Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.
Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.
OCR for page 9
1 Introduction I believe that scientists have a crucial role to play in precollege science educa- tion reforms. But it is not easy to know how or where to begin.... The scientists . . . can come from either industry or academia, but in either case they must be well-informed and prepared in order to play an effective part.... The problem we face is a huge one, and there will be no quick solutions. But I believe that a properly organized group of scientists can be effective in cata- lyzing meaningful and lasting changes in this badly neglected area. [Bruce Alberts, 1991] Stimulated by concern for the state of biology education nationally, the National Research Council in 1987 appointed a committee of scientists, K-12 teachers, teacher educators, science publishers, and school administrators to ex- amine the scope of biology education. That committee's 1990 report, Fulfilling the Promise: Biology Education in the Nation's Schools, highlighted the need for sustained educational reform, rather than idiosyncratic efforts. The centerpiece of the report was the call for leadership from the scientific community "as both guide and goad, both resource and participant" (p. 103) to promote sustained reform in science education at all levels. The report offered strong recommenda- tions for improving biology curricula, laboratory activities, tests and testing, school administration, teacher preparation, licensing and certification of teach- ers, and leadership in science-education reform. It also recommended that im- provements be made in "inservice" education-the activities of teachers as they continue to learn. 9
OCR for page 10
10 PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT OF SCIENCE TEACHERS CHARGE The present Committee on Biology Teacher Inservice Programs was formed, in the Board on Biology of the National Research Council's Commission on Life Sciences, to pursue the above recommendation by examining a broad sample of programs for the inservice training of biology teachers. The specific charge to the committee was as follows: · To identify existing inservice programs (templates) that can readily be used elsewhere with minimal changes and to provide guidance on establishing new programs. · To identify essential aspects of inservice programs. · To identify elements of inservice programs that address the needs of different cultural and ethnic groups. . To recommend a desired level of teacher participation, including advice about the level of necessary funding and means of increasing teacher participa tion. . To examine ways to increase the involvement of the scientific-research community and research universities in providing and supporting inservice pro- grams, including ways of institutionalizing this involvement. . To provide recommendations about the design of inservice programs that include both content and pedagogy and are conducted with the collaboration of experienced science teachers, teacher educators, and scientists. · To develop criteria for evaluation of inservice programs. · To examine innovative ways to incorporate research on how students learn biology into inservice programs. · To review the emerging fields of biology with a view to what teachers should know in coming years.) THE COMMITTEE'S METHODS In response to its charge, our committee examined a sample of almost 200 professional-development programs to determine how they work, to identify char- acteristics of effective programs, and to recommend how the effective elements can be replicated elsewhere. The programs were identified in several ways. We requested information by advertising in a variety of journals and newsletters of iSince this committee began its work in 1991, the American Association for the Advancement of Science has further developed its Project 2061, and the National Research Council has developed and published the National Science Education Standards, which provide the criteria and framework for high-quality science programs and the policies necessary to support them. Our report does not discuss biology content but defers to the other reports, which have been prepared by committees dedicating all their effort to defining science content.
OCR for page 11
INTRODUCTION 11 professional teacher and scientific organizations. The same request was sent directly to the members of many organizations and to principal investigators of programs sponsored by federal agencies and private foundations. It was also posted on electronic bulletin boards. Some of our committee members had first- hand experience with the programs examined. Almost 200 programs responded to our requests for information. They in- cluded a wide range of activities: short topical workshops, 1- to 3-week institutes during the summer, lecture series during the academic year, and programs de- signed to influence systemwide reform. And they were in a variety of locations: university science departments, schools or colleges of education, community colleges, museums and science and technology centers, nature preserves, profes- sional societies, and industry. The programs that responded are listed and de- scribed in Appendix A; not all programs responded, but the ones that did consti- tute a sample of the types of programs active across the country. A questionnaire (Appendix B) was sent to all programs that responded to our initial request for information. It was designed to collect specific information about each program and to help identify exemplary programs for further study. It was not feasible to conduct a thorough review of all programs that responded to the questionnaire. Instead, committee members reviewed the responses and se- lected 15 programs for followup telephone calls and seven to visit. Programs were selected for further review on the basis of the following characteristics: each had been in existence for a number of years, each had a continuing evalua- tion process, and each used the results of the evaluations to revise and improve itself. Few programs met the criteria; most did not because they had not been in operation long enough or did not have adequate evaluation programs. During a visit to a selected program, committee members met with both program directors and teachers who had participated in the program and collected copies of written evaluations. In several instances, committee members talked directly with teach- ers separately from program directors. Positive responses of the participating teachers and their description of how the professional-development program had improved their teaching and student learning were important in defining "effec- tive" programs in the eyes of the committee. The generalizations about professional-development programs found in this report are derived from the information gathered from the program review and from the committee members' professional experience. The committee could not quantify the results of the program review for statistical analysis, because the programs were diverse, because few programs had quantifiable evaluations, because few programs had been in operation for more than a few years, and because a program often changed as participants gained experience with it. None- theless, there was sufficient consistency in the reports from the teachers, program directors, and scientists about factors that made their programs effective for the committee to be confident about its findings and the recommendations that emerged from them.
