Lunar and Planetary Institute

Before the First Day of School: Pre-Service Teacher Preparation
and the Role of the Earth and Space Science Community

Audience Discussion and Recommendations

Sunday, March 13, 2005
9:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m.
South Shore Harbor Resort and Conference Center, League City
Houston, Texas

What can Earth and space scientists do to facilitate teacher involvement in space science?

  • Identify content that should be emphasized (i.e., content that pre-service educators will be responsible for teaching that ties to national and state standards) and train them in that content. Deep content knowledge is mandatory because it allows the educator to direct more challenging learning opportunities and respond to open-ended higher order thinking. Help educators move beyond the student's text book.
  • Focus on the process of science. The process of science is more important in the classroom than straight content; process and not content promotes critical thinking.
  • Identify resources/tools for teaching needed content and provide training using them.
  • Recognize that pre-service teachers may be in introductory classes; find out and work to make materials appropriate to them, or offer special opportunities that focus on their needs. This may be one of few science courses they take.
  • Learn about effective teaching practices and model these in your own teaching. Not only will you be sharing how to teach to pre-service teachers, but all students will benefit.
  • Learn about the teacher certification process.
  • Spend time observing in a classroom; find out from in-service teachers what is needed in terms of content knowledge, pedagogy, tools, activities, etc. Apply this to preparation of pre-service teachers and/or materials development.
  • Consider long-term investment. Often mastering a subject for the classroom takes more than a single workshop. Be available as a coach; mentor the pre-service teacher before and during at least the first few years of teaching.
  • Offer authentic summer internships and/or field experiences to help pre-service teachers facilitate student involvement in the process of science.
  • Demand strong K-12 state science standards.
  • Become involved in defining what "highly qualified" teacher training looks like.
  • Consider making contributions to pre-service education as part of education and public outreach efforts on science grants to NSF or other funding agencies. This has direct implications for merit review criteria.

What can be done at a higher level of administration to prepare pre-service educators?

  • Understand why careful preparation of pre-service educators is important! Teachers teach what they are trained to teach.

If pre-service educators do not participate in STEM content in a meaningful way, they will not be comfortable with STEM content and their students will not be exposed to STEM content!

Training pre-service teachers in strong content and connected pedagogy means that they will facilitate inquiry-based student learning and these students will become higher-order thinkers at a faster and greater rate.

  • Recognize and respect that preparation of pre-service educators involves many individuals, disciplines, departments, administrations, and experiences. This often is not coordinated. Invite discussion and collaboration among these stakeholders.
  • Upper level university administrations need to recognize that scientists and Colleges of Arts and Sciences must be responsible for good science content instruction for pre-service teachers.
  • STEM departments should work with schools of education to:
    • Encourage the "best teachers" in the STEM department to teach the introductory courses and reward them for innovative teaching.
    • Support STEM scientists in becoming effective teachers through professional development opportunities (e.g., offer workshops on effective teaching, support them in participating in such workshops or conferences, support networking, etc.).
    • Help identify the content that is necessary for pre-service educators to master.
    • Connect STEM content in pre-service course work to national and/or state standards, and help scientists understand the purpose of these standards. Standards are a reality. So are standardized tests. Work with them in the best way possible.
    • Help scientists match fundamental content with appropriate pedagogy, resources, and hands-on activities that can be ported into the pre-service educator's future classroom. It is unfair to expect new teachers to successfully incorporate inquiry-based learning into their classrooms if they have never been immersed in it themselves.
    • Help scientists learn how to best communicate with pre-service educators.
    • Establish support networks - mentoring between scientists and pre-service educators that lasts beyond pre-service preparation into the first few years of teaching. This is most effective when it involves a team - scientist + pre-service educator + in-service educator.
  • Create incentives , such as grants or stipends, for scientists to assist pre-service educators as coaches and mentors. Recognize and reward success. Go further, financially support scientist participation in workshops on effective pedagogy. Support learning and research during sabbaticals. Support new-hires who show promise in this area through their start-up packages. Endow a chair.
  • Involve graduate students in pre-service education initiatives as mentors, participants in workshops on effective teaching, etc.
  • Facilitate networking of pre-service teacher programs (clearinghouse, listserv, conferences, etc.) to enhance communication about program activity, innovations, successes, failures, and challenges.
  • Develop a portal (or other path) for scientists to identify and connect with other scientists and programs as they are developing and implementing their own ideas for pre-service educator preparation programs.
  • Provide a user-friendly portal for scientists, educators, and administrators to access science education research findings.
  • Collaboration must occur at the highest levels. Granting agencies should consider collaborating to fund innovative, promising programs.
  • Pre-service STEM educators should be required to receive a degree in a STEM discipline field to ensure strong content understanding, and should have a deep working understanding of effective pedagogy.
  • Establish a certification procedure (through workshops, internships, research experiences, etc.) for pre- and in-service teachers. Certification could earn clout for participating educators, empowering them to have more say in classroom activity.

