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Essays on Teacher Preparation by Workshop Participants


Tom Lindsay

Portland State University
Portland, Oregon



The Geology Department at Portland State University (PSU) takes an active role in the advising and training of K-12 science teachers. We offer Earth and Space Science courses for teachers that are developmentally appropriate at the elementary and middle-school levels. These are designed to enhance both the teachers' understanding of the Earth and Space Sciences and their ability to develop suitable lesson plans for use in the classroom. Teacher preparation takes place at the graduate level at PSU. Students that are trained at Portland State attend the Graduate School of Education's Graduate Teacher Education Program (GTEP) after receiving their Bachelor's degree.

PSU, located in downtown Portland, is the largest university in Oregon, and has a very diverse student population. The average age of a Geology major is about 27 years. Approximately 90% of this group consists of returning students, many (20-25%) of which already have bachelor's degrees and are changing careers. About 25 to 30% of the students in all general courses at PSU express interest in teaching as a career.

In the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, students who plan to teach integrated science are advised through the Geology Department. They are required to demonstrate strengths in upper division coursework in at least two fields. Discussions are underway among the Geology, Geography and Environmental Studies Departments, and the Center for Science Education that will increase collaboration among programs and enhance graduate education leading to the Masters of Science in Teaching and an undergraduate major in Science Education.

Continued development of links between the Graduate Teacher Education Program and Geology Department is one of the challenges we face at PSU.

Various members of the Geology Department are presently providing support through partnerships with active science teachers but a more active role is envisioned. Our hope is to be become active as sounding boards, supporters, resources, collaborators, and co-learners with our elementary, middle-school, and secondary school colleagues.

The future holds great promise in the area of student-teacher-scientist partnerships (STSP). We are one of 5 universities (Colorado State University, University of Northern Colorado, Montana State University, University of Montana, Portland State University) in the National Science Foundation funded Center for Learning and Teaching in the West (CLTW). This consortium is actively researching the factors which account for low participation and achievement in science and mathematics from low socio-economic groups and traditionally under-represented populations. We view Earth Science as a ripe area for the stimulation of student interest and work to marshal resources to this end. One strategy we are investigating involves the remote access of instrumentation (SEM) to help answer student questions using state of the art research techniques.

We know that we don't have all of the answers, but offer advice and assistance to students seeking careers in earth-science education. Through our support, a collegial environment and respect, we actively help Oregon science teachers both in the classroom and out.

Portland State University contact persons:
Tom Lindsay, tcl@pdx.edu
Michael Cummings, cummingsm@pdx.edu

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