Why is it Important for Geoscience Faculty to be Involved in Professional Development Opportunities for Practicing Teachers?

Created by Jennifer L. B. Anderson, Ph.D., SERC, Carleton College.

"Any society that is serious about the education of its children must be equally serious about supporting the continuing education of those charged with that task.... Rapid and extensive improvement of science education is unlikely to occur until it becomes clear to scientists that they have an obligation to become involved in elementary- and secondary-level science."
The Role of Scientists in the Professional Development of Science Teachers 
Chapter 3, NRC, 1996

A Major Impact on Students and Future Citizens

If you choose to work effectively with only one science teacher, that teacher will pass on your influence to hundreds of students. Many students only experience Earth science during their K-12 education, yet these students will become the next generation of global citizens and will need to address complex scientific issues, many of which are based in the earth sciences (for example, global climate change, resource management, and space exploration). Thus, it is even more vital for geoscience faculty to support practicing teachers and K-12 students.

The Key to Better Geoscience Students

Future geoscientists typically do not enter college having already made the decision to become geoscientists. Most likely, these students have not benefited from an enthusiastic and knowledgeable Earth science teacher in their K-12 experience. Geoscience faculty who provide professional development experiences that inspire Earth science teachers will benefit as these teachers encourage their talented students to pursue geoscience degrees in college.

Faculty Reap the Benefits

In general, faculty involved in the professional development and support of Earth science teachers are more conscious of their own educational endeavors as reflected by improved teaching in their own college classrooms (p. 71, NRC, 1996 ). Research programs benefit because the professional development of practicing teachers can be incorporated into grant proposals, as well as developed into research papers on education-related topics. Finally, collaboration between faculty interested in science education creates a supportive network of colleagues across the country.

"Research informs education and education informs research. Without both each will suffer." 
David C. Gosselin Professor, University of Nebraska, Lincoln 
2003 Preparing the Geoscience Workforce workshop

A Call for Action

Leaders of national science agencies have called for the active participation of scientists in K-12 science education. Read what they have advocated for scientists:

Photo of Dr. Bruce Alberts, President of NAS.
Dr. Bruce Alberts, President of NAS. Details
Photo of Dr. Adena Williams Loston Chief Education Officer NASA
Dr. Adena Williams Loston, Chief Education Officer of NASA. Details

  • The National Academy of Sciences 
    Dr. Bruce Alberts, President, NAS 
  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration 
    Dr. Adena Williams Loston, Chief Education Officer, NASA 
  • National Science Foundation 
  • National Research Council