InTeGrate: Prepare Future Teachers »

Build Connections to Strengthen K-12 Teaching

This page was developed as a synthesis of lessons learned by participants in InTeGrate program models.

Degree programs for future teachers often exist at the intersection of content disciplines, such as life sciences or Earth science, and schools or departments of education. These areas of intersection can be fraught with challenges of collaboration and compromise, and developing a shared vision takes dedication. Improving students' preparation for teaching Earth science—among many other things they may teach—can't just mean adding courses to an already packed program. It means building connections --- between departments and programs, between individual instructors, and potentially even between institutions.

Use Earth Science Topics as Themes

Sustainability, climate, and hazards are all naturally integrative topics that can provide themes to infuse across a programs. These holistic approaches can ensure that future teachers receive sufficient content instruction not only in Earth science concepts, but in the connections between Earth science and many other disciplines that they will be teaching. This is the kind of thinking that underpins three-dimensional learning envisioned by the Next Generation Science Standards.

Infuse Sustainability into your Course »
Mercer University
InTeGrate materials were used in general education and methods courses for K-8 teacher preparation at Mercer. Evidence show the students to be more engaged.
Gustavus Adolphus College
The Gustavus team used climate change as an organizing principle for implementation of InTeGrate inspired materials in courses across the curriculum.
Wittenberg University
The Wittenberg team embedded high-impact geoscience sustainability curriculum in established courses across a breadth of disciplines.

Develop Interdisciplinary Curricula »

Collaborate Broadly and Deeply

High-quality teacher preparation benefits from collaboration among faculty and administrators in education, the STEM disciplines, and beyond, in addition to administrators and teachers in school districts. In many cases, collaboration with out-of-school educational programs and other scientific and educational organizations is also important. Seeking out true collaborations where all participants feel valued and heard is critical to making progress. All levels of collaborations are needed and valid, from one-on-one collaborations between individuals (e.g. one faculty and one in-service teacher), to institutional and organizational- level collaborations (e.g. a university and a school district; a group of universities and a non-profit educational organization). Shared responsibilities for student education builds co-ownership in the process and can lead to positive changes.

Collaborate with Local Teachers, Schools, and Administrators

Schools are not simply the places where teachers go to work once they've gotten their degrees and certifications—they can and should be partners in developing high-quality teachers. School boards, administration, and principals set the tone and policies in schools and are essential partners for collaboration. Depending on the size of the school and the district, there may also be science supervisors, lead teachers, or other administrators with more specific, content-area duties that should be involved. Individual teachers are also critical partners as change-makers in the classroom, serve as mentors, and can bring knowledge and experience from the classroom to the discussion.

Washington State Colleges and Universities
The statewide collaboration in Washington State engaged not only institutes of higher education, but principals, teachers, and science supervisors from across the state.

Collaborate with Schools/Departments of Education within the University

Teacher preparation is a shared responsibility between disciplines like the sciences and departments or schools of education. Faculty within the content disciplines want to make sure that teachers have enough content and education faculty want to make sure that they have the pedagogical skills and background—there is a lot of overlap in these desires. Coming together to discuss shared values can result in acceptance of that shared responsibility and build ownership for the desired changes. Open communication regarding preparation, expectations, and scaffolding in these collaborations is ideal.

Mercer University
Mercer University's Penfield College and Tift College of Education are collaborating to improve Earth literacy among their students and among Georgia's in-service teachers. Mercer serves non-traditional, return-to-college students ("adult learners") who are invested in their communities through their family, work, and community service.
Grand Valley State University
Faculty at GVSU aligned their content and methods by collaborating in the creation of a new education major in Integrated Science.

Collaborate with Two-Year Colleges

Many universities with strong teacher preparation programs also have significant numbers of transfer students from nearby community colleges. Oftentimes, these 2YCs serve to provide future teachers with their general education requirements and science content. Collaborating with colleagues at two-year colleges can lead to better alignment of courses and bolster success as students transfer from a two-year college and a four year institution.

Grand Valley State University
Collaboration with local two-year colleges led to the establishment of a pre-major and better tracking of students as they transfer and complete their majors.
Washington State Colleges and Universities
A statewide collaboration in Washington brought together faculty from all institutions involved in teacher preparation, including those from two-year colleges.
University of Texas - El Paso
The collaboration between UTEP and EPCC showcases how a strong collaboration between 2YCs and 4YCs can strengthen the transfer pipeline for all students including future teachers.

Plan at Scale

STEM teacher preparation is part of a large ecosystem that includes not only universities but school districts, community colleges, and extracurricular programs that support education. The scale of the interactions between those components of the ecosystem vary depending on the population density and how states organize their school districts. Planning at the appropriate scale recognizes the constraints and opportunities within each region.

At the state level: Washington State Colleges and Universities
Across the state of Washington, educators involved in teacher preparation programs worked together at the state level. Washington is a relatively small population state spread out over a large area, and the institutes of higher education are most often in competition with each other for students. Planning at the state scale allows collaboration between institutions with different strengths and sharing best practices and lessons learned in all aspects of STEM teaching, from elementary to secondary and from science to math.
At the university level: Grand Valley State University
Faculty at Grand Valley State designed a new program to prepare secondary science teachers that focused on integrating science content. A key aspect of working at the university level is incorporating faculty at nearby two-year colleges.
Within the university: Mercer University
Preservice teachers at Mercer use InTeGrate materials for course-based assignment to write lesson plans for elementary classrooms that address content and pedagogy.

InTeGrate: Preparing Future Teachers »

Learn more about teacher preparation in the United States nationally and regionally, explore strategies for strengthening the role of Earth and environmental science in teacher preparation, and view successful strategies from colleagues across the country.