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PSEWG Findings and Recommendations



In response to the urgent national need for qualified teachers of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, NASA Science Mission Directorate's Support Network established the Pre-Service Education Working Group (PSEWG) in 2004. This Working Group was created to develop a deeper understanding of teacher preparation programs and needs throughout the United States and to identify ways to meet those needs relating to space science education. All information pertaining to the Working Group mission, members, and activities can be found at:

PSEWG findings are based on experiences of Working Group members, focus groups held at national conferences, conversations with individuals and organizations invested in preparing future teachers, research of existing literature, and a needs assessment survey responded to by 67 pre-service faculty, primarily education faculty.  The Working Group identified four audiences: future teachers, education faculty, science faculty, and the education professionals who interface with these pre-service audiences.

Working Group Findings

Based on the survey results and focus group discussions, several overarching messages were identified.  These findings are intended to guide program development at all scales, from efforts by individual scientists to systemic efforts.

  • Program planning should begin with identifying the audience(s) and assessing the necessary partners to meet the audience needs.
  • Advocacy of STEM content and science process skills, rather than NASA-specific messages, is critical.
  • Professional development opportunities for pre-service education and science faculty, future teachers, and the NASA education specialists working with these audiences are needed.
  • Significant and sufficient curriculum resources exist that can be leveraged.

1. Program planning should begin with identification of the audience(s) and strategic assessment of audience needs and necessary partners.  The audience should be integrated in the planning stages as a partner to ensure the project design matches desired outcomes and to elicit audience buy-in. It is imperative that the audience needs are understood prior to implementation; needs vary by grade level the pre-service teachers will be teaching, by major of the pre-service teacher, by institution, by faculty type, by state, and by the socio-economic landscape of the classrooms in which the teacher will be teaching.  It is imperative to recognize that "one size does not fit all" with respect to program development.  As the needs of the audience vary, so too, will the design and implementation of the program.

It also must be recognized that the needs of all of the audiences are urgent and long-term.  Strategic planning must include long-range goals and identification of actions to reach them.  Comprehensive preparation of qualified teachers is not possible within the span of undergraduate training; continued, planned professional development is necessary. Mentoring, access to scaled and connected STEM experiences for pre-service educators (and faculty), and participation in professional science education societies must continue beyond the college years, to ensure quality experiences for students and to support teacher retention. 

A single organization cannot address the needs and challenges alone.  Strategic partnerships with professional societies, universities, government organizations, and businesses – including minority serving and advocacy organizations - coupled with grass-roots efforts, are necessary to make a long-term difference.   High leverage partners, with whom the Working Group has collaborated, are those that reach pre-service education and science faculty, such as the Association for Science Teacher Education (ASTE), the National Association of Community College Teacher Education Programs (NACCTEP), NASA's Pre-Service Institutes, and the Astronomical Society of the Pacific (ASP). Other partners, also inclusive of pre-service faculty should be approached, including professional societies such as the American Astronomical Society (AAS), the Geological Society of America (GSA), The Society for College Science Teaching (SCST), and The American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE).  Organizations such as the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) are important, but do not gain leverage on the same level, as they access teachers rather than faculty.

2. Professional development of pre-service education and science faculty, future teachers, and the NASA education specialists working with these audiences is needed.  In spite of the varied needs of the audiences, there is considerable commonality in terms of responsive programs.

  • Education faculty and pre-service teachers need access to varied opportunities that allow them to experience science as an ongoing process of questions and discoveries. Such opportunities could include, but are not limited to, research experiences, internships, fellowships, fieldtrips, institutes, and mentoring.
  • Education and science faculty need access to professional development opportunities that integrate – and model - strong science content with best practices, including exploration of common misconceptions and educational research, explicit connections to education standards, authentic inquiry, and identification and use of appropriate resources. Pre-service teachers need similar learning experiences throughout their careers.  The experiences should not be prescriptive, but should build skills and strategies so that the pre-service teacher is capable of accessing new information and resources that will allow them to modify the content and pedagogy to fit the learning environment.  
  • Faculty and pre-service teachers often are not aware of existing space science resources. Trainings should incorporate use of exemplary resources that are appropriate to the science topic.  These trainings should encompass explicit instruction about which resources are appropriate, how and when they should be used in instruction, and how they can be accessed.

3. Significant – and sufficient - curriculum resources exist and can be leveraged. Further investment in resource development should focus on identifying missing elements in the portfolio of resources, re-purposing materials for use in pre-service settings, and making the materials accessible long-term.  Too often pre-service teachers are trained in educational materials only to find they are not available when the teacher reaches the classroom.  Efforts should concentrate on aligning resources with needs, making the audience aware of resource availability, and developing trainings incorporating appropriate materials and pedagogy.

Working Group Recommendations
  • Identify and develop long-term strategic partnerships with professional societies, universities, government organizations, and businesses – including minority serving and advocacy organizations - that will facilitate access to pre-service audiences.
  • Advocate informed collaborations between scientists, educators, and partner organizations to meet the needs of the pre-service community. Science and education faculty collaboration is fundamental to long term solutions; each brings critical pieces to the table for the preparation of qualified, confident, and enthusiastic science teachers. Education and science faculty have significant experience in their disciplines and mechanisms to share the excitement of science and discovery, however, they need to be afforded opportunities to build shared instructional strategies.
  • Support the involvement of pre-service faculty and teachers in experiences such as, but not limited to, student collaborations, internships, research experiences, professional development institutes, and mentorships.  Ensure that these truly are accessible to all, including students and faculty at minority serving institutions and community colleges.
  • Focus support on training rather than development of new materials. Provide diverse professional development opportunities through institutes and at national conferences.
  • Encourage the scientific and education community to become involved in existing pre-service programs so that they do not have to "reinvent the wheel." Alternatively, encourage the development of programs that serve as models that can be duplicated or that offer opportunities for community members to become a recognized part.

If you have questions, please get in touch with us.  We’re the Pre-Service Education Working Group.