Essays on Teacher Preparation by Workshop Participants

picture of William Slattery

William Slattery

Associate Professor
Department of Geological Sciences
Wright State University
Dayton, Ohio

Proficiency tests

In 1994 the Ohio State Legislature charged the Ohio Department of Education to develop proficiency tests for K-12 students in Language Arts, Mathematics, Social Studies and Science. This was a difficult task, as each of Ohio's 611 school districts is under local control, each with their own local curriculum. The Ohio Department of Education cut the Gordian knot by using the newly developed national science education standards as a framework to develop the Ohio Proficiency Tests. This decision thrust Earth/Space science into the curriculum at every grade level in Ohio's K-12 schools. This presented challenges to school districts and individual classroom teachers, because Earth/Space science was never a required content area for most teacher education programs in the state. They faced the challenge of preparing their students for a high-stakes test in an area that they were not well prepared to teach.

Wright State University responded to these challenges by recruiting science educators in all science content areas to serve with joint appointments in the Colleges of Science and Mathematics and Education /Human Services. These newly hired science educators were charged with developing new courses in inquiry-based science, including Earth/Space science. These new science courses were housed within science departments rather than the College of Education and Human Services. This had a profound impact on enrollment figures for the Department of Geological Sciences because the development of this course and the influx of undergraduate education students into the department coincided with a general downturn in the "traditional" undergraduate and graduate student enrollment in the Department of Geological Sciences.

The Department of Geological Sciences developed a course required of and exclusively for pre-service teachers seeking licensure in Early (PK-3) and Middle Childhood education (4-8) in Earth/Space science. This course blended these components and sought to build the students conceptual understandings and content specific pedagogy through cooperative learning experiences in the classroom and field-based experiences (Slattery, 1996). An additional required course in Earth Systems Science has recently been added for Middle Childhood (grades 4-8) pre-service teachers seeking a science concentration. This web-enhanced course also uses the national science education standards as a content and pedagogical framework. Strengthening pre-service teacher education in Earth/Space science was only one facet of the departmental effort. Continued connection with pre-service teachers after graduation has strengthened science education as a whole. Newly minted teachers, armed with knowledge of inquiry-based science, and with a few years experience in the classroom now serve as mentors for other student teachers. They have played a significant role in other components of departmental science education efforts, such as supporting in-service teachers with Master's programs and other professional development opportunities. The Master of Science in Teaching (Earth Science) program (Slattery and Brame, 2003) is a hybrid of content and education. Thirty-three quarter hours of coursework, including an independently developed research project along a spectrum of (for lack of a better term) "pure" scientific research and classroom action education research are required. In addition, participants may take up to 12 quarter hours of coursework in the Colleges of Education /Human Services. Over 100 in-service teachers have graduated from this program in the past several years. Our continued outreach efforts to other K-12 teachers for shorter term professional development activities and for continued recruitment into the Master's program have been built on the foundation of pre-service teacher Earth/Space science education.

Slattery, W. (1996). A Course to Train Pre-service Elementary Teachers the Content and Process of Science. Journal of Geoscience Education, v.44, n.3, pp. 259-261.

Slattery, W. and R. Brame (2003). Supporting the Standards: A Master's Degree Program for K-12 Teacher Professional Development. Journal of Geoscience Education, v.51, n.3 p.