Teacher Preparation

Science Teacher Preparation

The New Science Curriculum in Texas

The State Board Of Education ( SBOE) proposed high school science requirements beginning in 2005-06. One credit must be a biology credit (Biology, Advanced Placement (AP) Biology, or International Baccalaureate (IB) Biology). Two credits from (no more than one credit from each of the areas): (i) Integrated Physics and Chemistry (IPC), (ii) Chemistry, AP Chemistry, or IB Chemistry, and (iii) Physics, Principles of Technology I, AP Physics, or IB Physics. And, one credit from one of the following areas: Geology, Meteorology, and Oceanography (GMO); Environmental Systems; Aquatic Science; Astronomy; Anatomy and Physiology of Human Systems; AP/IB Biology; AP/IB Chemistry; AP/IB Physics; AP/IB Environmental Science; and Scientific Research and Design.

This curriculum does not allow much meaningful content to be adequately taught. Moreover, physics and physical science are not emphasized enough.

Our Approach

The Department of Physics has established an outreach program to meet these challenges. The idea behind our approach is that traditional courses, even in applied disciplines like engineering, are taught to emphasize topics over process. Curriculum is often interpreted as course structure and course content, and little attention is paid to the pedagogy. Assessment is normally done based on whether the student has given correct answers or demonstrates the ability to find answers. Experiential learning – training students to ask questions, participate in interactive sessions, is not on the agenda of standards-centric courses.

Our approach is systemic in nature and has the following components:

  • Interactive learning environment – Science Education Center, where students can design, build and expand on projects relevant to the real world;
  • An expanded physical science curriculum for pre-service teachers;
  • Teacher-Faculty collaboration – Science Teacher In Residence;
  • Continual feedback and assessment;
  • Professional development opportunities for teachers;
  • Involvement of parents and community leaders in student development; and
  • Sustainability via throughout-the-year mentoring, periodic interaction with university and industry personnel, and building communities of practice.

These efforts are aligned with other major efforts in Texas . The Texas Education Agency is developing the Texas Science Initiative (http://www.governor.state.tx.us/priorities/education/perryrecord) to eliminate student performance gaps in science by developing and implementing training for science educators, improving the quality of science instructional materials and creating higher standards for science education. The Regents’ Initiative for Excellence in Education (undertaken by the Texas A&M University System’s Board of Regents) for enhancing the quality of education and the number of educators, is perhaps a unique initiative in the nation with a commitment at the highest level in a university system.

Please contact us for more information and share with us your comments.

Selected Teacher Training and Development Activities

Summer Teacher Updating and Retraining Workshop Course: Class time will be used for construction projects, demonstrations, group discussion, and/or laboratory experimentation.

Astronomy Workshop for Middle and High School Teachers: Face-to-face meetings and via the Internet will be conducted using course management tools in WebCT and web-based instructional materials provided by the textbook publisher. This workshop will (i) improve teacher familiarity with astronomy topics related to state and national science education standards, (ii) provide exposure to the use of technology in education and (iii) develop instructional materials appropriate for middle and high school astronomy in a variety of science areas in the school curriculum. The basic properties and use of small telescopes will be presented.  Basic techniques in CCD imaging will be presented.

Topics in Physics:  An overview and recent developments in physics. Participants will take an active part in problem solving sessions. Strategies will be discussed concerning the preparation of middle and high school students for pre- and post-AP examination activities.

Modern Technologies in Instruction: Impact of modern technologies on instruction will be discussed. This workshop will concentrate on computer applications such digital audio and video, as well as web-based operations. Various developments relating broadband delivery will be discussed. The class will take a hands-on approach to allow middle and high school teachers the opportunity to creatively explore the potential of these new technologies.

Physical Science for Teachers: An intensive course covering the basic concepts of general science with emphasis on physics, chemistry, astronomy and environmental science. The lecture and laboratory components will use simple household items and toys to demonstrate physical concepts that can be used by teachers in their own classrooms. Designing and building roller coasters and programmable robots using K’Nex and Lego Mindstorms will be a major part.

Science Standards: Science standards – Texas , national and other states’ – will be discussed and compared. Gaps and commonalities will be identified. Implementation issues will be discussed along with individual teacher’s experiences.

Additional courses will be designed and delivered based on the participants’ interest. Course durations and frequency of offering will be determined based on need.

Transforming Teacher Education Through Technology Infusion ( http://www.pt3.org/)

The High School Physics Teachers Association

Science Education in the US and Across the Globe:
Project INSPIRE http://www.nature.com/news/2004/040712/full/430286a.html
National Institute for Science Education, University of Wisconsin , Madison http://archive.wceruw.org/nise/
ENC Online – K-12 math and science teacher center http://www.enc.org/