Paper No. 1
Presentation Time: 8:00 AM-12:00 PM
SEIS ELEMENTARY SCIENCE WORKSHOPS: PROVIDING INQUIRY-BASED, CONTENT-RICH EXPERIENCES FOR K-5 TEACHERS
The National Science Education Standards (NRC, 1996) promote inquiry-based instructional strategies as fundamental to improving science education. The classroom teacher is the key to promoting inquiry-based science instruction, but in order to teach inquiry, teachers need authentic, meaningful, and successful practice with their own inquiry-based experiences as well as deep content knowledge. This is especially true for K-5 teachers who are education generalists by necessity, typically have weak science content backgrounds and little to no experience with scientific inquiry. To provide inquiry-based experiences and standards-based content, the Science Education Institute of the Southwest (SEIS) developed 10 one-day workshops in physical, life and earth science for K-5 in-service teachers. Workshop topics were organized around first principles used to explain a variety of scientific phenomena. For example, convection was a focus for one of the earth science workshops and was linked to plate tectonic driving mechanisms, atmospheric circulation and ocean currents. All workshop activities were hands-on, standards based, and scalable for a variety of grade levels. In order to promote guided inquiry, workshop participants were given ample opportunities to make observations, generate and test hypotheses, and engage in discussion. We used the model of the scientific method developed by Harwood (2004) for illustrating the non-linear nature of the inquiry process. Preliminary results from assessments show that most teacher participants felt their understanding of the science content improved after the workshop(s) and consequently were better prepared to teach the content. 41 of 43 teachers who participated in the earth science workshops agree' or strongly agree' that they would use the content and activities presented in their own classrooms. Ongoing assessment of the program includes paper and online surveys and interviews that address 1) post-workshop use of workshop activities or teaching methods, 2) changes in self-efficacy in teaching science, and 3) effect of workshops on student test scores.