories, and applications. AAAS and an increasing number of school districts strongly recommend that prospective science teachers — middle as well as high school — major in science.
Prospective students must be engaged in discussions about teaching and learning
AAAS also recommends that science-teacher education programs engage students in discussions about substantive issues of teaching and learning closely connected with the everyday work of teaching.
- This work should occur throughout the teacher education program, should take place in K-12 schools where the best science teaching practice is in place, and should not be postponed until a student is in a full-time student teaching assignment.
- In addition to the assumptions, purposes, and discourse of science, teacher education programs should expose their students to other cultural belief systems and to discussions of controversies about the nature of science.
- Teacher education programs should make it possible for teachers to study approaches to developing and legitimizing knowledge, learning what counts as a good idea, and what evidence can be used to decide what constitutes meaningful knowledge.
- Teacher education programs should actively recruit potential teachers from among those majoring in science.
Field experiences must be built into the curricula
To connect prospective science teachers to the everyday work of teaching and the everyday work of science, AAAS recommends that teacher education programs build field experiences into the curricula.
- First-hand experiences in schools, teaching and mentoring experiences, and fieldwork with scientists should come early in the teacher education program. Most prospective teachers rarely witness the extraordinary efforts teachers must undertake to educate themselves in their subject matter; to develop effective strategies for cultivating attitudes, skills, and knowledge of science in students; and to assess the success of their teaching and their students’ learning.
- Field experiences that allow experienced teachers to share the full picture of teaching with novices make these “hidden acts” of teaching more visible to prospective teachers. By creating and supporting professional collaborations, teacher educators can give prospective science teachers a foundation for building habits of reflective teaching.
College professors must model effective teaching
Science majors and prospective teachers can gain a head start in building dispositions, skills, and knowledge appropriate to science education if they have had undergraduate science professors who embrace the Project Kaleidoscope model of “what works” for faculty and curricula. PKAL urges college faculty to illustrate the relationships between science, mathematics, technology, and society in their curricula and to allow students to become active learners who have first-hand experience making connections between their own ideas and the knowledge they develop in courses.
As colleges increase the number of science courses that encourage inquiry-based, research-rich, hands-on learning, they increase the likelihood that future teachers and scientists will experience the excitement and satisfaction of “doing science as scientists do science.”
Addressing AAAS recommendations at Marygrove
Marygrove science and education faculty will work collaboratively to address AAAS recommendations and to strengthen the preparation of K-12 science teachers.
A first action strategy will be to design interdisciplinary, general education science courses appropriate for prospective teachers and non-science majors.
In particular, faculty will examine approaches that have proved successful at Kansas State University, an institution committed to involving their science departments in the education of teachers, and at Hope College, well known for its strong science programs at the undergraduate level.
One approach makes use of large data sets that are available on a variety of Web sites.
In a course designed for high school teachers at KSU, faculty filtered various astronomical, biological, environmental, and atmospheric data into data sets that were representative and that students could work with. Science faculty further developed tools that made the process of data analysis transparent to students, so that they could learn what these sophisticated processes were doing from a hands-on approach. Using computational and visualization research, the faculty developed lessons for a course in Visual Quantum Mechanics that were appropriate both for undergraduate science education majors and non-science students.
The quantum physics content ranged from discoveries early in the 20th century to contemporary applications such as medical diagnosis. During the semester students learned the basic science behind modern devices that use quantum physics in their design, and they studied the research that led to these devices. Pre-service teachers who were trained with these materials could use them in their classrooms to teach students how the abstract ideas of quantum physics were related to contemporary applications. Thus, the teachers and their students understood and even participated in modern physics research, even though they do not have the mathematical preparation traditionally required.
A second approach is to create informal or “tabletop” experiments that students can carry to their classrooms. Experiments begin with activities that teach the basic science and then allow students to use their imaginations to create new and interesting experiments. The course provides sophisticated science that does not need sophisticated equipment.
For example, a genetics course at KSU focused on the effect of radiation on the life cycle of yeast cells. Because the energy in ultraviolet light is sufficient to cause genetic damage to these cells, experiments could be performed without the need for extremely high-energy radiation. Further, yeast is a robust organism that can be maintained and grown without sophisticated equipment of special handling techniques. This course for pre-service teachers developed at KSU is now a commercial product available to teachers across the country.
Marygrove will also examine the applicability to teacher preparation of newly developed general education courses for non-science majors at Hope College. Faculty at Hope designed a set of novel interdisciplinary science courses named GEMS (General Education in Mathematics and Science) that use research-rich instruction in both lecture and laboratory. Two that would immediately seem to mesh with Marygrove’s curriculum are Edible Botany (environmental science and biology) and The Biology of Bread-Making (biology and biochemistry). As with the Kansas State courses, the Hope College approach could be tailored to the needs of Marygrove pre-service teachers, non-science majors, or science majors exploring an interest in teaching.
A second action strategy is to establish partnerships linking Marygrove to K-12 science and mathematics education. In 2001, the National Science Foundation funded a two-year program to explore solutions to the shortage of qualified science and math teachers in elementary, middle, and secondary schools. Titled Teaching Scholar Partnerships (TSP), the program promotes the importance of best practices in teaching and learning, in accordance with national standards in K-12 science and mathematics education.
TSP objective are to:
- Enrich and strengthen the learning experience of K-12 students in mathematics and science
- Encourage undergraduate students in science, technology, and mathematics to consider K-12 math and science teaching as a career option
- Generate national attention on the critical contributions that collaborative K-16 partnerships make to ensure the vitality of local schools
Teaching Scholar Partnership colleges collaborate with their local K-12 schools to introduce undergraduates, called Teaching Scholars, to K-12 classroom teaching. They learn to develop and implement lessons based on national standards, and to incorporate inquiry-based teaching methods and technology. Reflection and critical analysis are key components of local TSP projects.
