A part of the SERC Teacher Professional Development Program Collection

Page prepared for SERC by Heather Rissler in consultation with Dr. Paul Grobstein.

Bryn Mawr College Summer Institutes for K-12 Teachers

Science as Exploration: Getting it Less Wrong:

Program URL: http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/local/suminst
Program Type:
Professional development workshop

Program Size:
18 In-service teachers
Audience: Philadelphia area teachers

Paul Grobstein, Ph.D. (website)
Eleanor A. Bliss Professor of Biology
Department of Biology at Bryn Mawr College

Program Summary

The Summer Institutes at Bryn Mawr are two-week professional development workshops that focus on a variety of topics in science and address strategies for effective pedagogy. Topics of recent workshops include:

While each Summer Institute addresses content, the focus is on using science content to uncover and explore the process of science. Teachers are encouraged to develop teaching strategies that present science as "a general process of question-asking, intuition-testing and story-revising that all of us engage in daily, rather than as a highly specialized canon of knowledge" (from Bryn Mawr Now news article).

What was the impetus for the program?

The Summer Institutes at Bryn Mawr initiated in the early 90s in conjunction with financial support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI). Funding supported the development of college science education and programs that include outreach components.

How is the program structured?

Strategies used during the Summer Institutes include lectures on science content, demonstrations, discussion groups, and hands-on activities. Emphasis is also placed on utilizing the web for curriculum development; dissemination of information; and engaging students in interactive learning activities, such as using computer modeling to address scientific phenomena.

In the Brain and Behavior: Implications for K-12 Education workshop, participants learn about recent advances in brain research and discuss the implications for student development and learning and changing strategies of effective pedagogy. Participants discuss educational theory and practice and are encouraged to translate their knowledge of brain and behavior research into new curricular materials.

In the Science and a Sense of Place: Learning Where We are Located in the World workshop participants discuss the how their students make sense of their place (ranging from the atoms and molecules in their body to shooting stars in the universe). Participants design a curricular component that addresses their own students' place, drawing from a variety of disciplines.

Materials for past workshops can be found on the Summer Institute homepage.

Who is involved?

Faculty from a variety of disciplines including Biology, Geology, Education, Math, English, Computer Science, Psychology, and Physics, participate in the Summer Institutes. This diverse participation reflects the broad range of topics covered by the institutes as well as the interdisciplinary approach of each institute, which typically includes faculty involvement from a broad disciplinary range to demonstrate the effectiveness of approaching scientific problems and questions from multiple perspectives.

Teachers participating in the workshop represent elementary, middle school, and High school teachers from the greater Philadelphia area. Participants are expected to be active in workshop discussions and group activities and are supported in developing new curricular components to introduce into their classrooms. Participants receive credit hours and a stipend, including an additional stipend to purchase supplies that will support implementation of new curriculum components into their classrooms.

How is the program evaluated?

The Summer Institutes attract returning teachers, which provides informal feedback on how their previous experiences have impacted their teaching and their students' learning.

How is the program maintained and funded?

The Summer Institutes at Bryn Mawr are funded by grants from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Hints for starting a program like this:

Dr. Paul Grobstein (personal communication)
  • Be patient when setting up and developing workshops. Growth will happen as the process continues, and not necessarily in the initial stages.
  • Rely on the fact that K-12 teachers are interested in having an environment in which they are integrated collaboratively as professionals and thinkers.
  • Though faculty leaders of workshops are experts in their fields, they need not take on the role of an 'authority' figure. Faculty members can gain new pedagogic insights by being receptive to the learning that occurs as an ebb and flow in both directions between and amongst leaders and participants.

References and Notes: