Teacher Preparation > Issues in Geoscience Teacher Preparation > Importance of Geoscientists

Why is it Important for Geoscience Faculty to be Involved in Professional Development Opportunities for Practicing Teachers?

Created by Jennifer L. B. Anderson, Ph.D., SERC, Carleton College.


"Any society that is serious about the education of its children must be equally serious about supporting the continuing education of those charged with that task.... Rapid and extensive improvement of science education is unlikely to occur until it becomes clear to scientists that they have an obligation to become involved in elementary- and secondary-level science."
The Role of Scientists in the Professional Development of Science Teachers
Chapter 3, NRC, 1996

A Major Impact on Students and Future Citizens

If you choose to work effectively with only one science teacher, that teacher will pass on your influence to hundreds of students. Many students only experience Earth science during their K-12 education, yet these students will become the next generation of global citizens and will need to address complex scientific issues, many of which are based in the earth sciences (for example, global climate change, resource management, and space exploration). Thus, it is even more vital for geoscience faculty to support practicing teachers and K-12 students.

The Key to Better Geoscience Students

Future geoscientists typically do not enter college having already made the decision to become geoscientists. Most likely, these students have not benefited from an enthusiastic and knowledgeable Earth science teacher in their K-12 experience. Geoscience faculty who provide professional development experiences that inspire Earth science teachers will benefit as these teachers encourage their talented students to pursue geoscience degrees in college.

Faculty Reap the Benefits

In general, faculty involved in the professional development and support of Earth science teachers are more conscious of their own educational endeavors as reflected by improved teaching in their own college classrooms (p. 71, NRC, 1996). Research programs benefit because the professional development of practicing teachers can be incorporated into grant proposals, as well as developed into research papers on education-related topics. Finally, collaboration between faculty interested in science education creates a supportive network of colleagues across the country.

"Research informs education and education informs research. Without both each will suffer."
David C. Gosselin Professor, University of Nebraska, Lincoln
2003 Preparing the Geoscience Workforce workshop

A Call for Action

Leaders of national science agencies have called for the active participation of scientists in K-12 science education. Read what they have advocated for scientists:

Photo of Dr. Bruce Alberts, President of NAS.
Dr. Bruce Alberts, President of NAS. Details
Photo of Dr. Adena Williams Loston Chief Education Officer NASA
Dr. Adena Williams Loston, Chief Education Officer of NASA. Details
  • The National Academy of Sciences
    Dr. Bruce Alberts, President, NAS
    "I am absolutely convinced that the scientific community will need to devote much more energy and attention to the critical issue of educating everyone in science, starting in kindergarten, if we are to have any hope of preparing our societies for the unexpected, as will be required to spread the benefits of science throughout our nation and the world." 2005 Presidential Address
  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration
    Dr. Adena Williams Loston, Chief Education Officer, NASA
    "To inspire the next generation of scientists, technologists, engineers, and educators, we cannot rely on the past. We must engage the education community and invite them to participate in our ongoing work and process of discovery." Education and NASA's Vision and Mission (more info)
  • National Science Foundation
    "NSF invests in activities that integrate research and education, and that develop reward systems to support teaching, mentoring and outreach. Effective integration of research and education at all levels infuses learning with the excitement of discovery. It also ensures that the findings and methods of research are quickly and effectively communicated in a broader context and to a larger audience. This strategy is vital to the accomplishment of [NSF's] strategic goals." National Science Foundation Strategic Plan, FY 2003-2008 (more info)
  • National Research Council
    "Recommendations for Scientists:
    • "More scientists should become involved in professional development programs for science to help ensure substantive improvements in science education."
    • "Scientists should educate themselves about K-12 education and not assume that they know or understand the problems and issues involved. That requires learning about teachers' needs and working cooperatively to form partnerships with teachers and science educators. It also requires learning about the educational research on how students learn science and how to teach most effectively."
    • "Scientists should examine their own teaching in undergraduate classes and laboratory exercises. Their classes include potential science teachers, so scientists should be aware that their teaching will be modeled by these teachers and ask themselves whether they are promoting active learning and good process and content teaching."
    • "To promote better science education, scientists should...
      • ...become champions of science education in their own institutions and professional communities."
      • ...respect and support colleagues and students who become involved in science education."
      • ...join professional organizations concerned with science education."
      • ...work with their own professional organizations to support K-12 science education."
      • ...support reciprocal interchanges of scientists and other science educators at their own conferences."

    The Role of Scientists in the Professional Development of Science Teachers
    p. 48, NRC, 1996