OCR for page 12
2 PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT OF SCIENCE TEACHERS As we examined programs for secondary-school biology teachers, we also learned about successful programs for elementary-school teachers, some of which programs were structured differently from those for secondary-school teachers. We also saw excellent programs for teachers in the other sciences whose struc- tural components would work well in biology. And like the preceding Research Council committee, we discovered that the "ecology of science education" con- sists of complex relationships among all levels and components of the school system how failure of learning in high-school science has its origins in elementary school, how texts, tests, teacher education, colleges and universities, and politi- cal and economic assumptions all contribute to the status quo, and how difficult it is to alter any one element alone and expect any meaningful change in the entire system. There is of course a history, too how the nation's educational system got into its present state, and why previous efforts at reform of science education have been so ephemeral. [National Research Council, 1990, p. vii] We interpreted the charge to the committee to be that we produce not another study of science-education reform, but a report that would serve as a handbook- a resource and practical guide for professional-development programs. This report's first goal is to guide scientists who want to become involved in profes- sional-development programs and to serve as a resource for scientists who are already involved; it gives scientists practical information on how to participate effectively in such programs and initiate constructive communication between scientists and teachers. Its second goal is to help teachers and administrators, both in schools and in universities, to develop, promote, and use effective profes- sional-development programs. Its third goal is to describe the breadth and scope of professional-development activities for science teachers; to show where more information, attention, and funds are needed; and to recommend how to target funding to innovative and sustainable programs that work. In the "Issues in Professional Development" section of this chapter, we present our understanding of the status, needs, opportunities, and problems in science education and in the professional development of science teachers. Chap- ter 2 offers detailed descriptions of characteristics that make programs effective. Chapter 3 is a guide for scientists to get started and participate effectively in professional-development programs. Brief vignettes of the daily activities of an elementary-school, a middle-school, and a high-school teacher are included to illustrate some of the realities of classroom teaching and to set the stage for scientists who want to become involved in professional-development activities. Chapter 4 is addressed to university administrators and scientists who try to encourage more scientists to participate in professional development. Chapter 5 describes ways to initiate and promote effective interactions for professional development between scientists and elementary- and secondary-school educa- tors; it also highlights the need for administrative support for science-based pro
OCR for page 13
INTRODUCTION 13 fessional-development programs for teachers. Chapter 6 discusses the differ- ences between programs that focus on improving the professional lives of indi- vidual teachers and systemic programs that are parts of a broader effort toward reform of science education. Chapter 7 focuses on program evaluation. Chapter 8 is a vision of how professional-development activities could support science education in the future. In addition to the already-cited Appendixes A and B. this report contains appendixes to assist those interested in learning about education-reform efforts and about specific professional-development programs around the country. The appendixes include a glossary of terms used in this report (Appendix C); an annotated list of suggested readings for scientists to help them to learn more about schools, teachers, students, and their needs (D); copies of guidelines related to science education from two institutions of higher learning (E); a list of profes- sional organizations actively involved in science education (F); a National Sci- ence Teachers Association (NSTA) statement on teacher professionalism (G); examples of laboratory exercises (H); and information about the funding of pro- fessional-development programs (I). INSERVICE AND PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT Teaching involves life-long learning. The professional education of teachers should be a seamless experience, beginning with college preparation, extending through the first few years of teaching, and providing opportunities to extend knowledge and skills throughout a career. Teachers with this professional expe- rience will be equipped to meet the needs of all students. [National Research Council, 1993, p. 3] At the beginning of our deliberations and in accord with our charge, we used the term inservice to describe the broad range of teacher involvement in out-of- school professional-development activities. Other terms commonly used for those activities are staff development and teacher enhancement. In the process of examining programs in a variety of institutions across the country, we found that we needed to think about not only isolated inservice activities, but the continuing process of professional development of teachers. We use the term professional development in this report to mean a long-term commitment on the part of scien- tists and teachers. Improving professional development, not just inservice activi- ties, is the goal of this report. For scientists, participating in professional-devel- opment activities that are useful for teachers involves taking the time to learn about teachers' educational backgrounds and teaching environment, recognizing teachers' needs, helping to articulate clear programmatic goals and ways to achieve them, and learning more about teaching and education. For teachers, effective professional development means recognizing the importance of partici- pating actively in professional-development activities, including the design of
OCR for page 14
14 PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT OF SCIENCE TEACHERS programs. We also see teacher professional development as an integral compo- nent of science-education reform.2 We use the term teacher preparation (instead of preservice) to describe prospective teachers' formal coursework at the undergraduate level. We use the term teacher to refer to a K-12 classroom teacher, scientist to refer to someone professionally trained in science who might also be engaged in scientific re- search, research scientist to refer specifically to persons whose main occupation is the practice of scientific research, and science educator to include anyone involved in science education, including teachers, scientists, and school science coordinators. The terms are not exclusive. We recognize that many people play several of those roles concurrently scientists teach and teachers do research. Those and other terms are included in the glossary in Appendix C. NSTA has published a statement on teacher professionalism that points up the importance of professional-development programs. It is excerpted in the following box and presented in detail in Appendix G. ISSUES IN PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT Throughout its deliberations and review of programs, the committee repeat- edly discussed its perceptions of the current state of science education. It identi- fied key problems, needs, and opportunities for improving professional-develop- ment programs. Our framework for thinking about these issues is presented below. Goals for Students Preparation for Life Students will face continual changes in society, technology, families, health, and the workplace. Professional-development programs might vary in their im- mediate goals but should have the common goal of enhancing teachers' abilities to improve student learning so that students will be prepared to deal with those challenges. If teachers are prepared to teach well-designed science courses, all students might acquire the tools to think creatively; to gain an appreciation of the 2This report focuses on science and leaves considerations of such general topics as school structure and student readiness for schooling to others. Because of its charge and expertise, the committee concentrated on professional development of teachers with little attention to the specifics of teacher preparation or science curriculum. The focus on professional development is complementary to the work of other groups, including the National Research Council's National Committee on Science Education Standards and Assessment, the American Association for the Advancement of Science's Project 2061, the National Research Council's Committee on Undergraduate Science Education, and Project Kaleidoscope.
OCR for page 15
OCR for page 16
16 PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT OF SCIENCE TEACHERS natural world; to appreciate the role of humans in the biosphere; to understand fundamental scientific concepts; to become familiar with the processes of science and scientific thinking; to collect, organize, synthesize, and interpret data; to solve problems; to make decisions on the basis of analysis and interpretation of information; and to know about science-related career choices. These goals are in accord with those of the National Science Education Standards. Opportunity for AII Students The committee believes that all professional-development programs should support teachers in maintaining high expectations for all students while consider- ing the individuality of each student and the diversity among groups of students. For the purposes of this report, student diversity refers to sex, language, ethnic, racial, cultural, and economic differences. The committee recognizes that some professional-development programs address "diversity and equity in individual classrooms" (Little, 1993, p. 3), but it believes that greater attention must be given to those issues by teachers, adminis- trators, and scientists. Because the committee lacked adequate expertise to ad- dress appropriately the important question of how diversity among teachers and students affects classroom teaching and learning, we refer the reader to special readings on the subject. The references are included in Appendix D, in a section on "Diversity and Equity in Science Classrooms." In the words of Dennis Tierney, professor of teacher education, San Jose State University, both pre-service and in-service teacher education can benefit from increased attention to the challenge of providing effective content instruction to a multi- cultural student population. This will likely require that instruction in multi- cultural issues be more closely tied to instruction in lesson planning so that teacher education students understand that cultural pluralism is simply one of the variables that must be addressed in every part of every lesson.... Clearly, more research is needed to determine the full scope of this issue. [Tierney, 1988, p. 15] Goals of Professional Development The primary goal of professional-development programs is to improve teach- ers' interest in and ability to teach science. Programs vary in their emphasis. Some of the aims are · To improve teaching skills (pedagogy). · To increase teachers' knowledge about subject matter in science or to update teachers' knowledge about current issues and practices in science, includ- ing effective ways to teach particular subjects.
