Paper No. 7
Presentation Time: 10:15 AM
IMPROVING K-12 SCIENCE TEACHERS’ CONTENT KNOWLEDGE THROUGH SMART WORKSHOPS
The Oconee Regional Educational Services Agency (RESA) provides educational support for seven rural school districts (Jasper, Putnam, Baldwin, Hancock, Washington, and Wilkinson Counties) in central Georgia. Each summer since 2005, science faculty from Georgia College have teamed with RESA personnel and academic coaches from area middle schools to provide a two week intensive exploration of science and math content as it relates to the Georgia Performance Standards. The purpose of the Science and Mathematics Alliance for Regional Teachers Partnership (SMART Partnership) is to improve teachers’ content knowledge with the ultimate goal of improving students’ science and mathematics achievement. Since its inception, this program’s focus has been on providing quality professional learning to middle school (6-8) science and math teachers, although some high school (9-12) and elementary (K-5) teachers also have participated. This presentation will concentrate on the Earth Science portion of the SMART workshops. Our model for delivery of the workshop involves teaming a content expert (college faculty) with a K-12 pedagogy expert (master teachers). We try to model how scientists formulate questions, identify pertinent data, and carry out inquiry to answer questions. Lab exercises and field trips have been used extensively. For the first few years, the workshop content was driven by the new Georgia Performance Standards. Since that time, assessment data has been used to determine which content standards to use to develop the inquiry scenarios that teachers explore during the institute. The impact of the SMART Workshops has been difficult to ascertain. Self-reporting by the participants indicates a high level of satisfaction with the professional development. Teacher’s confidence and perceived skill levels have increased in all areas of science. Participants also have indicated that they have made good use of the materials provided and were incorporating new strategies for student learning into their pedagogical practices. With workshop participants located in different schools in multiple school districts, increases in student achievement have been more difficult to measure. Scores on standardized test are available, but the lack of comparison groups and actual learning gains are problematic.