Essays on Teacher Preparation by Workshop Participants

picture of Randy McGinnis

Dr. J. Randy McGinnis

Science Teaching Center
Department of Curriculum & Instruction
University of Maryland, College Park

University of Maryland, College Park
Earth Science Teacher Preparation

I. A Summary of Earth Science Teacher Preparation and Continuous Professional Teacher Education at the University of Maryland (UM)

Undergraduate students at UM who seek to teach earth science at the elementary, middle, or high school levels are enrolled in academic programs that lead to either an undergraduate Education degree in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction (B.S, Maryland State Teacher Certification in grades 1-8) or a double major degree in Education and Geology (B.A, and B.S., Maryland State Teacher Certification grades 7-12). In addition, a second option for undergraduate students seeking teacher certification in secondary schools (grades 7-12) is to enroll in a Fast-Track Bachelor/Master's Program. This is a five-year academic program that allows prospective science teachers to begin work toward Masters in Education (M.Ed) during their undergraduate program, with up to 9 credits counting toward both degrees. For those who hold an undergraduate degree in Earth Science (Geology, Meteorology, Astronomy majors) there are also additional cohort programs available (Masters Certification Program, Project LINK, Resident Teacher Certificate) that can lead to Maryland certification to teach secondary Earth Science. Finally, the Science Teaching Center in the Department of Curriculum of Instruction offers both masters degrees (M.A, Ed.M) and doctoral degrees (Ed.D, Ph.D) in Science Education for Earth Science Teachers.

Relevant URLs:
UM Teacher Certification
UM Department of Curriculum & Instruction
Elementary Education
Secondary Education
Graduate Programs in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction
[link 'Science Teaching Center']

II. Areas of Strength and Challenges to Our Earth Science Teacher Education Programs,/p>


  • UM is recognized nationally for its elementary and secondary teacher preparation programs as well as its graduate programs in education. There is strong collaboration between the College of Education and the Science Colleges in both teacher preparation program development and in matters of pedagogy. Primarily as result of the faculty project activities (content and methods) in the National Science Foundation funded upper elementary/middle level teacher preparation the Maryland Collaborative for Teacher Preparation (MCTP, 1993-2002), prospective earth science teachers take courses in mathematics and science content and in pedagogy taught by faculty who strive to model good teaching practice as defined by the Standards documents in mathematics and science education. In addition, all teacher interns at UM spend significant time in their programs in professional development schools where they are mentored by experienced classroom teachers.
  • Elementary majors in education must choose a concentration (equivalent to a minor at other institutions) in a discipline. As result, those elementary majors who are preparing specifically to teach middle school science (including Earth Science) are advised to take a concentration in science (selecting courses in Geology, Meteorology, Astronomy and other science fields). UM graduates approximately 50 elementary majors each year with concentrations in science.
  • Secondary majors who are preparing to teach Earth Science are strongly prepared in both education and science content. Since 2001, prospective secondary Earth Science teachers must take double majors in Education and in Geology.
  • As way of supporting the College of Education alumni and other practicing Maryland teachers (including those teaching Earth Science) the UM College of Education is constructing a comprehensive web site of Teacher Professional Resources.


  • Currently, the State of Maryland does not offer a separate certification for the middle school (in which Earth Science is offered). As result, certification is either for grades 1-8 or 7-12. Middle School principals hire prospective Earth Science teachers with either of these certification levels, with the majority those who hold elementary certification since there is a very small pool of newly certified secondary Earth Science teachers from which to draw upon. Therefore, a major challenge for Maryland is how to satisfy the conditions of the No Child Left Behind legislation that apparently calls for all middle school teachers by 2005 to hold a degree in a discipline and/or successful performance on a content examination.
  • There is significant challenge in recruiting secondary Earth Science teachers. In the last 2 years no newly certified Earth Science teachers have graduated from the UM program. Presently there are none who have registered to take the senior level methods course in the fall, 2003.