- Year 2022
- NSF Noyce Award # 1852661
- First Name Zachary
- Last Name Casey
- Discipline Biological Sciences, Chemistry, Mathematics, Physics
Jonathan Fitz Gerald, Dana Horgan, & Chris Seaton
Jonathan Fitz Gerald, Rhodes College
The need for Next Generation Science Standards have been reviewed extensively. Not only is it important to bridge the gap between ourselves and other countries, but across the US there are huge disparities in in science learning. This can include areas where science is politicized (Branch, 2019) (Goldston, 2015), and areas with high-needs (Zinger, et al., 2020). Teacher preparation may also constitute a part of the disparity. Whereas education majors take the same lab courses as their counterparts, they might not receive the same investigative research experiences. These often don’t arrive for science majors until graduate school, but are the difference in understanding how to trouble shoot an experiment or to turn a laboratory exercise into an investigative project. Finally, backlash from the math and reading testing culture established after the No Child Left Behind Act left science education minimalized in some areas (discussed in (Southerland, et al., 2014)). Administrative blocks to investigative science also occur with the reliance on ‘teacher-proof’ curriculum and a push for test-driven learning. Under the NGSS model, science education is about implementing the tools of science as opposed to simply memorizing facts or vocabulary. The focus shifts, in part, from “what we know” to “how did we learn”. For the scientists that structured the NGSS, these concepts are perhaps familiar. Unfortunately, some of these ideas are non-intuitive outside of the research la
Our goal is to assist in implementing NGSS practices in the K-12 STEM classes room by identifying the specific needs of our local teachers. Our guiding question are: What are these needs? What obstacles exist to using more investigative practices in the classroom? What can we do to remove these blocks?
We invited STEM teachers from our partner school district, Shelby County Tennessee, to Rhodes College for a 5-day workshop. 6 teachers spanning 3rd grade to high school instruction participated in a 3-hour morning workshop. The workshop was organized into two days of investigative studies in plant biology, one day of experimental design, one day on the use of ImageJ. One day was also reserved for learning statistical approaches that were grade appropriate. After the daily sessions, participants were invited to a catered lunch and led in a discussion on utility of the day’s techniques and implementation.We followed up the workshop with a survey to see who had implemented any of these techniques within a year. In addition, one teacher was chosen for our STEM 101 program where we helped to implement an inquiry-based lab exercise in the teacher’s classroom during the normal school period.
In-class assessment and a subsequent survey indicated that K-12 instructors were excited about using what they had learned in the workshop. After one-year, however, most of the instructors that took the summer workshop indicated that they had not incorporated any of the practices. This was partly due to teacher turnover and the onset of COVID protocols.During STEM 101 we also learned some of the materials, like ImageJ, were difficult to manage. The additional classroom visit was needed to install the software the class computers and to trouble shoot individual issues on different computers. We also found that several ‘broken’ microscopes that just needed cleaning or a tightening of objective lenses. This possibly exposes another layer of difficulty in implementing science in the K-12 classroom. This type of troubleshooting is non-intuitive to someone who hasn’t spent 10 years working in research, and is something not always taught to undergraduates since the labs are ‘ready to go’ by the time they show up. There is not much, then, that would prepare the K-12 educator for the iterative process of trouble shooting a research experience. Learning from this, we are planning a summer workshop where the emphasis will be implementation as opposed to demonstration.
The goals of the NGSS are to promote science proficiency in the K-12 STEM classroom. There seems to be a widening gap between how we perceive science at the College level and how science is taught at the elementary level. Given the diversity of teacher preparedness, school funding and student engagement, there is not one cookie cutter approach to solve this problem. Short of prepackaged learning modules, which are already under fire, college STEM professors may need to take a closer involvement with local schools in order to strengthen and diversify our incoming STEM students.