“WHY DO I NEED TO LEARN SCIENCE?” A STRUCTURED E-LEARNING APPROACH USING THINKSPACE TO ADDRESS PRE-SERVICE K-5 TEACHERS’ ATTITUDES TOWARD SCIENCE
To confront directly our students’ belief system about the relative importance of teaching science, and Earth and space science in particular, in elementary grades, we used a new e-learning environment, ThinkSpace (thinkspace.org), to implement a writing assignment within an introductory Earth and space science course. ThinkSpace allows instructors to subdivide assignments into sections, called phases, designed to scaffold student learning. Our assignment includes phases on three ‘big themes’ of Earth science literacy interwoven with reflections on the students’ science learning experience, data on science employment, and documents on the strategic importance of science literate teachers. With this foundation, students had to write a persuasive letter to the U.S. President urging his support of Earth and space science education at the elementary grade level. Students submitted a draft of their letter through ThinkSpace and received feedback to help them prepare their final version.
The average rubric scores for letters written using ThinkSpace in the Spring 2013 semester, compared with those done in the Fall 2012 semester without the use of ThinkSpace, showed improvement in all five rubric categories, with the greatest improvement being in the mechanics of the written assignment.
Our results show that ThinkSpace is an effective educational technology to implement writing-to-learn pedagogy in geoscience instruction. Future studies will assess if the assignment is also effective at improving our students’ science teaching self-efficacy.