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Assessing Teacher Learning About Science Teaching

Overview:

Professional development for science teachers operates with an implicit theory that is largely untested. The theory asserts that professional development brings about changes in teachers' science content and pedagogical content knowledge, which then leads to changes in classroom practice, ultimately improving student achievement. Testing this theory requires a coherent set of tools, which currently does not exist. Without these tools, professional development providers (including those working in the context of the MSPs) often lack data they need to inform revisions to their program designs and implementations. Horizon Research, Inc. (HRI) and Project 2061 of the American Association of the Advancement of Science (AAAS) jointly propose to develop these tools in specific science content areas. The project will create and disseminate instruments that assess teacher opportunities to learn, and that measure changes in teacher science content knowledge, teacher pedagogical content knowledge, classroom practice, as well as changes in student achievement. Three sets of instruments will be developed, one for each of three science areas or benchmarks. These are force and motion, plate tectonics, and flow of matter and energy. The teacher instruments will mainly be for middle school, but might have implications for younger grades. The project will refine, document, and disseminate the processes used to create the tools. The project has strong connections to the MSP key features of Evidence-Based Design and Outcomes and Teacher Quantity, Quality, and Diversity.

The tools that will be developed, and the processes used to create them, will increase the capacity of the field to design and implement professional development experiences with documented impacts on:

  1. teachers' science content and pedagogical content knowledge;
  2. their classroom practice; and most importantly; and
  3. student achievement.

The tools will enable MSPs (and professional development providers at large) to monitor the effectiveness of their interventions and identify differences in impacts that may exist between groups of participants (e.g., differences by teacher background and years of experience), thereby promoting the most equitable implementation of professional development. Equitable implementation of professional development ultimately addresses inequities in student opportunities to learn. By refining and completely documenting the processes used to create the tools, the project extends its impacts beyond the areas in which the tools are created. The project will disseminate its products through:

  1. a web-based handbook for tool creation;
  2. invited conferences for MSPs and others;
  3. internships for doctoral students and post-doctoral students from CLTs;
  4. presentations and workshops at annual meetings of professional organizations;
  5. journal articles; and
  6. a project web-site, including a discussion forum.