Geoscience Faculty Discuss Courses for Future Earth Science Teachers

Manduca, C., H. Petcovic, and S. Linneman (2007), Geoscience Faculty Discuss Courses for Future Earth Science Teachers, Eos Trans. AGU, 88(42), 428.

An edited version of this paper was published by AGU. Copyright (2007) American Geophysical Union.
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(Unedited Preprint)

As the focus on developing our nation's scientific workforce intensifies [National Academy of Sciences, 2007], more geoscience departments are recognizing teacher preparation as an integral part of their work. Skilled geoscience teachers can excite and engage K-12 students in the geosciences, present geoscience as a rewarding career path, and ultimately contribute to a better understanding of key geoscience problems among the public. Our ability to achieve these goals starts with the quality of our teacher education programs.

To address the growing demand for better prepared Earth science teachers in the nation's middle and high schools, 23 geoscience faculty met at Carleton College to compare geoscience courses designed for undergraduate students seeking to obtain certification as elementary, middle, and high school teachers. This meeting was sponsored by the National Association of Geoscience Teachers and funded by the National Science Foundation (grant EAR-0304762).

The workshop had three main goals: (1) build a community of educators involved in K-12 geoscience teacher preparation, (2) examine the spectrum of ways in which geoscience teacher preparation courses are designed, and (3) compile and publish course descriptions and peerreviewed course activities in a format accessible to other educators. The workshop program, course and activity collections, and summary documents are available at the workshop Web site.

Several common themes emerged that participants identified as particularly important in preparing future teachers:
- A central focus on understanding what science is and how it is done, through either course activities or authentic investigations.
- An emphasis on the relevance of geoscience learning. The importance of relevance as a motivator for learning is widely recognized [National Research Council, 2000]. Teachers in particular need a deep understanding of relevance to motivate their own students.
- Focused course content that is purposefully chosen to align with state and/or national science standards so that future teachers become aware of what they are expected to teach.
- Opportunities for students to reflect upon the process of their own learning (metacognition). Developing metacognition is a critical step in enabling independent learning [National Research Council, 2000], a fundamental skill for teachers who need to stay current in both science and pedagogy.
- A learning environment that increases students' confidence in their abilities to both learn and teach science. A lack of confidence is known to hinder science teaching particularly at the elementary level [Tilgner, 1990].
- Instruction that allows students to make a connection between the content they are learning and the ways in which they will teach it in the future.

Participants took steps to continue building a community of K-12 geoscience teacher educators. Priorities established by participants included updating and maintaining the Teacher Preparation Web site and listserv, authoring a white paper and report on the importance of preparing future geoscience teachers, proposing a special issue of the Journal of Geoscience Education related to teacher preparation, and pooling resources to clearly ascertain best practices in geoscience teacher preparation. If you teach or plan to teach geoscience to future teachers and would like to join our listserve, please visit the Web site.


National Academy of Sciences (2007), Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future, Natl. Acad. Press, Washington, D. C. 

National Research Council (2000), How People Learn, Natl. Acad. Press, Washington, D. C. 

Tilgner, P. J. (1990), Avoiding science in the elementary school, Sci. Educ., 74, 421–431. 

—CATHY MANDUCA, Science Education Resource Center, Carleton College, Northfield, Minn.; E-mail: cmanduca@carleton.edu; HEATHER PETCOVIC, Department of Geoscience, Western MichiganUniversity, Kalamazoo; SCOTT LINNEMAN, Geology Department, Western Washington University, Bellingham.