Academic journal article Journal of Geoscience Education

Increasing Teachers' Confidence and Pedagogical Content Knowledge through a Workshop and Follow-Up Program on Climate Change

Academic journal article Journal of Geoscience Education

Increasing Teachers' Confidence and Pedagogical Content Knowledge through a Workshop and Follow-Up Program on Climate Change

Article excerpt


Eighteen in-service teachers (mostly middle and high school) completed the Wright State Institute for Teacher Quality (TTQ) Earth science summer workshop in 2011 on climate change over geologic time. Most finished a follow-up program during the 2011-2012 academic year. These experiences enhanced their content knowledge of climate change and Earth history and, in many cases, broadened their experience of inquiry learning. The Earth science workshop ran alongside a physical science and a life science workshop. Participants could only take part in one of the three workshops during any given year, but several of the teachers in the 2011 Earth science workshop had completed an ITQ life science workshop in previous years.

Instructor and evaluator salaries, the cost of the participants' textbooks and the classroom materials for their unit plans (up to $425/participant), participant stipends (awarded at the end of the follow-up program), the costs for substitutes teachers for the three follow-up workshops, and other expenses were covered by a 2010 Improving Teacher Quality grant from the Ohio Board of Regents (OBR). Participants received graduate credit from the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences for the summer workshop component and from the Department of Teacher Education for the follow-up program. Wright State University waived the fees and tuition costs. The only costs to the teachers themselves were transportation to the workshop and most lunches.

Ohio had recently adopted new science content standards (Ohio Department of Education, 2011a, 2011b). All three ITQ workshops offered opportunities to deepen content knowledge of topics relevant to the standards and to develop lesson plans that addressed them. This paper describes the new curriculum developed for the Earth science workshop, the effects on the participants and on their students, and some of the challenges to involving participants from high-needs districts in an effective teacher workshop.

At a national level, the first recommendation in the report Rising above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future (Committee on Prospering in the Global Economy of the 21st Century, 2007) is to enhance the content knowledge of K-12 science, mathematics, and engineering teachers. Not only could these teachers increase the number of American scientists and engineers (over time), but they also have the potential to increase the science literacy, technological skills, and mathematical ability of all young Americans. The committee specifically recommends funding summer institutes for K-12 teachers to develop greater science and math content knowledge with the goal of increasing student learning (A-2 Part 1) and funding competitive institutional grants for science and math master's degree programs (A-2 Part 2).

The few scientific studies of teacher professional development examined by Yoon et al. (2007) indicate that effective programs generally take time (more than 14 contact hours), include a follow-up program after the workshop, and are taught directly to the teachers by researchers, as opposed to indirect training using district personnel. The Summer Science and Math Institutes for Teacher Quality (ITQ) at Wright State University meet or exceed these recommendations. This program has been run at least 10 times since 1998, with funding from the Ohio Board of Regents Improving Teacher Quality State Grants Program, and it generally consists of two or three workshops running simultaneously, with about 24 participants apiece (Basista and Mathews, 2002). The workshops are taught by mixed teams of college professors with doctoral degrees and highly qualified, experienced K-12 teachers. The summer programs include at least 72 contact hours, rely on inquiry more than on didactic instruction, and focus on increasing participants' content knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge (PCK). They are assessed through pre- and post-tests of both the participants and the participants' students. …

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