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Earth Science from a New Perspective: Role in the Program

Page Prepared for SERC by Sadredin C. Moosavi, Ph.D.

A discussion of the design and implementation of an on-line science content course and science teaching course for in-service elementary and middle school educators, developed by TERC under the direction of Sue Doubler and Linda Grisham.

A description of this 2-course module and its goals is available.

What Role Does this Course Play in Teacher Preparation?

This course seeks to build understanding of Earth as a dynamic system and skill in how to analyze and interpret data to further understanding of Earth. Specific goals include developing:
  1. Inquiry and research skills
    • Making observations
    • Generating questions
    • Designing a scientific study
    • Examining & interpreting data
    • Physical & computer modeling
    • Generating explanations
    • Presenting research findings
    • Reflecting
  2. Science Concepts
    • Properties of earth materials
    • Topography
    • Stream flow dynamics
    • Erosion
    • Deposition
    • Flooding
    • Structure of the earth system
    • Plate tectonics
    • Global climate
  3. Data collected and/or examined
    • Qualitative observational data
    • Qualitative experimental data
    • Quantitative observational data
    • Published data from other researchers
    • Satellite images, photographs, maps, and hydrographs

How does the Course Address Each Role?

  1. Inquiry and research skills are built through analysis of actual map and remote sensing data and use of modeling tools on the Nile and other river systems under study.
  2. A central purpose of the Earth Science course is to begin seeing the world around us in new ways. This course focuses on the topic of one river and begins by inviting participants to "uncover" the connections between that river and the rest of the Earth systems.

    The course focuses on the Nile River, with inquiry-based investigations of drainage networks, stream flow dynamics, flooding, interaction of climate and the river system, and interaction of the river system and land formations. Participants gain understanding of the Nile River system as part of a larger hydrologic system viewed, in turn, as part of the dynamic Earth system.

  3. Participants explore and analyze data from maps and satellite images and use a stream table to model river systems. Through observation, modeling, and data analysis, participants gain the ability to tell the story of the Nile River, and, by extension, learn to tell the story of any river.

Further insights into how Try Science addresses these roles are available from the developers (Microsoft Word 28kB Aug29 05).

How do Students Integrate Learning & Teaching?

In-service teachers in Earth Science from a New Perspective conduct investigations and study of scientific principles surrounding river systems such as the Nile. Simultaneous integration with the Curriculum and Reform course allows the students to develop an inquiry-based model and practice for teaching earth system science concepts in the classroom. As part of their coursework, the students try ideas with students in their own classrooms and report the results to their on-line study group and facilitators for feedback.

How does the Course Transition Pre-service Teachers into the Classroom?

Students in this course are usually already working in a school environment with students in grades K-8. The focus of the course is to improve their ability to provide quality inquiry-based scientific courses and curricula. For some teachers this may mean a complete change in their style and focus of instruction. For others, it may be their first entry into teaching scientific content or preparing science curricula for a school setting.

How is the Course Content Aligned with the National Science Education Standards?

Earth Science from a New Perspective focuses on key concepts identified in the National Science Education Standards but must be combined with the other courses in the Science in Education program for full effect. The course is inquiry-based, targeting earth science system concepts that have relevance across multiple grades, and emphasizes depth of understanding over breadth of subject areas.

How does the Course Meet Certification Requirements?

The Science in Education program is a part is an approved Master's in Education program in most U.S. states. This program was designed for a national audience based on concepts and content within the National Science Education Standards rather than the specific earth science certification standards of any particular state.

What Challenges have been Encountered in Teaching this Course? How have they been Resolved?

As an on-line course in a rapidly expanding program, Earth Science from a New Perspective faces both conventional and unique challenges.
  1. Insuring Quality Science Instruction
    Insuring high quality teaching is a critical goal for the program's graduates. It is important for the course facilitators to coach the in-service teachers in their inquiries. They must effectively model taking a scientific stance and use of scientific strategies to answer questions in an on-line format in which face-to-face contact does not occur. To help, TERC has developed a 4-week faculty seminar that helps facilitators to develop the skill of supporting inquiry on-line.
  2. Accommodating Program Growth
    The on-line format of the Science in Education Program allows for rapid expansion to meet the needs of a global audience of in-service teachers whose employment and life circumstances constrain the professional development formats available to them. Demand for courses in this program is very high making recruitment of scientists and science educators who are interested in working with teachers to improve science in the classroom an on-going high priority process. Further details are available by contacting TERC.