Merging University Students into K-12 Science Education Reform

Merging University Students into K-12 Science Education Reform

Merging University Students into K-12 Science Education Reform

Merging University Students into K-12 Science Education Reform


An increasingly prominent strategy for improving K-12 science education involves partnerships between universities and schools. The project this report describes conducted a series of case studies of university-school partnership programs designed to involve undergraduate and graduate science students in K-12 science education activities in a variety of ways. The project identified the elements of successful programs and explored some of the challenges these programs face.


This section addresses the first research question of our study, about the impacts and challenges of outreach programs for different participants within K–12 schools. Since this research is not an evaluation, but exploratory, we also needed to discover what is known about such outreach programs, characterizing what they do and identifying their impacts. The issue for us is thus ultimately not how well the program is meeting the purposes for which it was established but what differences the program has made in the teaching of science in K–12 classrooms, why people did things differently, and (when possible) what specific aspect of the program allowed participants to do something differently.

We begin by describing the K–12 schools and communities that participated in these outreach programs. A discussion of the classroom impacts on both the teacher and the K–12 students follows. Because we did not interview the K–12 classroom students, we relied on the teachers to describe the impacts they observed on their students. Our discussion of impacts leads to the next section, which explores the challenges these programs faced in their efforts to enhance science learning in these schools. We conclude with some thoughts about the implications of the findings reported in this section.

Outreach Programs and K–12 Schools

The majority of the outreach programs we visited partnered with public schools in urban communities and used direct classroom enhancement and teacherpreparation approaches. The remaining outreach programs worked with public schools in rural areas and with private schools in suburban areas. These outreach programs used the teacher-researcher and remote classroom enhancement approaches. It was difficult to estimate the number and types of schools that used the latter approach for outreach. Although originally designed for teachers and students in rural communities, Internet technology makes this program accessible to any classroom.

Schools became involved in the outreach activities by a variety of methods. One of the largest programs we visited was part of a districtwide reform effort, and all the district's schools were involved. Other outreach programs chose to work . . .

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