Teacher Preparation > Supporting Preservice Teachers > Browse Teacher Preparation Courses > TERC Try Science: Role in the Program

Try Science: 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 introductory science course directed at in-service elementary and middle school educators at TERC , created by Sue Doubler, Ph.D.

A description of this course and its goals is available.

What Role Does this Course Play in Teacher Preparation?

Try Science is the introductory general science class in an 11 course inquiry-based sequence preparing in-service teachers for K-8 science education. It seeks to:
  1. Develop understanding of key science concepts through inquiry.
  2. Learn effective strategies for planning and teaching science
  3. Plan and carry out inquiry-based science investigations with children.

How does the Course Address Each Role?

  1. Fundamental principles of science content such as mass, volume, bouyancy, density, etc. are examined through straight forward experimentation with water utilizing equipment easiliy available in one's home or classroom.

    Students are given open ended questions by the course facilitators regarding the behavior of water to initiate a series of student hypotheses, experiments and sharing of results. All insights and predictions are recorded in an off-line student journal with key points shared on-line with the facilitators and peers in the student's study group. These shared discussions lead to innovation, revision and further experimentation by the students as they attempt to refine their knowledge of the properties in question with better and better hypotheses backed by actual observations and data.

    The instructors (facilitators) act in the role of a guide on the side for these discussions, helping the study group to remain focused and offering encouragement and support to their group driven investigation. Facilitators can correct persistent misunderstandings or inspire new depths of reasoning by asking appropriate questions, but generally refrain from "giving the right answer" or "lecturing" the study group.

    Students in the study groups learn from each other and their collective struggle with the challenge they face. In the process of investigating content, the students gain experience participating in inquiry as a learner and as a peer educator. Further insights on how to faciliate such inquiry come indirectly through the model provided by the course instructors.

  2. Approximately 1/4 of student effort in Try Science is directed at the pedagogical aspects of teaching science through inquiry. As the students work through their experiments and become more familiar with the inquiry model, they are asked to reflect on how such an approach might be implemented in their own classrooms. The students are exposed to the science education research literature to inform their group-wide discussions and experiences. Some of the reflections and insights from the students journal are posted on-line providing a summative assessment in this area.
  3. All students in the class are asked to develop exercises utiziling the inquiry-based approach to science which they must implement and assess with actual students before the end of Try Science. For most students, their own classes afford the student population to be examined in this clinical experience. For those not actively teaching at the time they are taking Try Science alternative arrangements are made for this component.

Further insights into how Try Science addresses these roles are available from the developers (Microsoft Word 33kB Aug28 05).

How do Students Integrate Learning & Teaching?

In-service teachers in Try Science begin with a focus on their own learning. In their own investigations and study of scientific principles surrounding the properties of water, the pedagogical strategies central to the teaching of an inquiry-based scientific course are modelled. The students reflect on their own learning as their attention turns to development of strategies for teaching science in their school environment. 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 Try Science 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?

Try Science 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 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 of which Try Science 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 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, Try Science 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 Try Science and its related courses 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.