Sample Teaching Scholar Partnership
The TSP program at Saginaw’s Delta College holds particular promise for adaptation at Marygrove, insofar as its purpose is to increase the participation, academic achievement, and retention of under-represented populations in science. With the advice of an advisory board that is actively involved in all aspects of TSP planning and implementation, the project focuses on middle and high school students but also provides professional development to middle and high school science teachers.
Delta teacher scholars work from 6-15 hours per week with teacher mentors in the science classrooms of two middle schools and one high school. College faculty mentors supplement the middle and high school classroom experience in weekly workshop meetings with teaching scholars. The workshops focus on teaching methods and delivery, classroom management techniques, laboratory safety, and instructional goals, objectives, outcomes, and assessment. With guidance from their mentors, the teaching scholars develop and implement inquiry-based labs to improve student understanding of the scientific method as well as specific content areas.
Assessments to date indicate that the program model strengthens learning at all levels by making purposeful connections between campuses and the K-12 community.
In addition to the National Science Foundation, Project Kaleidoscope provides excellent practical advice for building a TSP Project. To strengthen Marygrove’s capacity to prepare K-12 science teachers, Marygrove faculty, particularly Dr. Jeanne Andreoli, a PKAL-designated Faculty for the 21st Century, will work with PKAL Senior Associates to explore such a program at Marygrove.
2) Strengthen Continuing Professional Education for Science Teachers
Goal: Strengthen the corps of Detroit Public School and Archdiocese of Detroit math and science teachers through continuing professional education activities in the newly established Marygrove College Institute for Science and Math Education.
This goal will be met by expanding and formalizing current workshops for in-service teachers within a new Marygrove College Institute for Science and Math Education.
In 2001, through an Urban Initiative grant from the National Science Foundation to Detroit Public Schools (DPS), Marygrove College collaborated with the Detroit Zoo, the Cranbrook Institute of Science, and the New Detroit Science Center to offer workshops in “informal” (table top) science to DPS elementary school teachers. The goal of the workshop was to impact student learning via
- New pedagogical approaches for teachers
- Teaching materials that connect students to real life situations and problems
- Methods for better preparation for MEAP testing
- Strategies for increasing student retention of scientific information.
Elementary teachers spent two full days at Marygrove learning the pedagogy behind inquiry-based learning as well as designing new activities for use in their classrooms. On the following three days, under the direction of staff from Cranbrook, the Detroit Zoo, and the Science Center, teachers ventured to each partner site to learn how to use their locations for inquiry-based learning. At the same time, teachers became familiar with hands-on activities that they could take back to their classrooms.
In summer 2003, Marygrove introduced a new intensive workshop for high school chemistry teachers. The workshop allowed teachers to experience and design case studies and problem-based learning activities.
Teacher interest in these programs coupled with the State Department of Education’s push toward content preparation and the Department’s newly mandated “planned programs” of study in order to renew certification has prompted Marygrove to establish the Institute for Science and Mathematics Education.
Features of the Institute for Science and Mathematics Education
The new Institute for Science and Math Education will initially focus on the professional development of new and in-service teachers, recognizing that pre-service education is not long enough or intense enough for teachers to master all the skill areas they need, and that seasoned teachers must continually “re-master” their subject and how best to teach it.
The purpose of the Institute is to improve K-12 students’ achievement in math and science by building the capacity of their teachers.
The Institute will serve high school and middle school teachers from Detroit Public Schools, Archdiocese of Detroit Schools, and interested charter schools and school systems in Southeast Michigan, through extended multi-week workshops and/or continuing education or graduate courses. These learning formats will emphasize the scientific process and scientific content as well as innovative teaching techniques.
Marygrove’s teaching scientists will provide the appropriate background in basic science and research techniques and will offer multiple pedagogical approaches and exposure to new science methodologies and content areas. Teachers, in turn, will develop resource materials that can be utilized in their local school context.
In addition to continuing and expanding the week-long intensive workshops in informal science, the Institute will gradually develop a variety of courses and workshops on such topics as disease, environmental testing, nutrition, DNA mapping, fraction/decimal/metric systems, geometric sketching, graphic calculators, teaching to national and Michigan Curriculum Framework standards rather than to tests, and other topics as appropriate.
In summer 2005 the Institute will offer interdisciplinary teacher workshops in biotechnology and forensic science, two topics that have appeal, real-world application, and connection to students’ lives (at least via the popular CSI series). Biotechnology has application to the food students eat, their families’ or culture’s medical anthropology, and medical treatments they might receive from a doctor. The “Marygrove CSI” course will focus on the basic science needed to investigate a murder case.
Future growth of the Institute
As it evolves, the Institute for Science and Math Education will develop sequenced workshops and curricula in the four natural science areas for middle and high school teachers; offer graduate courses in science education; organize local and national conferences on the teaching of science; and provide research opportunities for local teachers and visiting scholars.
3) Capture the Scientific Imagination of Kids
Goal: Capture the scientific imaginations and increase the science and math literacy of metro Detroit children and youth through workshops, summer camps, and weekend classes in the Marygrove College Kids’ College offered through ISME.
This goal will be met by offering a variety of hands-on, content-rich, active-learning experiences for elementary, middle, and high school students.
Recent research indicates that science enrichment activities are a major motivating force for African-American students’ decisions to enroll in science courses and to pursue science careers.
The Marygrove Kids’ College draws a majority African-American population, students whose parents are committed to strengthening their talents and addressing their academic weaknesses through enrichment and tutoring activities.