A part of the SERC Teacher Professional Development Program Collection

Page prepared for SERC by Heather Rissler in consultation with David Andrews, CSU.

CSU NASA Summer Professional Development Institutes

Program URL: http://www.csufresno.edu/smec/events/summerinstituteprogram.html
Program Type:
Summer Workshop

Program Size:
40 to 60 In-service and Pre-service Teachers

Program Summary

A variety of Professional Development opportunities are offered through SMEC, including workshops for in-service math and science teachers and pre-service teachers.

In collaboration with NASA an Earth Science Summer Institute, Mission to Earth: Earth Science from the Core to the Edge of the Solar System was developed and offered to in-service science teachers.

Mission to Earth "is an integrated introduction to the oceans and the atmosphere, with an emphasis on geology, marine geology and geophysics, and physical oceanography. The course will address the origin and evolution of the ocean basins; sedimentation, global tectonics; ocean currents, waves, and tides; ocean acoustics, gravity and magnetic field measurements and interpretations; the technology used to explore the oceans; and environmental issues and concerns. The course content will be aligned with California State Science Standards. Topics to be covered include plate tectonics and the ocean floor, marine provinces, marine sediments and the history of the oceans, ocean circulation, tides, weather and atmospheric circulation, waves and water dynamics, the coastal ocean, beach and shoreline processes, and the marine record of global climate change. The course will make extensive use of measurements, data, and imagery acquired by NASA remote sensing systems and marine core data acquired by the International Ocean Drilling Program." from Program Description.

What was the impetus for the program?

SMEC has developed multiple efforts, including the Summer Institutes, to enrich content background in math and science and to provide professional development opportunities for in-service and pre-service teachers. The workshop units are designed to be rich in science content, infuse best-practices in teaching, and help teachers meet continuing education requirements.

How is the program structured?

The Mission Earth Summer Professional Development institute is an example of collaboration with NASA, and CSU is one of the three NASA Centers in California. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) collaborates to enhance use of their data and resources in preparation pre-service and in-service teachers.

Who is involved?

The Summer Professional Development Institutes are highly supported by faculty involvement. Over the course of the program's history, approximately 60 to 70% of math and science faculty at CSU have participated in the summer workshops, including faculty from geology, environmental science, mathematics, chemistry, physics, biology, and education. Each workshop includes a faculty leader as well as a representative from the local school district as a co-leader to ensure that connections are made to the classroom.

40 to 60 teachers participate in the summer workshops. Participants include both in-service and pre-service teachers.

How is the program evaluated?

Teachers make contributions to the online learning community MERLOT, which are typically peer-reviewed, providing some insights into how teachers are implementing their learning gains from the workshop in their classrooms. Surveys are also used to evaluate how teachers are using products from the workshop in their classroom and whether the content from the workshop was relevant to what they teach in their classrooms. The efficacy of the Summer Institutes is also typically evaluated by an external evaluator.

How is the program maintained and funded?

The program is funded by a CETP (Collaboration for Excellence in Teacher Preparation) NSF grant. SMEC is located in the College of Science and Mathematics and includes a Director (David Andrews), Assistant Director, student assistants, faculty to assist with instruction, and an advisory board.

Hints for starting a program like this:

David Andrews (personal communication)
  • Investigate funding opportunities to ensure continued support for future workshops
  • Communicate with school districts: many school districts provide professional development funds for teachers, which can assist in funding workshops through participation fees
  • Investigate institutional opportunities for funding faculty stipends for leading summer workshops
  • Program organizers should be familiar with both science and education, to ensure that the workshops translate into the K-12 classroom and should be able to support science faculty in effectively leading workshops
  • Coordinate with the Education Department at your institution
  • Learn about good practices for running professional development workshops
  • Ensure that workshop content is aligned with what teachers are teaching in their classroom
  • Include a co-instructor from a local school district to ensure that the workshop content can be translated into the K-12 classroom

References and Notes:

  • A good resource on running workshops is Designing Professional Development for Teachers of Science and Mathematics. (Susan Loucks-Horsley, et. al.)
  • The homepage for the NASA-CSU Collobrative Education program provides information about upcoming workshops.
  • Implications of Modeling Method training on physics teacher development in California's Central Valley (Acrobat (PDF) 741kB Apr4 06) by David Andrews et al., is an article describing the development of Summer Institute workshops at CSU, Fresno. (from Journal of Physics Teacher Education Online )
  • Mission to Earth Post-workshop Evaluation (Microsoft Word 31kB Apr4 06) is an example of participants' evaluation of the Summer Institute Professional Development program )