The TIMES Project: Inquiry- and field-based professional development for middle and high school Earth Science teachers.

submitted by

Lee Schmitt CGEE Hamline University
Author Profile

Initial Publication Date: August 24, 2005 | Reviewed: November 3, 2013
Teachers are immersed in an intense, graduate-level study of Minnesota geology using a model of inquiry-based field studies to deepen their understanding of the principles of geoscience and to develop field investigations that will enable their students to understand the way the Earth and Science work.
GSA Poster: panel 1 (Acrobat (PDF) 1.7MB Aug24 05), panel 2 (Acrobat (PDF) 1.7MB Aug24 05)

Learning Goals

TIMES provides participants with:
1) a detailed overview of Minnesota geology through investigating rocks, rivers, fossils, caves, landforms and soild of the region where their school district is located.
2) hands-on practice in field research protocols.
3) instruction in inquiry strategies for the classroom through facilitator modeling of the approach with teachers and including direct instruction related to questioning strategies, developing investigable questions, designing feasible experimental procedures, analyzing data and presentation skills.
4) the opportunity to reflect on the inquiry teaching approach used in the institute, discuss classroom implications, and implementation strategies, and test their new skills in a supportive environment.
5) the time and peer support to design a field research investigation that addresses specific content areas of the curriculum, the inquiry component of the standards and that will be used in their curriculum.
6) a follow-up strategy that will encourages teachers to continue to test and improve their content knowledge, field studies, inquiry facilitation, assessment skills, and involvement in professional development over the school year following the summer institute.

Geologic Skills:
1) Making and understanding the significance of detailed geologic observations and explicitly communicating them both by written field notes and discussion.
2) Recognizing patterns in various types of geologic data (e.g. maps, cross-sections, outcrops).
3) Posing geologic questions/hypotheses and drawing conclusions from original field and prepared geologic data sets.
4) Describing and identifying rocks and sediments

Higher Order Thinking Skills:
Application: repeated practice using basic geologic principles and rock identification skills
Analysis: pattern recognition and correlation to deduce geologic relationships in the field and using geologic maps (Minnesota County Geologic Atlases)
Synthesis: posing geologic questions/hypotheses and drawing conclusions from original field and prepared geologic data sets.
Evaluation: teachers reflect on their field experiences and re-design them to best meet the needs of their particular students and school situation.

Other Skills:
Teachers apply their new knowledge strategies within a collegial environment of teachers and scientists in the design of effective learning experiences for their students while re-aligning their curricula to the new Minnesota Academic Standards in Science. Field investigations and strategies are peer reviewed and have ongoing support through a email list and mentoring network.


Instructional Level:
Pre- and/or in-service middle and high school Earth Science teachers.

Skills Needed:
No specific skills to geology or earth science necessary, but should have completed an undergraduate degree.

Role of Activity in a Course:
These two week institutes run five days each week. Each day can consist of up to 10-hours of inquiry-based content immersion all in the field, including lunch. We meet two evenings each week in the lab to examine prepared and their own field geologic data. This "learn on the road and on your feet" experience fosters comaraderie, encourages dialouge, and builds networks, while focusing the teachers on their studies. Participation in the summer TIMES institute involves up to 20 teachers of earth science from public and private schools in the emphasis area. Depending on room in the program, and based on an application process, up to two TIMES teachers from past programs will be able to participate, present and share their expertise throughout the two weeks.

Data, Tools and Logistics

Required Tools:
No special tools necessary. Use of standard geologic field equipment is all that is required.

Logistical Challenges:
1. Finding a host venue.
2. Organizing local geologists to be guest presenters on a daily basis in order to aquaint teachers with regional geological professionals.
3. Getting handouts from presenters ahead of time.
4. Remembering not to "tell" the story, but to let the teachers ask questions and work it out for themselves.
5. Leaving plenty of time for pedagological discussion.


Evaluation Goals:
Does it:
1. increase participants' content knowledge in earth science with specific emphasis on Minnesota geology.
2. increase participants' skills in desiging effective, field and inquiry-based experiences in earth science for their students.
3. increase the amount of curriculum time devoted to field work and student-initiated investigations.
4. increase participants use of inquiry-based teaching practices.
5. increase communication among the workshop teachers and among teachers, geoscientists, and resource agencies that support earth science.
6. increase the amount of professional development and involvement of these teachers by encouraging added courses, email discussions, and presentations/involvement at professional meetings (e.g. MnSTA, MESTA, NSTA).

Evaluation Techniques:
As a requirement of this program, each teacher will use the wealth of experiences in content and pedagogy from the two weeks to produce a detailed Action Plan outlining a field investigation for their students which they will implement the following school year. There are three follow-up sessions with teachers during the school year. In fall at the host college, action plans will be presented to all and peer reviewed along with plans for assessing and collecting student work. During the school year, each of the 20 TIMES participants will have at least one classroom visit by a past TIME participant, MESTA boardmember and/or a TIMES instructor. These visits, if possible, will occur on the day(s) of the teacher's planned field investigation. The final follow up session in the spring will serve to review student work, collect student acheivement data on pre- and post-tests, as well as, the successess and challenges of the completed action plans and other field study opportunities with students. Follow-up sessions will be six-hour Saturday sessions.