2005 Salt Lake City Annual Meeting (October 16–19, 2005)

Paper No. 5
Presentation Time: 8:00 AM-12:00 PM


ELLWEIN, A.L., Earth and Planetary Sciences, Univ of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM 87131 and NYMAN, Matthew, Earth & Planetary Science/Natural Science Program, Univ of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM 87131, ellwein@unm.edu

Many middle school teachers are obligated to acquire university science credits to become “highly qualified” as mandated by No Child Left Behind (NCLB). This national directive provides a unique opportunity for scientists and university educators to offer courses designed specifically for these teachers. The Science Education Institute of the Southwest (SEIS) is a collaborative effort between the University of New Mexico (UNM) and Sandia National Laboratories (SNL). SEIS offered four courses for local middle school teachers during summer 2005, including one entitled “Classroom and field-based investigation of river systems: the Jemez River, NM and beyond.” All four courses were offered in an accelerated time frame over a 40-hour week. At that pace, it is difficult to promote mastery of a semester's worth of material; it is even more challenging to assess the quality of both teaching and learning during the process. We used daily reflective writing exercises to assess both the self-confidence and competence (self-efficacy) of our students with regards to geologic content, the process of scientific inquiry, and to assess the pedagogical approach we were using as instructors. Reflective writing was guided by several “why or why not” questions including, When did you feel well-prepared or competent? When did you feel uncomfortable or unprepared? Did you feel that the activities involved application of the scientific process? Students answered these questions and others in their field notebooks at the end of each field day. Instructors collected the notebooks for evaluation and provided feedback during the drive to the field sites each morning. Student responses were used as a formative assessment: to make mid-course corrections, clarify geologic or geomorphic concepts, or address uncertainties students had concerning the process of scientific inquiry. Reflective writing was also used in a summative sense as student responses clearly reflected their increasing self-efficacy both with the course content and with conducting a scientific investigation. With a limited number of students in a time-intensive class, daily reflective writing proved to be a vital and effective assessment tool.