LABORATORY EARTH: THE FOUNDATION FOR AN INTEGRATED, ON-LINE, GRADUATE-LEVEL, SCIENCE FOR EDUCATORS MASTERS PROGRAM
Authentic assessments focus on teacher-developed unit plans that build student science knowledge through data rich, inquiry-based classroom activities. Exemplary teacher products are shared throughout the Community of Learning and Practice via social media. A basic precept guiding NASA-funded development of the Lab Earth series is that each course would be institutionalized into curriculum that would be available to K-12 educators after the expiration of grant funding.
Each course implements an integrated approach that address pedagogic and content knowledge requirements of Earth science teachers, including the history and process of science, experience using datasets and visualization tools (such as Giovanni, NASA NEO, My NASA Data, ArcGIS and EdGCM) to analyze data, and familiarity with digital media portals of peer-reviewed resources such as NASA Wavelength, CLEAN, and CAMEL. Authentic assessments focus on teacher-developed unit plans that incorporate material to which they have been exposed throughout the course.
A feature of our research design is the standardization of evaluation instruments used in all courses. The Community of Inquiry Survey ensures that the course sequence is effective in developing a community of learners. Pre- and post- course instruments assess learner content knowledge (earth science and climate change), attitudes towards science and teaching, beliefs and understanding of the nature of science, general beliefs and world view, and spatial literacy. The research design also includes the analysis of concept maps, content mastery assignments and textual analysis of threaded discussions, which enable documentation of a teacher’s content mastery and their transition from novice to expert knowledge.