Evaluating the effectiveness of a laboratory-based professional development program for science educators.
ABSTRACT: The process of developing effective science educators has been a long-standing objective of the broader education community. Numerous studies have recommended not only depth in a teacher's subject area but also a breadth of professional development grounded in constructivist principles, allowing for successful student-centered and inquiry-based instruction. Few programs, however, have addressed the integration of the scientific research laboratory into the science classroom as a viable approach to professional development. Additionally, while occasional laboratory training programs have emerged in recent years, many lack a component for translating acquired skills into reformed classroom instruction. Given the rapid development and demand for knowledgeable employees and an informed population from the biotech and medical industries in recent years, it would appear to be particularly advantageous for the physiology and broader science education communities to consider this issue. The goal of this study was to examine the effectiveness of a laboratory-based professional development program focused on the integration of reformed teaching principles into the classrooms of secondary teachers. This was measured through the program's ability to instill in its participants elevated academic success while gaining fulfillment in the classroom. The findings demonstrated a significant improvement in the use of student-centered instruction and other reformed methods by program participants as well as improved self-efficacy, confidence, and job satisfaction. Also revealed was a reluctance to refashion established classroom protocols. The combination of these outcomes allowed for construction of an experiential framework for professional development in applied science education that supports an atmosphere of reformed teaching in the classroom.
Project description:Undergraduate college "science partners" provided content knowledge and a supportive atmosphere for K-5 teachers in a university-school professional development partnership program in science instruction. The Elementary Science Education Partners program, a Local Systemic Change initiative supported by the National Science Foundation, was composed of four major elements: 1) a cadre of mentor teachers trained to provide district-wide teacher professional development; 2) a recruitment and training effort to place college students in classrooms as science partners in semester-long partnerships with teachers; 3) a teacher empowerment effort termed "participatory reform"; and 4) an inquiry-based curriculum with a kit distribution and refurbishment center. The main goals of the program were to provide college science students with an intensive teaching experience and to enhance teachers' skills in inquiry-based science instruction. Here, we describe some of the program's successes and challenges, focusing primarily on the impact on the classroom teachers and their science partners. Qualitative analyses of data collected from participants indicate that 1) teachers expressed greater self-confidence about teaching science than before the program and they spent more class time on the subject; and 2) the college students modified deficit-model negative assumptions about the children's science learning abilities to express more mature, positive views.
Project description:There has been little attention given to teaching beliefs of graduate teaching assistants (GTAs), even though they represent the primary teaching workforce for undergraduate students in discussion and laboratory sections at many research universities. Secondary school education studies have shown that teaching beliefs are malleable and can be shaped by professional development, particularly for inexperienced teachers. This study characterized inexperienced GTAs' teaching beliefs about student learning and how they change with a science-specific pedagogy course that emphasized student learning. GTA teaching beliefs were characterized as traditional (providing information to students), instructive (providing activities for students), and transitional (focusing on student-teacher relationships). At the start of the course, traditional, instructive, and transitional beliefs were emphasized comparably in the concept maps and presentations of inexperienced GTAs. At the end of the course, although GTAs' beliefs remained mostly teacher focused, they were more instructive than traditional or transitional. GTAs included teaching strategies and jargon from the course in their concept maps but provided minimal explanations about how opportunities for active student engagement would impact student learning. These results suggest there is a need to provide ongoing discipline-specific professional development to inexperienced GTAs as they develop and strengthen their teaching beliefs about student learning.
Project description:Undergraduate science education curricula are traditionally composed of didactic instruction with a small number of laboratory courses that provide introductory training in research techniques. Research on learning methodologies suggests this model is relatively ineffective, whereas participation in independent research projects promotes enhanced knowledge acquisition and improves retention of students in science. However, availability of faculty mentors and limited departmental budgets prevent the majority of students from participating in research. A need therefore exists for this important component in undergraduate education in both small and large university settings. A course was designed to provide students with the opportunity to engage in a research project in a classroom setting. Importantly, the course collaborates with a sponsor's laboratory, producing a symbiotic relationship between the classroom and the laboratory and an evolving course curriculum. Students conduct a novel gene expression study, with their collective data being relevant to the ongoing research project in the sponsor's lab. The success of this course was assessed based on the quality of the data produced by the students, student perception data, student learning gains, and on whether the course promoted interest in and preparation for careers in science. In this paper, we describe the strategies and outcomes of this course, which represents a model for efficiently providing research opportunities to undergraduates.
Project description:Undergraduate research can make a positive impact on science education. Unfortunately, the one student-one mentor paradigm of undergraduate research generates a wide range of variability in the student's experience and further limits its availability to a select few students. In contrast, a single faculty member can offer multiple undergraduate teaching positions that provide a consistent experience for the student. We attempted to combine the undergraduate research and teaching experiences in an internship practicum called Peer Instruction and Laboratory Occupational Training (PILOT). Students enrolled in PILOT served as teaching assistants for the upper division Quantitative Biological Methods (QBM) laboratory course. In addition, PILOT students worked on an independent lab project that provided them with hands-on training and supported the QBM course. The development of presentation and teaching skills was also emphasized in PILOT. These activities were designed to improve student communication skills, lab skills, and knowledge of molecular biology content. Here, we describe the PILOT curriculum and report the results of an anonymous assessment survey administered to 75 students who had completed PILOT in the previous five semesters. Our data indicate that PILOT provides an effective format to expand undergraduate opportunities for research and teaching experiences.
