2009 Portland GSA Annual Meeting (18-21 October 2009)

Paper No. 15
Presentation Time: 11:45 AM


HUNTOON, Jacqueline E.1, ENGELMANN, Carol A.2, GUTH, Alexandria2, HUNGWE, Kedmon3 and WOJICK, Christopher L.4, (1)Professor of Geology and Dean of the Graduate School, Michigan Technological University, 411A Administration Building, 1400 Townsend Dr, Houghton, MI 49931, (2)Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences, Michigan Technological University, 1400 Townsend Drive, Houghton, MI 49931, (3)Cognitive and Learning Sciences, Michigan Technological University, 1400 Townsend Drive, Houghton, MI 49931, (4)Civil and Environmental Engineering, Michigan Technological University, 1400 Townsend Drive, Houghton, MI 49931, engelmann.carol@gmail.com

University faculty members can benefit from improving educational outcomes for students at all levels. To improve outcomes among K-12 students, many faculty offer professional development (PD) opportunities to teachers. Most PD programs are designed with little direct input from the participating teachers. Typically, faculty emphasize topics they view as important while making use of available expertise, equipment, or natural features. A drawback of this common approach is that the PD may not adequately address the needs of participating teachers or their students.

To enhance PD experiences for all, we developed an innovative method to obtain teacher input prior to designing a PD program. We developed two survey instruments based on state-mandated content as articulated in Michigan’s Grade Level Content Expectations and High School Content Expectations and the teachers’ school district’s middle-school earth and space science curriculum guide. One instrument asked teachers to self-report the number of semesters of college-level study they had completed in each of nine different broad areas within the geosciences. Teachers were also queried regarding their level of understanding and their skill in implementing effective instruction in each of the nine areas. They were also asked to report their personal goals for the upcoming PD experience and to identify the greatest needs in their school district. The second instrument asked teachers to review each of Michigan’s Content Expectations and rate their own personal understanding, their knowledge of how to teach, and their students’ understanding after receiving instruction. Both surveys included space for teachers to provide additional information or comments if they chose to do so.

We administered these instruments in early spring to a small sample (15 participants) of teachers drawn from an urban district that serves a large number of low-income and underrepresented minority students. Several months of lead time allowed us to analyze the teachers’ responses and design the PD experience to address the self-reported needs and goals of the teachers. Teachers responded positively to the PD experience in course journals. Long-term effect will be monitored using post PD surveys and interviews.