Educators' Views of Collaboration with Scientists

By Kim, Chankook; Fortner, Rosanne | American Secondary Education, Summer 2007 | Go to article overview

Educators' Views of Collaboration with Scientists


Kim, Chankook, Fortner, Rosanne, American Secondary Education


ABSTRACT

This study investigated educators' views of collaboration with scientists, a baseline for COSEE Great Lakes efforts in facilitating dynamic collaborative relationships between Great Lakes researchers and educators. Three research questions guided the study: (1) how are educators in the Great Lakes region involved in collaboration with scientists, (2) what barriers may deter their involvement and (3) which factors are related to educators' potential in educational collaboration. From 180 schools randomly selected in the eight Great Lakes States, 194 educators responded to a mailed survey concerning their views of science and science teaching/learning, attitudes toward collaboration, professional preparation, experience in collaboration with scientists, perceived barriers, and motivating factors in collaboration. Regression analysis shows that five predictor variables account for a majority of the variance in explaining educators' experience in collaboration with scientists (a combined predictive ability of 32%): attitudes toward collaboration, professional preparation (science competencies), teaching experience in years, contemporary views of science/science education, and perceived institutional supports. Results of surveys suggest that professional development programs may be needed to improve educators capacity as collaborators in the efforts to increase science literacy.

INTRODUCTION

For four decades and more, the National Science Foundation (NSF), the U.S. Department of Education, the National Weather Service (NOAA) and others have provided support for numerous programs designed to enhance the capabilities of science teachers and informal science educators, with the ultimate goal of increasing science literacy for students and the public at large. Many of the programs have focused on putting teachers in science laboratories (such as NSF's Research Experiences for Teachers), providing sustained and intensive science content instruction for teachers (as in State Systemic Initiatives - SSI), or bringing scientists into closer communication with classrooms (such as GK-12 programs). All such programs assume that interactions of scientists and educators will result in better, more, or more current science instruction.

In fact the National Science Education Standards (National Research Council, 1996) promote science learning as the first Professional Development Standard for teachers, and programs addressing this standard are expected to have teachers involved in inquiry, not a common mode of learning science in traditional college courses! Thus, programs under the sponsorship of NSF Teacher Enhancement (currently Teacher Professional Continuum) funding, the Eisenhower Math and Science Education Act, and other sources, have labored long to reach those goals of enhanced science learning.

EDUCATORS' COLLABORATION WITH SCIENTISTS

K-12 teachers become involved in collaboration with scientists in a variety of ways. Perhaps the most common practice involving scientists in K-12 education is to bring a scientist to the classroom or alternatively to take students to field trips or lab visits hosted by a scientist. Such involvement is important, but represents only one of the five general approaches to engaging scientists in science education in the literature. Others are to involve a scientist as a key member of a curriculum development effort, a deliverer of content in teacher enhancement, a partner in scientist-student-teacher partnerships, or a teacher mentor, providing a teacher with the opportunity to work on a research project (Drayton & Falk, 2006; Morrow & Dusenbery, 2004).

The role of scientists as partners in science education, and especially in teacher professional development, has grown in importance (Kim & Former, 2006; Drayton & Falk, 2006). Scientists can make an important contribution to the professional development of science teachers: they represent a special source of insight about science content and process, the structure of their field of knowledge, and key approaches to curriculum and pedagogy in their area of expertise (Drayton & Falk, 2006). …

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