Academic journal article Middle Grades Research Journal

ENSURING TEACHER EDUCATION PROGRAM SUCCESS THROUGH FORMATIVE ASSESSMENTS: An Overview of the Wisconsin K-12 Energy Education Program

Academic journal article Middle Grades Research Journal

ENSURING TEACHER EDUCATION PROGRAM SUCCESS THROUGH FORMATIVE ASSESSMENTS: An Overview of the Wisconsin K-12 Energy Education Program

Article excerpt

The Wisconsin K-12 Energy Education Program (KEEP) is a statewide education program located in the Midwest of the United States. The goal of the program is to leverage teacher education to improve and increase energy literacy in Wisconsin's K-12 schools as a means of contributing to statewide energy savings. Created in 1995, the program continues to effectively reach out to and educate teachers, and receive significant stakeholder support. Over 5,500 teachers in Wisconsin have availed themselves of KEEP support services and materials, including 2,124 teachers of the middle grade years. A key reason for the success of the program is periodic and ongoing assessments that inform and guide program development and ensure customer and stakeholder satisfaction. These assessments also serve to provide insights into program effectiveness, helping to determine if goals and objectives are being met. This overview will highlight a number of the assessments of KEEP that have taken place over the past 18 years and provide insights into how other teacher educators can use these strategies to ensure their program success.

The Wisconsin K-12 Energy Education Program (KEEP) is a state-based program administered by the Wisconsin Center for Environmental Education (WCEE) located in the College of Natural Resources of the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. Since its beginning in 1995, KEEP's primary source of program funding has come directly and indirectly through utility rate-payer dollars. These funds are matched with support from the uni1 versity and supplemental grants. Millions of dollars have been invested in KEEP, and program assessments have helped ensure this funding has resulted in a growing number of teachers who are learning how to improve and increase their energy education.

The impetus for creating KEEP in Wisconsin began in the early 1990s. In 1994, the Wisconsin Center for Environmental Education completed a statewide environmental literacy assessment. The WCEE is a state-government legislated organization created in 1990 to improve environmental education in the state of Wisconsin. The assessment comprised an administrative needs assessment, a teacher survey of perceived competencies, and student environmental literacy assessments. A wide range of findings was gained from the study, among them that students' knowledge of important energy concepts was lacking, and teacher indication of the need for additional professional development and support materials. Another notable finding of the teacher survey was that the number of professional development courses taken served as a good predictor for the amount of class time a teacher devoted to teaching about the environment. These conclusions motivated the WCEE to seek and secure funding to create an energy education program for teacher professional development.

The source of initial funding was the Energy Center of Wisconsin (Energy Center), a nonprofit energy-efficiency research organization based in Madison, Wisconsin. To confirm the need for its support, the Energy Center conducted a study in 1998 that consisted of a baseline survey of fourth- through 12th-grade students. The study found that many students lacked the knowledge characteristic of energy literacy. For example, just over half of the students in seventh through 12th grades knew that the sun was the source of energy on Earth. Only 12% of fourth-sixth grade students surveyed knew the definition of conduction, convection, and radiation. Well under half (38%) of the respondents in Grades 7-12 acknowledged that conservation was a solution to energy shortages (HaglerBailly, 1998).

The Energy Center's baseline study also assessed teachers' perceived competencies in teaching about energy; it found that only 12% of the respondents indicated that they were competent in energy education. In fact, of the teachers who completed the survey, 49% indicated that lack of background knowledge was the number one reason why teachers do not include energy topics in their classroom teaching. …

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