June 14, 2009
June 14, 2009
June 17, 2009
K-12 & Pre-College Engineering
14.993.1 - 14.993.17
Promoting Scientific Inquiry through Innovative Science and Engineering Curricula in Grades 3-5
Technological and scientific literacy are crucial for students to compete in the global economy of the 21st century1,2. The widening gap in math, science, and engineering achievement between the students in the U.S. and those in other developed countries is partially due to teachers lacking content knowledge, pedagogy, and experience in these subjects1. Now in its second year, the Partnership to Improve Student Achievement (PISA), a state-sponsored Math-Science Partnership (MSP) program, is providing 47 grade 3-5 teachers in urban districts of New Jersey with high quality, research-based, innovative science and engineering curricula, classroom-focused professional development, and mentoring designed to address topics in key content areas in science and technology education. Scientific inquiry and the engineering design process are the two vehicles that are being used in our activities to promote teachers’ content and pedagogical knowledge and increase students’ achievement and engagement in science. The partnership includes six urban districts in northern New Jersey, a science center, teacher education institution, and an engineering college. Teachers receive a two week summer institute, one hour monthly classroom support visits, and three professional development days during the school year. The goals of PISA are: (1) to increase teachers’ content knowledge in specific science topics and engineering, (2) to improve the teachers’ notions of scientific inquiry, (3) to increase participating teachers’ preparedness in creating, adapting, and delivering inquiry-based science and engineering lessons, and (4) to increase students’ content knowledge in specific science topics and engineering. This paper will focus on the data collected from teachers regarding the second goal of this project, which is improving the teachers’ notions of scientific inquiry. Future papers will focus on findings that will address the other goals.
Each year of the PISA program focuses on a different science discipline with corresponding technology and engineering lessons. The first year was devoted to life and environmental sciences, earth and space sciences this year, and physical sciences next year.
During the two-week summer institute held in 2008, teachers learned earth and space science content through lectures, hands-on activities, field trips, webquests, collaborative work, reflections, model-based inquiry, and the engineering design process administered by the faculty and staff of the engineering and teacher-education colleges. Science activities were based on the notion of scientific inquiry from the National Science Education Standards3 and the model-based inquiry framework4,5. For instance, teachers reviewed and learned “the reasons for seasons on Earth” by drawing their expressed models, using physical models (Styrofoam balls), and explaining how the different seasons occur on Earth. Using their prior conceptions that were expressed in their naïve models; they went through series of activities using physical models, computer models, experiments, and expert’s perspective (guest professor). At the end of the lesson, they
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