OCR for page 17
INTRODUCTION 17 · To offer laboratory or field opportunities to participate in scientific re- search so that teachers will understand more about the process of science. · To build discipline-based scientific collaboration that provides K-12 sci- ence teachers and scientists with opportunities to meet regularly for collegial discussion about scientific ideas and materials. · To assist teachers in learning about and implementing school- or curricu- lum-reform efforts. . To prepare mentors to train other teachers in subject matter, teaching strategies, or ways to adapt teaching strategies to the curriculum. Many programs have more than one of those objectives. Specific descrip- tions of various kinds of programs are found in Chapter 3. Relationship Between Teacher Preparation and Professional Development The kind of professional development needed by teachers today depends not only on their teaching assignment but also on the kind of science and science teaching that they had as undergraduates. Teacher preparation in American col- leges and universities has generally consisted of three elements: study of disci- plines that teachers will teach (subject-matter preparation), study of teaching and learning (pedagogy), and a brief classroom apprenticeship (student teaching). Science Subject-Matter Preparation Only 26 states require any science courses for persons preparing to be elementary-school teachers, and only 29 require these persons to complete course- work in both science and mathematics teaching methods (Blank and Dalkilic, 1992~. As noted by Raizen and Michelsohn (1994), "both quantity and quality are lacking in the science-content and science-education components of teacher- preparation programs for prospective elementary-school teachers." In contrast, nearly 80% of secondary-school science teachers majored in a scientific disci- pline; it varies from 58% in Alaska to 91% in Maryland (Blank and Gruebel, 1993~. As science majors, they took standard science classes with no particular attention to whether they intended to teach. Many of their science courses pre- sented science as a body of factual knowledge that was usually taught in didactic lectures rather than in a spirit of inquiry. The need for improving those science courses and suggestions for changes in college and university rewards for teach- ing that will be necessary to induce improvement are discussed in Chapter 4. Pedagogy Preparation in educational theory and teaching strategies (pedagogy) varies
OCR for page 18
18 PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT OF SCIENCE TEACHERS from state to state. In most states it is still possible to major in elementary education. Only six states now require elementary-school teachers to major in a field other than education (Raizen and Michelsohn, 1994, citing Mastain, 1991~. In most institutions a science-methods course is required for elementary-educa- tion majors although it is not coordinated with science-content courses (Mechling, Stedman, and Donnelan, 1982~. Some elementary-school teacher candidates are taught science with teaching methods in a college of education. Elementary- education teachers are prepared to teach other subjects as well, including meth- ods, which are also useful for activity-based science teaching. Secondary-school teachers usually have had a course in curriculum and in- struction or science methods. They studied inquiry-based teaching but often had little teaching experience to correlate with the theory. A single course in teaching pedagogy that stresses hands-on inquiry and problem-solving is not enough for most people to supplant their own experience in college lectures and demonstra- tion laboratories. The high-school science curriculum resembles the biology, chemistry, and physics taught in college. But elementary-school, middle-school, and integrated high-school science combines concepts and activities quite differ- ently from college offerings. Because few science courses are designed with teacher candidates in mind, they usually do not provide effective models of teaching strategies or concept development that can be used in teaching in K-12 teaching. All too often, undergraduate science majors have no research experi- ence and so are unprepared to teach an open-ended inquiry activity or course. Greater communication between teaching faculties in the sciences and teacher preparation could result in more effective teaching and learning in both K-12 and college science. Many scientists "discover" teaching methods and curriculum materials in professional-development activities even though the knowledge of the teaching methods and curriculum materials had been readily available else- where on their own campuses. Student Teaching Student teaching or internship in a classroom setting usually occurs in the final undergraduate year or during a fifth year of specialized teacher preparation. It might be limited to one or two periods of teaching for one term or semester or culminate in full-day teaching for several weeks. Few efforts assess the teaching practices of mentor teachers with whom student teachers work. And few colleges or universities have mechanisms for involving master teachers officially in stu- dent teaching or assessing student teachers. There is little coordination of the education and science curricula with the real-life situations that will be faced by future elementary- or secondary-school science teachers. It is difficult to include enough appropriate experience in a 4- or 5-year teacher-preparation program. For that reason, several teacher-preparation programs continue to assist teachers for a few years if they take positions near the university.