Project description:Helping faculty develop high-quality instruction that positively affects student learning can be complicated by time limitations, a lack of resources, and inexperience using student data to make iterative improvements. We describe a community of 16 faculty from five institutions who overcame these challenges and collaboratively designed, taught, iteratively revised, and published an instructional unit about the potential effect of mutations on DNA replication, transcription, and translation. The unit was taught to more than 2000 students in 18 courses, and student performance improved from preassessment to postassessment in every classroom. This increase occurred even though faculty varied in their instructional practices when they were teaching identical materials. We present information on how this faculty group was organized and facilitated, how members used student data to positively affect learning, and how they increased their use of active-learning instructional practices in the classroom as a result of participation. We also interviewed faculty to learn more about the most useful components of the process. We suggest that this professional development model can be used for geographically separated faculty who are interested in working together on a known conceptual difficulty to improve student learning and explore active-learning instructional practices.
Project description:Graduate teaching assistants (TAs) are increasingly responsible for instruction in undergraduate science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) courses. Various professional development (PD) programs have been developed and implemented to prepare TAs for this role, but data about effectiveness are lacking and are derived almost exclusively from self-reported surveys. In this study, we describe the design of a reformed PD (RPD) model and apply Kirkpatrick's Evaluation Framework to evaluate multiple outcomes of TA PD before, during, and after implementing RPD. This framework allows evaluation that includes both direct measures and self-reported data. In RPD, TAs created and aligned learning objectives and assessments and incorporated more learner-centered instructional practices in their teaching. However, these data are inconsistent with TAs' self-reported perceptions about RPD and suggest that single measures are insufficient to evaluate TA PD programs.
Project description:Graduate teaching assistants (GTAs) in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) have a large impact on undergraduate instruction but are often poorly prepared to teach. Teaching self-efficacy, an instructor's belief in his or her ability to teach specific student populations a specific subject, is an important predictor of teaching skill and student achievement. A model of sources of teaching self-efficacy is developed from the GTA literature. This model indicates that teaching experience, departmental teaching climate (including peer and supervisor relationships), and GTA professional development (PD) can act as sources of teaching self-efficacy. The model is pilot tested with 128 GTAs from nine different STEM departments at a midsized research university. Structural equation modeling reveals that K-12 teaching experience, hours and perceived quality of GTA PD, and perception of the departmental facilitating environment are significant factors that explain 32% of the variance in the teaching self-efficacy of STEM GTAs. This model highlights the important contributions of the departmental environment and GTA PD in the development of teaching self-efficacy for STEM GTAs.
Project description:Background:Recent transformative changes in science education require new learning opportunities for teachers-opportunities that include rich images of classroom enactment of the reform vision. One fruitful way for doing that is to use video clips of instruction.Teachers do not, however, learn how to improve their instructional practice from simply watching and reflecting on classroom videos. The videos need to be carefully selected and embedded in professional development in ways that-through facilitator-led, participant-centered discussion-can help teachers to notice and reason about important aspects of instruction and learning that occur in the video. Consistent with the recent efforts to identify planning and facilitation approaches that guide effective professional development (PD) programs, in this paper, we adapted the Five Practices Framework for orchestrating productive classroom discussions to describe how PD facilitators plan for and enact professional learning tasks to help science teachers learn within a video-based PD program. These practices include anticipating, sequencing, monitoring, selecting, connecting and two additional practices that set the stage for the five practices (i.e., setting goals and selecting tasks). Results:Our analyses of the video-based discussions in the PD provide insights into how the facilitators engaged teachers in video-based conversations by using the practices of monitoring, selecting, and connecting. The monitoring moves, such as clarifying, countering, and redirecting, were used by the facilitator in nearly all the PD sessions. Similarly, selecting moves were used and were consistent with the goals of the PD. Finally, analysis of facilitators' and participants' connecting comments indicated their increased capacity to make connections to the bigger ideas of teaching science by maintaining the cognitive demand on students' thinking. Conclusions:This paper provides elaborated descriptions of the five practices for planning and facilitating video-based PD and the ways in which they were enacted in a video-based PD program in science. In so doing, it proposes five practices as a guiding framework to support teachers' learning from videos. Overall, the study's results endorse the promise of a goal-driven, theory-informed design that foregrounds careful attention to teachers' thinking in ways that support their understanding of complex classroom interactions.
Project description:Over the past several decades, numerous reports have been published advocating for changes to undergraduate science education. These national calls inspired the formation of the National Academies Summer Institutes on Undergraduate Education in Biology (SI), a group of regional workshops to help faculty members learn and implement interactive teaching methods. The SI curriculum promotes a pedagogical framework called Scientific Teaching (ST), which aims to bring the vitality of modern research into the classroom by engaging students in the scientific discovery process and using student data to inform the ongoing development of teaching methods. With the spread of ST, the need emerges to systematically define its components in order to establish a common description for education researchers and practitioners. We describe the development of a taxonomy detailing ST's core elements and provide data from classroom observations and faculty surveys in support of its applicability within undergraduate science courses. The final taxonomy consists of 15 pedagogical goals and 37 supporting practices, specifying observable behaviors, artifacts, and features associated with ST. This taxonomy will support future educational efforts by providing a framework for researchers studying the processes and outcomes of ST-based course transformations as well as a concise guide for faculty members developing classes.
Project description:Previous research has suggested that adding active learning to traditional college science lectures substantially improves student learning. However, this research predominantly studied courses taught by science education researchers, who are likely to have exceptional teaching expertise. The present study investigated introductory biology courses randomly selected from a list of prominent colleges and universities to include instructors representing a broader population. We examined the relationship between active learning and student learning in the subject area of natural selection. We found no association between student learning gains and the use of active-learning instruction. Although active learning has the potential to substantially improve student learning, this research suggests that active learning, as used by typical college biology instructors, is not associated with greater learning gains. We contend that most instructors lack the rich and nuanced understanding of teaching and learning that science education researchers have developed. Therefore, active learning as designed and implemented by typical college biology instructors may superficially resemble active learning used by education researchers, but lacks the constructivist elements necessary for improving learning.