Improving Programs

Part of the InTeGrate Grand Valley State University Program Model

Program Motivation

This program involved faculty who teach at Grand Valley State University (GVSU), Grand Rapids Community College (GRCC), and Muskegon Community College (MCC). Secondary science students at GVSU obtain a major in a science discipline and, for many, an endorsement in Integrated Science. The endorsement was established more than 12 years ago, with many courses designed for individual science disciplines and before the implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards. Biology education students had no access to biology education faculty and physics education students only met their physics education faculty in their senior seminar. Our partners at GRCC and MCC also prepared science and science education majors but communication between the institutions was rare. New science education courses with integrated content, a new Integrated Science major, increased faculty dialogue between disciplines, access by/to all faculty, and shared pedagogy are central to improving science education at GVSU. Collaboration with GRCC and MCC established pathways to support transfer students.


Background »
We generated a model of science teacher preparation that balances the juxtaposition of skilled teachers with university demands for time to graduation and course load, and the external demand for employment. Students demonstrated the ability to integrate Earth science with physical and life sciences. This was accomplished through shared learning goals and teaching methods, assignments and assessments, scoring rubrics, and use of InTeGrate modules in a way that aligned with NGSS objectives. Our program features a sequence of two new and one revised courses: SCI 450 Earth and Life Science in Secondary Education, SCI 440 Physics and Chemistry in Secondary Education, and EDI 331 Methods and Strategies of Secondary Teaching. Earth and Life Science in Secondary Education models the integration of science across both disciplines and is co-taught by geology and biology faculty. The program targets Earth science and biology secondary education students and students seeking a new major in Integrated Science. Curriculum and program revisions ensured long-term administrative support. The major and the two new courses will be offered for the first time during the 2017-2018 academic year. The result is well-prepared students that demonstrated their knowledge in all science disciplines, model integration in course content, and graduated in a timely fashion.

Communication and collaboration is now common with geology faculty at nearby two-year colleges that develop content and pedagogy skills in preservice science teachers prior to their transfer to GVSU.

Program-Level Goals and Evidence

Goal 1: Created a New Major in Integrated Science (ISCI)

The ISCI Secondary Education major introduced a few changes in the curriculum from those required by the "add-on" ISCI Secondary DI Endorsement currently in place (see Comparison of Current ISCI DI Endorsement and Comp ISCI Major (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 20kB Nov22 16)). A key outcome of this new major allows a certified teacher to teach all science disciplines in grades 6-12.

  1. Because of the Michigan Department of Education certification parameters, students with the Comprehensive ISCI Secondary Education major that pass the ISCI Secondary Michigan Test for Teacher Certification will be certified to teach grades 6-12. The proposed Comprehensive ISCI Secondary Education major therefore proposed as much content depth and rigor in each of the four science categories as possible.
  2. Two additional content courses are required in Earth Science, one additional content course is required for both Chemistry and Physics disciplines, and one fewer courses is required in the Biology area as compared to the current endorsement course list. This was done to create a balance of content between the four science disciplines, while addressing all key science concepts in each area at a depth necessary for high school content teaching.
  3. The realities of the Michigan secondary education market are that this ISCI major is necessary to get a job. Teachers with this certification must be prepared to teach general science courses at the middle school level through AP science courses in any of the four disciplines at the high school level. The proposed list of courses best prepares teachers certified with this major to teach successfully in any of these classrooms (see NSTA Science Content Analysis Form New Program NSTA Science Content Analysis Form New Program (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 49kB Nov22 16)).
  4. The GPA requirement for certification in the Comprehensive ISCI Secondary Education major has been raised from 2.7 to 3.0.
  5. In most cases, time to graduation and ISCI Secondary certification will be faster with the Comprehensive ISCI Secondary Education major than with the current route of taking a science major, a science minor, and the remaining ISCI Secondary DI Endorsement courses, in addition to the College of Education major (see Comp ISCI Secondary Education Major Catalog Copy (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 19kB Nov22 16) for 4 year coursework plan). In addition, understanding the coursework plan for the Comprehensive ISCI Secondary Education major will be easier for students, and it will be a more visible option for freshmen entering GVSU.