What can Earth and space scientists/NASA do to better prepare teachers and help them stay in teaching longer?

  • Listen to what the teachers are saying they need to inform program and product development.
  • Better prepare elementary pre-service teachers by having classes that are more focused on one curriculum ; don't mix disciplines.
  • Education majors should take classes that are the same. For example, to fill a science requirement, pre-service teachers should take the same classes that are carefully constructed to prepare them to teach, not any four they choose from a list of 100.
  • Give beginning teachers more resources — or at least help identify appropriate resources and provide access.
  • Stop developing new curricula until we know what works with students. The amount of stuff out there is overwhelming!
  • Stop developing more curriculum until we know what teachers need and what works. This bears saying more than once!
  • Mainstream existing resources.
  • Filter the existing resources and keep them updated to identify those of meaning - resources that illustrate the most effective content and pedagogy, immersive research experiences, internships, grant opportunities etc.
  • The lists of resources focuses on products; human resources and programs for involvement need to be cataloged in a way that makes sense and is accessible!
  • Facilitate in-service/scientist/pre-service mentoring.
  • Offer incentives such as workshops, funded mentorships and internships, funds for projects, etc.

What kind of materials does NASA supply of which teachers should be aware?

Lesson plans are free. Unfortunately, the sheer volume of information at these and other NASA sites makes it difficult to weed through the information to find good/pertinent lessons.

  • Materials specially for disabled children to use.
  • Printable materials on each Web site can be downloaded for free use in the classroom.
  • As an alternative for resources, museums often offer tangible activities.

What 3 concepts would NASA have educators teach their students?

  • Critical Thinking/Problem Solving Skills
  • A desire to learn/curiosity/how to ask questions
  • Appreciation of where they live/environment issues for voting and being
  • productive citizens
  • A love of learning
  • How to find and evaluate information
  • Hierarchy of the Universe and our place in it

Buy-in at the University administration level is considered critical to a successful and enduring pre-service educator preparation program in STEM. How can interested scientists get deans, provosts, and presidents to invest dollars in pre-service education?

  • Educate. Share the frightening research on STEM education in the classroom today. Universities can play a fundamental role in reversing the course . and it may be a responsibility for them to do so for everyone's future!
  • Offer models. There are universities, like University of Arizona, University of Texas, and Wisconsin that have innovative pre-service educator preparation models in action. Encourage administration officials to speak with their "equivalents" at these campuses to find out why these universities are investing in such programs.
  • Money talks. Bring in grants for pre-service education programs, to help the administration take notice. Be aware that these programs need to have a long-term sustainability plan as administrators may see this as a long-term draw on university resources.
  • Publications talk. Generate publications in education research that focus on pre-service needs.
  • Work with departments that are experiencing declining enrollments to develop programs that are attractive to pre-service teachers.
  • Involve alumni. This is a potential source of business leaders, politicians and other influential community members who understand (or should) that strong STEM education is fundamental to a strong national workforce — and solid preparation of our pre-service educators is a way to ensure this strong workforce. It's good business.

In the web of professionals linking teachers of science and research scientists, where do you see yourself? Does the network work for you?"

  • Administrators and those involved in teacher preparation were more likely to indicate that the web works for them. Teachers, students, and those reflecting on their student experiences were more likely to say that the web didn't work for them.
  • One administrator felt that NASA's current educational focus is insufficiently "customer driven". That is, not enough attention is paid to the vocalized needs of teachers.
  • More than one person vividly described former teachers and professors who were unable to unpack their knowledge and deliver it at an appropriate level for their audience.
  • Several people occupying intermediate positions in the web felt professionally stretched to accomplish their educational goals (i.e., professionally, they were expected to accomplish other tasks so couldn't devote time).


Last updated
July 18, 2008