Academic journal article Journal of Geoscience Education

Museum-Based Teacher Professional Development: Peabody Fellows in Earth Science

Academic journal article Journal of Geoscience Education

Museum-Based Teacher Professional Development: Peabody Fellows in Earth Science

Article excerpt


The Peabody Fellows in Earth Science program was a professional development opportunity for middle and high school teachers to enhance their knowledge of, and teaching skills in, the Earth sciences. It combined a summer institute and academic year workshops with the production of new curricular resources on the interpretation of landforms in Connecticut. Teachers implemented these materials with the aid of an accompanying classroom kit. The program included in-depth evaluation of the project outcomes for teachers and students; focused on tectonic processes; and on erosion, weathering, and glaciers. Forty-seven teachers participated in the institute, 30 taught the full curriculum, and 21 completed all the evaluation activities. Teachers reported that they had significantly increased their geoscience content knowledge as well as their ability to teach geoscience-related skills, particularly in guiding students to make observations and inferences about the local landscape. In the majority of cases for teachers that completed all evaluation activities, there was a significant increase in student performance in at least one learning goal as a result of the teachers' participation in the program. These data show this type of informal-formal educational initiative can be highly successful in improving teacher competence and student learning in the geosciences. They also provide evidence that positive proximal outcomes for the teachers are reflected in the ultimate outcomes for students.

© 2022 National Association of Geoscience Teachers. [DOI: 10.5408/11-241.1]

Key words: teacher professional development, museum, informal science education


"All young Americans should be educated to be 'STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics] capable' no matter where they live, what educational path they pursue, or in which field they choose to work." Few would disagree with this statement from the report of the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Institute for Advanced Study on the ultimate goal of math and science education in the United States (Griffiths and Cahill, 2009). However, while it is almost universally acknowledged that math and science need to be at the center of the educational enterprise, there is equal acknowledgement that science education needs transformational improvement to prepare students to be scientifically literate (e.g., National Academy of Sciences, 2007; President's Council, 2010). Perhaps nowhere else is this directive more important than with the Earth sciences, which are vital to understand and mitigate the growing problems of resource depletion, energy sustainability, environmental degradation, and climate change (National Science Foundation, 2009). However, "Despite the relevance and increasing importance of the geosciences to everyday matters, few Americans understand the fundamental workings of their planet" (National Science Foundation, 2009), and the Earth sciences are relatively "invisible" in the K-12 curriculum (McNeal, 2010). For example, the 2007 State Indicators of Math and Science Education (Council of Chief State School Officers, 2007) show, on average, only 21% of high school students take an Earth science course, compared with over 95% taking a biology course. The Peabody Fellows in Earth Science was designed to address this critical need to engage students in the Earth sciences (Barstow and Geary, 2001; Scotchmoor et al. 2005; McNeal, 2010).

An editorial in Science opined that "the most important element of any education system is a highly skilled teacher" (Alberts, 2009). Research consistently demonstrates that teacher expertise and quality is a critical, if not the critical factor in student success (e.g., National Academy of Sciences, 2007; Griffiths and Cahill, 2009) and that the quality of teaching has a huge impact on student learning (National Academy of Sciences, 2010; National Science Board, 2010). Unfortunately recent Science and Engineering Indicators (National Science Board, 2010) show that only 40% of fifth graders across the nation are taught science by in-field certified teachers, and the physical and space sciences are often taught by teachers with minimal qualifications (Ward et al. …

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