OCR for page 19
INTRODUCTION 19 Content and Process in Science Teaching It has long been debated whether elementary- and secondary-school science teaching should be mostly content-oriented or process-oriented. At present, much of secondary-school science teaching consists of lecturing on science content, a situation that is a direct reflection of how science is taught in most undergraduate courses in colleges and universities. Lectures might be an efficient way to com- municate with a large group of students, but lectures alone do not reveal the excitement of the process of doing science. It is here that scientists can perform a unique service by helping teachers to experience the solution of scientific problems through research. By using intu- ition and methods of approaching a problem, a scientist can both illustrate the processes of science and introduce content. Such professional-development ac- tivities could model, to the extent possible, the most appropriate instructional methods for best teaching both science process and content. For content, the National Science Education Standards are an excellent source. Teachers tend to teach the way they were taught, and scientists who use inquiry-based teaching will communicate the value of this method to their students. The focus on inquiry-based learning is not new. Paul Hurd, professor of science education, emeritus, at Stanford, has reviewed science-education reform efforts over the last century and noted how similar are their recommendations for inquiry-based science (see box). Thirty years ago, in reaction to overambitious content-based curricula, inquiry-based approaches were developed. Inquiry- based means teaching science in ways that emphasize the process of doing sci- ence. In some inquiry-based curricula, content became almost irrelevant. That goes too far: the content of science is indeed essential. But content is most easily
OCR for page 20
20 PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT OF SCIENCE TEACHERS understood if connected to process and to the student's own inquiry. The two laboratory exercises shown in Appendix H illustrate the differences between a traditional, teacher-directed laboratory exercise and a student-generated, inquiry- based laboratory exercise. The former allows a student to follow directions, collect data, and learn laboratory techniques, but it does little with analysis and application of information. The latter allows the teacher to help students to generate hypotheses and encourages the students to cooperate in designing ex- periments to test their hypotheses and then, in interpreting the results, to decide which hypotheses are most promising. Other approaches to balance process and content in science teaching include the science-technology-society (STS) approach, which was developed in the 1980s. Current problems and societal issues directed the content with emphasis on science and technological processes that students could use in everyday life (including decision-making skills and cost-benefit analysis) (Yager and Zehr, 1985~. Another approach, the "conceptual-change perspective," suggested that the goal of science education is to help students to develop a meaningful, concep- tual understanding of science and its ways of describing, predicting, explaining, and controlling natural phenomena (Roth, 1989~. Proponents of the conceptual- change perspective argued that science teaching should integrate conceptual knowledge and science processes in ways that better reflect the richness and complexity of science itself. These approaches have laid some of the ground- work for the current renewed efforts in science-education reform. Needs of Individual Teachers Teachers' needs for professional development vary with their backgrounds, school environment, motivation, experience, and resources. Teachers have the complex task of integrating teaching methods and science content mandated by state and local curricular frameworks for science. Often, the mandated content and curricula are presented differently from the way they were taught in college; and sometimes, they cross customary disciplinary lines. Here we address the needs of individual teachers. Teacher Isolation Irrespective of educational or scientific background or level of experience, science teachers in both elementary and secondary schools suffer from isolation. They have no regular contact with the rest of the scientific community. They often work in buildings with no peers who teach similar courses. Many teachers, at all grade levels, work long hours with inadequate resources, insufficient funds for laboratory materials, and large classes. One report estimates that, on the basis of an average of five classes per day, high-school biology teachers (grades
OCR for page 21
INTRODUCTION 21 9-10) are responsible for an average of 217 students and middle-school science teachers (grades 7-8) 177 students (Blank and Gruebel, 1993~. Proximity fosters the sharing of ideas and materials, but innovative and successful teachers find ways to establish communication with kindred spirits, either at their own school, with teachers in other schools, or even with teachers in other parts of the country. Professional-development activities can provide im- mediate and cost-effective opportunities for teachers to communicate with each other both informally and formally about subject matter and teaching and learn- ing techniques and can help to develop professional relationships and informa- tion-sharing among teachers and scientists. Increasing Teachers' Knowledge About Science Many teachers try to stay current in science by reading scientific publica- tions, but elementary- and secondary-school teachers are responsible for such broad fields of science that they cannot hope to be at the cutting edge of any discipline. Nor do they have to be. But they must be familiar enough with current science to incorporate topics and applications that are of current interest to the general public into the curriculum, especially laboratory investigations. The fields of molecular biology and biotechnology, for example, are moving so quickly that the information available to the general public exceeds what a biol- ogy teacher learned in college just a few years ago. Elementary-school teachers become certified with little or no undergraduate preparation in science, and many do not teach science, often because of a lack of confidence. Many middle- and high-school teachers are asked to teach courses for which they are inadequately prepared. A teacher who majored in biology, for example, whose undergraduate chemistry courses also certify him or her to teach chemistry might need to take a refresher course when assigned to a chemistry class. A general-biology teacher who is assigned to teach a second-year physiol- ogy course might also want to upgrade his or her background in the more special- ized field. Many middle-school teachers of life or physical science are now being asked to teach integrated or general science and need additional work in the other sciences. Some teachers (and some scientists) hold misconceptions about science, and some hold unscientific beliefs. For example, some believe pseudoscientific ex- planations and misconceptions about evolution, and others equate scientific theo- ries with guesses. It is often difficult to motivate those teachers to participate in professional-development programs, because the programs introduce informa- tion that challenges their unscientific beliefs. Unlearning and replacing miscon- ception is more difficult and time-consuming than learning about something new and can be a challenge for professional-development programs.
