Earth System Science Education Alliance: Online Professional Development for K-12 Teachers

By Schwerin, Theresa G.; Botti, James et al. | Journal of Geoscience Education, May 2006 | Go to article overview

Earth System Science Education Alliance: Online Professional Development for K-12 Teachers


Schwerin, Theresa G., Botti, James, Dauksys, Claudia, Low, Russanne, et al., Journal of Geoscience Education


ABSTRACT

Colleges and universities across the U.S. are offering online Earth system science courses for K-12 teachers through NASA's ESSEA program. The three available courses-for teachers of grades K-4, 5-8, and 9-12-are delivered online and feature student-centered, knowledge-building virtual communities. The courses were developed for NASA within the Center for Educational Technologies (CET) at Wheeling Jesuit University. The Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES) and CET managed ESSEA through NASA funding. Twenty participating colleges, universities, and education organizations were competitively selected to receive funding and training for running the courses and continuing support from IGES and CET. From 2000-2006, 1,707 teachers from across the U.S. completed a semester or quarter long ESSEA course from one of the participating institutions. Pre- and post-course surveys, follow-up surveys, and case studies with course participants show that the courses have had a significant impact on teachers' content knowledge, attitudes and practices. ESSEA has also shown that the courses are capable of being sustained beyond the original NASA funding. Seventeen of the participating schools report that they will continue offering the courses and many have developed new programs that incorporate the courses or foster continued Earth system science education opportunities for teachers.

INTRODUCTION

The Earth System Science Education Alliance (ESSEA) is a NASA-funded program that was designed to:

* strengthen K-12 educators' understanding of Earth system science,

* demonstrate the ability to deliver exceptional K-12 teacher professional development over the Internet to a national audience in great need of such training, and

* create an infrastructure capable of sustaining Earth system science teacher professional development after the initial NASA support had ended.

The Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES) and the Center for Education Technologies (CET) at Wheeling Jesuit University managed ESSEA through funding from 2000-2005 from NASA's Earth science education program.

The program is based on three online graduate-level courses - for K-4, 5-8, and 9-12 teachers. The courses were developed within the Center for Educational Technologies at Wheeling Jesuit University (WJU), and were piloted at WJU during the mid-1990s, before being rolled out for implementation through ESSEA at colleges and universities across the U.S. beginning in 2000.

Participating colleges, universities and other education organizations were selected to offer the ESSEA courses through a request for proposals that was released annually by IGES in 2000, 2001, and 2002. Institutions were evaluated and selected based on the following criteria:

* The proposing team's capabilities and expertise in K-12 teacher education and professional development; Earth system science; and online instruction.

* Evidence of long-term commitment to offering the ESSEA courses beyond the three-year funding, as well as potential scale-ability for offering the courses.

* Capability to recruit and retain teacher participants in the courses, including the organizations' ability to recruit teachers who serve minority, disadvantaged and underrepresented populations.

* Ability to participate in the program-wide evaluation and plans for any additional activities to meet local evaluation needs.

* A reasonable and realistic budget was presented. Consideration was also given to the extent that leveraging existing programs, products and other resources was presented in the proposal.

All participating colleges, universities and education organizations were required to provide either three semester hours of graduate credits or the equivalent quarter hour or continuing education units for teachers successfully completing an ESSEA course. The majority of ESSEA organizations were colleges or universities; three were non-profit education organizations that worked with colleges or universities of record to provide credits for teachers. …

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