Goal 2: Created Two New Science Methods Courses

Three credits were added to accommodate two new SCI courses in science education pedagogy (see grouped New Course Proposals for SCI 440: Physics and Chemistry in Secondary Education and SCI 450: Earth and Life Science in Secondary Education). SCI 450 replaced GEO319, a pedagogical content course that was a requirement in the current ISCI Secondary Endorsement. SCI 440 is the new course representing pedagogical content knowledge in physics and chemistry disciplines. This course provides the additional 3 credits in the major. The Michigan Department of Education content guidelines for the Integrated Science DI Endorsement include objectives related to scientific inquiry skills and teaching pedagogy that is covered in these courses. Furthermore, the Integrated Science MTTC test for secondary certification assesses knowledge in these areas as well. SCI 450 serves as the capstone experience for the ISCI Secondary Education Major, integrating science content from major coursework and providing culminating experiences in how to teach science and develop integrated science curriculum. In addition, SCI 450 has an Supplemental Writing Skills designation for the General Education curriculum requirement.

Goal 3: Increased Collaborations with nearby 2YCs.

Two nearby 2YCs, Muskegon Community College (MCC) and Grand Rapids Community College (GRCC), transfer students to GVSU to complete their Earth Science or Geology degrees. Two new faculty were hired at the 2YCs, Amber Kumpf at MCC and Tari Mattox at GRCC, and we saw an opportunity to build new collaborations.

A first step was co-leading two-day field trips. This allowed the 2YC faculty to gain experience on possible field trips and to share their expertise with GVSU students. Trips were planned and co-led to Paleozoic strata of the Illinois Basin and the Cincinnati Arch and to the Precambrian metamorphic rocks of the Marquette syncline. It is now common practice to run a trip each semester.

Next, we considered how to support the students in timely completion of their B.S. degree. Tari Mattox developed and gained college approval for a pre-major. The pre-major allows a student to complete two years of course work at GRCC and then two years at GVSU. The agreement is used to advise students at GRCC and as they transfer to GVSU. Amber established a similar advising form at MCC.

We have begun to track majors, primarily to provide successful role models for the students at the 2YCs.

We meet each semester to share ideas and resources. 2YC faculty and students are invited to GVSU for seminars and distinguished lecturers. Amber presented an Earth Science Week lecture.

Unexpected Outcomes

Outcome 1: Faculty openly shared and contributed their expertise to design and implement new courses.

Although we meet fortnightly as a group of 10-11 faculty these regular meetings are agenda driven and focused on limited topics. This project allowed us to all be together or in small groups (of 2 to 5) and deeply share content and pedagogy in our disciplines and find connections across disciplinary boundaries. These extended periods of discussion focused on our courses and on our teaching are too rare. This allowed new(er) faculty to make significant contributions to our new major and courses. Discussions during this project also increased our appreciation of each other as valued peers.

Outcome 2: Although all disciplines are included in our major and courses some are less integrated.

In our new major, we carefully balanced the number of credits in biology, chemistry, Earth science, and physics. In our two new courses, we took two different approaches. Chemistry and physics faculty redesigned a successful chemistry education methods course by tweaking assignments and readings to include physics education perspectives. In contrast, biology and geology faculty redesigned a successful Earth science education methods course by starting from scratch and splitting the schedule equally. The new chemistry and physics course will be co-taught by a chemist and physicist. The Earth and life science course will be co-taught by a geologist and a biologist.

Long-term Impact and Next Steps

Our long-term goal is to provide excellent training to secondary science preservice teachers that allows them to pass the state certification exam, teach each science discipline at the highest level (such as AP courses), gain employment in Michigan, and emerge as science leaders in their building or district. Approval of the new program and courses by the University provides evidence of our long-term support.

The next steps are:

  • Continued collaboration and course design of faculty between disciplines and team teaching of the two new science methods courses.
  • Recruit students to the new major.
  • Teach the new courses and collect data on the students based on course assessments.
  • Track student performance on the state certification exam and employment as they begin their teaching careers.
  • Track transfer students as they complete their degree and advance to employment or graduate school.