Paper No. 5
Presentation Time: 2:35 PM
CONNECTICUT ROCKS! PEABODY FELLOWS IN GEOSCIENCES
Teacher expertise and quality is a critical, if not the critical, factor in student success. The Peabody Museum has developed an NSF-funded professional development program on Earth sciences that combines the resources and expertise of an informal science institution with those of participating teachers. Begun in 2008, this formal/informal educator collaboration has produced curricula that are customized to local and regional needs. A particular focus has been on providing resources for teachers to take students into the field as well as the development of virtual field investigations. The projects have served over 100 Connecticut teachers with the aim of improving their skills in teaching the Earth sciences and specifically the interpretation of landforms that result from tectonic and erosional forces. Activities included the collaborative development and revision of a curriculum module through intensive, content-rich summer institutes and academic year workshops, field trips to local sites of significant geological importance, and the development and piloting of virtual field investigations. In addition, participating teachers received training in the use of the GeoAction kit – materials and rock/mineral specimens loaned to teachers for a month to accompany the classroom curriculum, as well as ongoing support from the Museum’s educators.
Evaluation of both teacher and student learning that resulted from the teachers’ participation in the program was carried out. Teacher learning was explored using pre-institute, post-institute, and post-program surveys. The results indicated that teachers’ perception of the program’s support of their classroom efforts was strongly positive, and that the program increased their comfort and aptitude in teaching the Earth sciences and their commitment to build their knowledge of these topics. Student learning was assessed using multiple-choice questions and short-answer science process skills questions. Student data is still being analyzed but initial results suggest that there were significant differences between student performance on the pre- and post-tests, indicating knowledge gain as a result of the curriculum. A year to year comparison of students suggests that this improvement is a direct result of teacher participation in the program.