OCR for page 22
22 PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT OF SCIENCE TEACHERS Elementary-School and Secondary-School Science Teachers Many argue that the needs of elementary-school and secondary-school sci- ence teachers are fundamentally different because of their preparation and class- room responsibilities. However, both kinds of teachers can improve their teach- ing skills and their students' learning by engaging in professional-development programs. In most elementary schools, the teacher is responsible for teaching all subjects, including science. Because most elementary-school teachers have had little or no preparation in the sciences, they do not consider themselves science teachers. In some elementary schools, a "science specialist" is responsible for teaching science to all classes. That reinforces the idea that science is a "special" subject rather than a core subject, or that science is not accessible to the average teacher. Most secondary-school teachers' undergraduate preparation included a grounding in science content. However, many teachers at this level have not experienced inquiry-based laboratories or individual research projects. Some might have knowledge of this approach but have chosen not to use it, because of lack of class time, preparatory time, and resources. Beginning Teachers Effective professional-development activities in the first few years of teach- ing can help teachers to adapt their generic undergraduate preparation to concrete teaching situations. Activities can help new teachers to develop effective teach- ing strategies, supplement their knowledge of both content and pedagogy, and link them with experienced teachers. Each activity can help to reduce the frustra- tion and dropout rate of beginning teachers. As noted earlier, some teacher- preparation programs include followup activities that extend through the first few years of teaching. Often, however, teachers take positions far from the institu- tions that prepared them and are left without this support. Secondary-school science teachers might teach general science, biology, chemistry, or physics. They might also teach other subjects and coach a sport during each season. Beginning secondary-school teachers are most likely to draw diverse subject-matter assignments and to have little control over their schedules. They might teach several subjects each day, each requiring a different class preparation, and have extracurricular duties, such as monitoring the halls, cafeteria, or student activities. They might or might not have their own class- rooms; many must cart materials from classroom to classroom every day. Whether the elementary- or secondary-school teacher's undergraduate pro- gram was stellar or mediocre, it was not adequate to prepare the beginning teacher for all his or her duties during the first few years. For example, one of the most difficult tasks for new teachers is to set up and sequence classroom activities in an efficient manner. Preparation for class takes time time that teachers do not have. In addition, teachers need to know a variety of techniques to teach students
OCR for page 23
INTRODUCTION 23 with different abilities. Teachers often learn these and other skills through on- thejob training. Many become overwhelmed by all the teaching and nonteach- ing tasks that they must juggle and with which they are unprepared to deal and drop out after a few years of teaching. Experienced Teachers In addition to learning the needs of individual new students each year, teach- ers often master a repertoire of classroom-management strategies and school politics. Like other professionals, experienced teachers need to stay up to date in their subjects. They also need to learn new teaching techniques and practice incorporating them into their classroom activities. With the explosion of new scientific information, the veteran biology teacher, for example, has had to incorporate new information about DNA and recombi- nant-DNA techniques, accelerated extinction rates and endangered species, re- productive technology for humans and other organisms, and the discovery of much older fossils that has led to taxonomic reordering. The new information has been added, often with little integration, to curricula and to science textbooks. New information has also affected the development of teaching materials and local or state initiatives directed at improving science education. Some teachers watch educational television and read scientific periodicals and professional journals. Others attend professional meetings and courses where they learn new subject matter. Still others work with scientists and other educa- tors to develop ways to incorporate new information into K-12 curricula. In addition to learning new scientific information, teachers need to learn how to use the information in inquiry-based activities that stress critical thinking by students. Science Enthusiasts and Other Teachers Teachers who are science enthusiasts participate actively in professional development to increase their knowledge of science and to improve their teach- ing. A large percentage of both enthusiasts and less-involved teachers, however, do not engage in professional-development opportunities, because of other school duties, family obligations, prohibitive cost, lack of time, lack of interest, or burn- out. Of the nearly 47,000 high-school biology teachers and 46,500 middle- school science teachers in the United States (Blank and Gruebel, 1993), only about 10% belong to professional science teachers organizations. Most profes- sional-development programs do not address the less-involved teachers, but these teachers must be taken into account if efforts to improve science education are to reach the majority of students.
