A part of the SERC Teacher Professional Development Program Collection

West Chester University BSEd in Earth and Space Sciences

Program URL: https://www.wcupa.edu/_academics/sch_cas.esc/earthandspace.asp
Program Type:

Program Size:
WCU awards 6-10 B.S.Ed. Earth and Space Science degrees per year. It also awards 6-10 General Science or Earth and Space Science Certifications and 6-10 B.S. Geoscience degrees per year.
Grade Level:
Upper Middle and High School

Program Summary

The B.S. Ed. in Earth and Space Science program at West Chester University (WCU) excels in content area preparation because it is run out of the Department of Geology and Astronomy, not the college of education, and students take most of their courses in Earth and Space Science. This emphasis on content produces teachers who are well-trained as scientists and can convey what being a scientist means to a K-12 student.

This program is accredited by the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) and the National Science Teacher's Association (NSTA) as part of the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) national voluntary accreditation process. Accreditation is renewed every five years and enrolled students must meet the standards in order to graduate.

See profiles of other affiliated programs.

What was the impetus for the program?

West Chester University is the first state teachers college in Pennsylvania and is the largest teacher certification granting institution in the state. It has always been a primary part of West Chester's mission that 1 in 3 of it's students are teacher certification candidates.

How is the program structured?

All students seeking a B.S.Ed. must formally apply for admission to the teacher education program. Once admitted to teacher education, students must maintain the minimum GPA specified by the College of Education in order to continue taking advanced professional course work. If a student falls below the minimum GPA, he or she will be permitted to retake professional course work that contributed to the fall below the minimum GPA.

Most students begin the program early in their undergraduate career. They must create a highly organized and efficient schedule so that they can fulfill the 120 credit mandate and complete the general education program, the education program and the science/content knowledge program in three and a half years so that they can devote their entire 8th semester to student teaching. Most program participants are able to complete the program in four or five years.

Education students take the same core classes as geology and earth systems majors as well as an additional 33 credits of education courses, twelve of which are for student teaching in the last semester. Half of these 33 credits are taught or supervised through the Department of Geology and Astronomy and the other half are taught in the College of Education. Geology faculty teach general science methods, education psychology, foundations, and evaluation/measurement and supervise student teachers.

The B.S. Ed program is made up of a combination of traditional and non-traditional students. Traditional undergraduate students may be sitting in class along side students getting their second bachelors degree, master's students taking the same classes at the graduate level, and continuing education people who may be in-service teachers, people with certifications in other disciplines, and career changers coming from outside of Education. The ratio of residential to commuter students is one to one so some upper level courses are offered in late afternoons or evenings to accommodate those coming from off campus.

Students have three opportunities for in-class observation and experience before they student teach. Two of them are through College of Education courses that don't necessarily have anything to do with science. For example, they might be in a history classroom. The other is through the science methods class in the Geology and Astronomy Department where almost everyone in the room is going to be or already is an Earth and Space Science teacher. This provides a very specific education on how to teach certain content in certain classrooms.

Student teacher placement is coordinated through the Department of Geology and Astronomy. Department Faculty have cultivated a network of schools within about a forty mile radius of WCU to help student teachers be placed where they want to teach. This gives students the opportunity to teach in a variety of school environments including public, private, Catholic, suburban, and center city schools. Although this system may not be the most efficient way to place teachers, it is good for the students.

There is also a practicum that goes with the student teaching course. After their classes are over and they are student teaching, students come back to WCU one afternoon a week to learn how to be a more effective student teacher, how to get a job after your student teaching experience is over, how to build curricula, unit, and lesson plans, and how to make your cooperating teacher happy.

Who is involved?

Students in this program have two advisors, one in the College of Education and one in the Geology and Astronomy Department. Classes are not co-taught. Full time permanent faculty in the Department of Geology and Astronomy teach science methods. Student teaching supervisors can be adjuncts in Geology and Astronomy (typically retired High School science teachers) or permanent WCU faculty. The Department of Geology and Astronomy, the College of Education, and the WCU Council of Professional Education collaboratively handle curriculum, accreditation, and policy issues.

How is the program evaluated?

Starting in 2005/2006, the NSTA, NCATE and PDE began to implement assessment requirements and data is now being collected. For example, the PDE mandated that teacher certification programs mentor graduates for one year after their graduation. As of summer 2006, there is already a year's worth of assessment data. This is not sufficient to make a strong statement about evaluation in 2006, but it will be useful in the future.

What can be qualitatively said now is that graduation rates are satisfactory, students are efficiently served while in the program and they are sought after when they complete the program. In fact, 95% of graduates go on to immediately apply for and receive teaching positions. Student teaching cooperating teachers and vice-principals report satisfaction with teachers from this program and often, once a WCU graduate gets into a school, other WCU grads will follow. Many of the graduates keep in touch with their supervisors and ask them questions during the first couple of years of their teaching. Graduates also come back to WCU for continuing education or their graduate education.

University level assessment is largely driven by development to keep track of alumni. This internal assessment, including surveying students after they graduate, has been in practice for a few years.

How can faculty get involved in this type of program?

The College of Education Faculty are involved with strictly educational matters like educational psychology, field experience, evaluation and measurement, content area reading and inclusion. Geology and Astronomy Department Faculty are involved in science methods, student teaching supervision, and all of the content courses.

How is the program maintained and funded?

Funding for this program is based on the contractual obligations of faculty to teach a certain number of hours per week. Program coordinators receive relief time for teaching and service in support of the education programs. A faculty member is responsible for supervising the B.S. Ed. practicum. Required equipment is funded out of department resources. The College of Education funds student teacher supervisor travel. This is all stipulated and contractually agreed upon.

Hints for starting a program like this:

There are three main model types and it is advised to pick the best model for your institution and stick to it.
  1. Micro: Content and teacher education is done in one department. This model works well in small colleges without extensive institutional history regarding science education. If a small university that graduates an insubstantial number of teachers wants to grow its education program, it really has to make it a priority. Since there is no pool of students, they will have to be willing to cannibalize out of their earth science program and turn their geology majors into geology teachers.
  2. Big box: The college of education essentially handles content and teacher education. What they don't handle directly, they delegate to individual departments. Students are handled completely by the college of education. This often results in teachers who are not at all scientists. Graduates have taken science courses but they were not majors in a department and were not part of the scientific community. Although they may be good teachers, they don't necessarily think like scientists. Science teachers who think like scientists are better equipped to help students understand what science is about.
  3. Dual: Most of the content education is handled by content area departments and the rest is handled by the college of education. This model produces the most teachers per capita so if your goal is to produce the largest number of highly qualified teachers, then work in collaboration with your Department of Education. Using the dual model, WCU graduates nearly as many teachers out of an overall undergraduate population of 12,000 as Penn State does out of a population of 40,000.

References and Notes:

Download the West Chester University Department of Geology and Astronomy Mission Statement (Acrobat (PDF) 7kB Nov1 06)

Profiles of Affiliated Programs:

WCU has a several other science education programs.

WCU also has summer programs

  • West Chester University recently created the Summer Academy for Gifted Children to enable students in gifted programs in their school districts to do university level coursework over the summer. It is taught by a University faculty member and an experienced in-service teacher. This pilot program is scheduled to begin hosting students in June 2007.