2014 GSA Annual Meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia (19–22 October 2014)

Paper No. 9-9
Presentation Time: 9:30 AM


CLARY, Renee M., Department of Geosciences, Mississippi State University, 108 Hilbun Hall, P.O. Box 5448, Mississippi State, MS 39762, ELDER, Anastasia, Counseling & Educational Psychology, Mississippi State University, Mississippi State, MS 39762, DUNNE, James A., Physics & Astronomy, Mississippi State University, Mississippi State, MS 39762 and WAX, Charles, Geosciences, Mississippi State University, Mississippi State, MS 39762

The Teacher Academy in the Natural Sciences (TANS) program provided middle school (US grades 6-8) teachers (N = 81) with intensive professional development in geosciences, over its 3 year program. Two university scientists led the 10-day summer academy, which formed the crux of traditional, science content instruction. Three additional academic days were held on Saturdays during the year. In order to provide science content support beyond the summer, TANS used a blended design and turned to online instruction to reinforce key geoscience constructs. We assigned two online modules (Weather & Climate, Plate Tectonics) after the summer academy; modules were developed and administered by a professional science organization. The modules average approximately 10 hours of access and interaction time. Teachers had up to three attempts to successfully pass the final module test at 70% accuracy.

In order to probe the summer academy and online modules’ impact, TANS assessed online modules’ content at the beginning (pre-test) and the end (post1) of the summer academy, before the modules were assigned. Teachers were then assessed again (post2) following completion of each online module.

Our analyses of the online modules’ assessments revealed no significant change in teachers’ science content for the Weather module during the summer academy. However, significant gains occurred after the summer academy (post1) to the second module assessment (post 2)—once teachers completed the module. The Plate Tectonics module fared differently. There were significant gains from the incoming knowledge to the end of the summer academy, before the module was assigned. There was no significant gain from the end of the summer academy (post 1), to the completion of the module (post 2), although the trend was positive.

We suspect that teachers were more familiar with tectonics content, and the summer academy targeted many of the same concepts that were addressed in the online module. This would explain the significant gains following the academy, before the module was assigned. The Weather module most likely differed more in content from the summer academy instruction. However, our results indicate that online modules in a blended professional development program can be effective, and contribute to increased geoscience content knowledge.