OCR for page 24
24 PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT OF SCIENCE TEACHERS PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT AND SCIENCE-EDUCATION REFORM Science-education reform is not being pursued on the basis of an integrated set of changes designed to enhance the learning of science by all students. Pro- fessional development designed to promote reform would need to be more exten- sive than traditional programs. Effective professional-development programs can prepare teachers to participate in reform or empower them to become leaders of reform. It takes time to adjust to the major changes in curricula and instruc- tional materials called for by standards-based reform and to learn to use them effectively. The changes called for by the major science-education reform ef- forts most notably the National Research Council's National Science Education Standards, AAAS's Project 2061 and its Benchmarks, and NSTA's Scope Se- quence and Coordination Project require individual teachers to adopt new cur- ricula and teaching strategies. In particular, standards-based reform requires teachers to be involved in the changes that result in new curricula and instruc- tional materials and to implement those changes. Teacher leaders can become advocates of change and assist in the professional development of their col- leagues. Although we do not consider curriculum development specifically in this document, we acknowledge that participation in curriculum development, implementation, and evaluation is in itself a rich professional-development expe- rience for teachers. INDIVIDUAL AND SYSTEMIC PROGRAMS Most programs that we examined in our review of programs fit a particular profile they were designed for and attended by teachers who were self-select- ing. They are individual-based. A fundamentally different kind of program is designed to affect a connected group of teachers in a school or school district. The eventual goal of systemic reform is to extend exemplary teaching and learn- ing to the entire educational system. Although there is no consensus on its definition among educators, a common theme is that systemic reform efforts must address all students, encompass all components of the educational system, be understood and supported by people from all segments of the community, and cascade through all levels of education and school governance (Kober, 1993~. We use systemic in a sense that applies to smaller elements of the system such as departments, individual schools, and school districts because professional- development programs designed for related groups of teachers have common elements irrespective of the size of the group. Examples are presented in Chapter 6. Science education can be a starting point for systemic reform, and several efforts around the nation are working toward that end. Professional-development activities can be designed to help science teachers to participate in systemic
OCR for page 25
INTRODUCTION 25 reform. If scientists choose to become involved in this kind of professional development, they must have clear goals and understand how their efforts fit into the larger context of school reform. Scientists must know about the needs of teachers and students, be aware of the level of commitment required, and solicit the support of both school and university administrators for systemic activities within universities, schools, and school districts. USING EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH Scientists who want to become involved in K-12 education have much to learn from the educational-research community. Research on teaching and learn- ing has identified numerous techniques and strategies that influence how teachers teach and how students learn, for example, the benefits of cooperative and col- laborative learning, the importance of active learning, and the value of recogniz- ing different learning styles. Scientists and most other university faculty are not aware of this literature as it applies to their own college or university teaching and not aware of its value to elementary- and secondary-school teachers and their students. There are several reasons for that. Most scientists do not have the inclination or training to be directly involved in educational research themselves, nor are they motivated to read the available literature. They have difficulty in assessing the quality and applicability of the research. There is also a widespread misperception that "there is no good educational research out there anyway." That misperception is particularly strong in experimental scientists who design and interpret controlled experiments; they find it difficult to evaluate outcomes of research that deal with the complexity of the real classroom. Although we do not explore educational research in detail in this report, we have compiled an annotated reading list in Appendix D that provides a starting point and resource for scientists who want to become more informed about re- search in science education.
Representative terms from entire chapter: