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Pre-Service Education Working Group

Pre-Service Educator Workshop

Astronomical Society of the Pacific Conference
Friday, 16 September 2005

Workshop Discussions

Approximately 20 education specialists, mission E/PO leads, faculty, and representatives from science and education organizations (e.g., Association for the Advancement of Science, Association of Teacher Educators) participated in a two-hour workshop designed to:

  1. Introduce the audience to the Pre-Service Educator Working Group of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate’s Support Network;
  2. Explore the intersection of pre-service educator needs with areas of interest and expertise in the space science community, as well as opportunities and programs that can be leveraged in the preparation of pre-service educators;
  3. Identify where space science community members can partner in the preparation of pre-service teachers;
  4. Enlist workshop participant assistance in sharing these opportunities with their extended communities;
  5. Identify where the Pre-Service Educator Working Group can help in the facilitation of partnerships/programs

Break-out Group Discussion 1 - Dr. Rudy Mattai, Facilitator

What do pre-service faculty in colleges of education need from scientists and E/PO specialists to prepare teachers to teach science in science or methods courses?

What is the portfolio of resources (workshops, materials) Earth and space scientists and E/PO specialists have to offer that meet pre-service needs?

  • More resources are needed to get real partnerships established between scientists and education professionals.
  • Partnerships need to expand beyond the individual to the institution so that they will "weather change."
  • Needs vary from institution to institution.
  • Barriers to partnership need to be identified and understood; respect will be fundamental in establishing partnerships (e.g., value placed on pedagogy and content, learning from each other).
  • Partnerships can be established with Colleges of Education for:
    • integration of content into methods courses;
    • offering of content and methods clinics at society meetings;
    • integration of science and literacy into elementary education courses;
    • development of activities that help facilitate good classroom management by engaging children in science
  • Professional development workshops are needed for incoming faculty. These should encompass pedagogy as well as cultural sensitivity (what unique socio-economic challenges will pre-service educators face in the communities in which they teach?).
  • Pre-service educators need to be prepared to work within the community; communities vary in their perceptions of science.
  • More data are needed to understand the perceptions of science among the various socio-economic groups.
  • Educational pedagogy courses should be offered / recommended for graduate students.
  • Professional societies such as ATE, ASTE, AAS, and ASP can:
    • disseminate position statements stipulating that teachers should be required to have content knowledge in the subject that they are teaching;
    • provide professional development opportunities for scientists and pre-service faculty that meet the identified needs (e.g., content and pedagogy, tools for mentoring, best practices for internships, etc.)

Break-out Group Discussion 2 – Dr. Bill Waller, Facilitator

What do scientist faculty need to know and do to support teacher preparation? What is happening in the colleges of education that will inform their role?

Science faculty need to:

  • understand the basic education standards and benchmarks (e.g. AAAS 2061, state standards);
  • know that educators are required to address these standards;
  • be aware of what the teachers will be teaching (refer to state standards and local district requirements); and
  • be aware of / understand other issues facing teachers (time constraints, classroom conditions, English-as-a-second-language students; socio-economic factors).

Professional development opportunities can help to meet these needs. Models exist, including "Cosmos in the Classroom"-type symposia, workshops, partnerships such as Project ASTRO or NOVA that involve co-training of educators and scientists, teaching practicums for graduate students, etc.

The No Child Left Behind Act requires that all classrooms have a qualified teacher. To some degree NCLB will drive the preparation of educators by increasing the pressure on faculty and pre-service teachers to ensure that future science educators acquire content knowledge in STEM fields. NCLB also means that students graduating in a STEM discipline could be qualified to teach in the classroom, but they will need pedagogical training. Faculty, colleges, universities, and organizations should be able to serve these respective needs.

Science-education interfaces can be developed, including:

  • pre-service internships that involve partnering student educators with scientists and master teachers for mentoring.
  • having STEM graduate students serve part of their graduate careers as co-teachers in the classroom.
  • partnering science faculty with education faculty (when available) for co-teaching of pedagogically-aware STEM courses (it should be noted that education faculty are already over-committed).
  • partnering science faculty with education Ph.D. students - another permutation of the Scientist: Science Student: Education Faculty: Education Student: Master Teacher equation.

Much of the responsibility for engineering these partnerships between science / education teams lies at the Dean's level, especially given the need for adequate funding and the need for establishing new courses of study that are content driven and integrate appropriate education standards. Once course of study could be "General Science" for undergraduates who are undecided.

Science departments may have more leeway in offering such courses. Models in which science departments offer STEM education courses and courses of study exist (e.g., U-Teach at UT Austin, programs offered at the University of Arizona, University of New Mexico, and Colorado University). Other programs model strong education-science department collaborations relations (e.g., Tufts University). All of these models offer opportunities to test new ideas, such as cross-listing courses and requiring specific sequences of classes for pre-service educators.

Break-out Group Discussion 3 – Dr. Cassandra Runyon

Beyond formal classroom instruction, what are the direct roles scientists / E/PO specialists can take in educator preparation?

How these can be implemented?

Offer professional development for pre-service educators beyond their classroom learning such as:

  • internships (perhaps coupled with classroom internships for scientists so that they can better understand the classroom/working environment of pre- and in-service educators).
  • observatory events, such as those already hosted for educators - from night-sky viewing to research projects.
  • field experiences, including authentic research or field-based classroom experiences.

Such professional development will help increase confidence in teaching STEM material, and will help pre-service educator teachers facilitate open-ended student learning.

These experiences offer opportunities to immerse pre-service educators in the process of science, not solely STEM content; often educators are not exposed to this, and yet they are responsible for conveying the nature, skills, and process of science to their students.

Other ways to be involved:

  • Collaborate with the college of education faculty; pre-service teachers often are “non-science majors” and hence may take few science classes.
  • Team with teacher institutes, as some do not have science departments with which to partner.
  • Team with pre-service educators to create curriculum materials that are needed. This serves multiple purposes of involving scientists (who bring the content knowledge) and making them aware of educational issues. The pre-service educator, with guidance, can be better prepared to teach the content for which they are responsible, in ways that engage the children. The draft materials can be tested with students and revised by the pre-service educators, supporting further professional development.
  • Collect data / undertake research about the use of materials to lend credibility to the process.
  • Help teachers access local resources – other teachers, societies, science center staff, planetarium staff.
  • Help pre-service teachers locate the best teaching resources.
  • Develop interactive resources that a) teach content; b) offer ideas of how to bring the content effectively into the classroom, and c) provide materials they can use directly (e.g., PowerPoint presentations).
  • Create “quick look up” sheets for scientists and educators about missions, science questions, etc.
  • Develop a long-term coaching relationship with one or more pre-service educators; once they begin to teach, expand the team to include in-service teachers in the same school.
  • Expand Project Astro – pair pre-service teachers with astronomers.

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Last updated
May 4, 2007