Teacher knowledge, skills and practices for fostering environmental science literacy
The Baltimore Ecosystem Study Education Team has been providing professional development (PD) opportunities, in school support and resources, and curriculum materials to middle and high school teachers since the project’s inception. Building on and supporting this work, we have a research program that addresses the following questions:
For the past 6 years, BES has conducted research as part of the Pathways to Environmental Science Literacy project (http://www.pathwaysproject.kbs.msu.edu) supported by a Math Science Partnership (MSP) grant from NSF (DUE 0832173). The project spans 4 LTER sites – KBS in Michigan, SGS in Colorado, and SBC in California (see Figure 1) - and has involved 22 K-12 schools/districts, over 350 science teachers and approximately 70,000 students of highly diverse backgrounds. For information about current BES education programs and resources, go to: http://www.beslter.org/frame5-stuff.html.
The Pathways project Teacher Research Team has developed a conceptual framework to identify and organize the pools of knowledge and skills needed for fostering environmental science literacy (see Figure 2). A list of 8 key teaching practices, 5 of which are considered learning progression-based teaching strategies, was identified after several rounds of research and practice (see Table 2). Research into teachers’ understanding and practices is organized by the framework in Figure 2 and teaching strategies in Table 2, with multiple methods being brought to bear on each component. Research methods include:
The Pathways Project has engaged 336 teachers in professional development (PD) over the past 6 years nationwide, most of whom are subject to some of the research into teacher knowledge, skills and practices. The 63 teachers associated with BES participated primarily in teacher workshops, with 36, 14 and 3 teachers participating in 1, 2 or 3 years of summer workshops; 26, 18 and 5 teachers participating in school year workshops 1, 2 or 3 years (averaging 5.5 workshops / participating teacher); 13 Research Experiences for Teachers Fellows and 2 Teachers in Residence. Comparisons among teachers with different kinds and amounts of PD participation will provide insights into the influence of PD on teachers; likewise, teacher survey and interview questions ask about PD influences directly.
A Case Study of 4 teachers at each of the 4 sites in the Pathways Project is now being conducted. Data was collected in the 2012-2013 school year including: classroom observations; teacher, student and administrator interviews; teacher reflections, student surveys and student artifacts. These, along with the data collected from all participating teachers and their classrooms (student pre- and post-instruction content “tests,” teacher content and LPCK “tests,” teacher surveys and instructional unit feedback forms), are providing a rich and deep source of insights into the focus questions of the teacher research.
Data analysis now is taking place for results from teachers nationwide, including Baltimore teachers both in the large Pathways Project and the subset included in the Case Study. Early findings, presented within the dimensions shown in Figure 2, include: