About this Project

Transforming Geoscience Preparation for K-8 Pre-Service Teachers:
Including Testing the Significance of an Intensive Field-based Experience

A crisis, as identified by the National Academy of Sciences (2007) and the National Science Foundation (2007) exists in our school systems related to the teaching of mathematics and science. This crisis is manifested by a shortage of qualified mathematics and science educators, low achievement scores in these areas, and lack of financial support. In Wisconsin, K-8 teachers are not required to take a physical science laboratory course for certification yet most teach physical science at some level to their students. We have identified a number of problems and concerns directly relevant to this systemic gap in science and science education preparation. This project has two main sets of interweaving goals, with corresponding outcomes and assessments. The overall project goal, as noted in the title of this proposal and hereafter defined as the P-goals, refers to integrating a physical geology class with a science methods class, including testing the value of a four- day, field based geology experience for pre-service teachers. The project goals (P-goals) are the heart of the broader impacts of this project. These P-goals provide an innovative approach to best practice related to improving K-8 science instruction at the College; engage the Education and Science faculty in a cooperative endeavor; disseminate a replicable model of pre-service science education for any field of science to other colleges and universities; and most importantly, produce a next generation of K-8 science educators who are knowledgeable and enthusiastic. The learning goals (L-goals) are the heart of the intellectual merit of this project. The intent is to target the instructional methodology of the science and education course to meet the specific needs of K-8 pre-service teachers, specifically introducing a "How to teach what you have learned" pedagogical component; generate greater science interest in the pre- service teachers that may encourage them to take more science courses or switch their emphasis to a science related field; and again most importantly, change pre-service teachers' attitudes towards science that will be reflected in their approach to future science education in the K-8 system.

The mechanism for addressing our goals is to synthesize content, process and pedagogy for K-8 teachers by integrating two existing courses, Introduction to Geology GEOL 105, and Science Methods EDUC 285. The two courses (4-credits each) will become a yearlong (8-credit course). A continuum of "learning earth science" and "how to teach earth science" will be the classroom focus. This same integration will occur in the laboratory portion where in addition to learning skills and problem solving techniques, students will develop methods of how to teach these concepts. Finally, a model, four-day intensive field experience will be tested. If significant, it will become a required component to the education curriculum. For all aspects of the revised paradigm a geology professor and an education professor will work together to integrate pedagogy with content to address the needs of the pre-service teachers.

Project PIs

Tim Flood, Geology, St. Norbert College
Scott Kirst, Education, St. Norbert College

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