Try Science: Role in the Program
A discussion of the design and implementation of an on-line introductory science course directed at in-service elementary and middle school educators at TERC , created by Sue Doubler, Ph.D.
A description of this course and its goals is available.
What Role Does this Course Play in Teacher Preparation?
- Develop understanding of key science concepts through inquiry.
- Learn effective strategies for planning and teaching science
- Plan and carry out inquiry-based science investigations with children.
How does the Course Address Each Role?
Fundamental principles of science content such as mass, volume, bouyancy, density, etc. are examined through straight forward experimentation with water utilizing equipment easiliy available in one's home or classroom.
Students are given open ended questions by the course facilitators regarding the behavior of water to initiate a series of student hypotheses, experiments and sharing of results. All insights and predictions are recorded in an off-line student journal with key points shared on-line with the facilitators and peers in the student's study group. These shared discussions lead to innovation, revision and further experimentation by the students as they attempt to refine their knowledge of the properties in question with better and better hypotheses backed by actual observations and data.
The instructors (facilitators) act in the role of a guide on the side for these discussions, helping the study group to remain focused and offering encouragement and support to their group driven investigation. Facilitators can correct persistent misunderstandings or inspire new depths of reasoning by asking appropriate questions, but generally refrain from "giving the right answer" or "lecturing" the study group.
Students in the study groups learn from each other and their collective struggle with the challenge they face. In the process of investigating content, the students gain experience participating in inquiry as a learner and as a peer educator. Further insights on how to faciliate such inquiry come indirectly through the model provided by the course instructors.
- Approximately 1/4 of student effort in Try Science is directed at the pedagogical aspects of teaching science through inquiry. As the students work through their experiments and become more familiar with the inquiry model, they are asked to reflect on how such an approach might be implemented in their own classrooms. The students are exposed to the science education research literature to inform their group-wide discussions and experiences. Some of the reflections and insights from the students journal are posted on-line providing a summative assessment in this area.
- All students in the class are asked to develop exercises utiziling the inquiry-based approach to science which they must implement and assess with actual students before the end of Try Science. For most students, their own classes afford the student population to be examined in this clinical experience. For those not actively teaching at the time they are taking Try Science alternative arrangements are made for this component.
Further insights into how Try Science addresses these roles are available from the developers (Microsoft Word 33kB Aug28 05).
How do Students Integrate Learning & Teaching?
How does the Course Transition Pre-service Teachers into the Classroom?
How is the Course Content Aligned with the National Science Education Standards?
How does the Course Meet Certification Requirements?
What Challenges have been Encountered in Teaching this Course? How have they been Resolved?
- Insuring Quality Science Instruction
Insuring high quality teaching is a critical goal for the program's graduates. It is important for the course facilitators to coach the in-service teachers in their inquiries. They must effectively model taking a scientific stance and use of scientific strategies to answer questions in an on-line format in which face-to-face contact does not occur. To help, TERC has developed a 4-week faculty seminar that helps facilitators to develop the skill of supporting inquiry on-line.
- Accommodating Program Growth
The on-line format of the Science in Education Program allows for rapid expansion to meet the needs of a global audience of in-service teachers whose employment and life circumstances constrain the professional development formats available to them. Demand for Try Science and its related courses is very high making recruitment of scientists and science educators who are interested in working with teachers to improve science in the classroom an on-going high priority process. Further details are available by contacting TERC.