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CBiRC Research Experiences for Teachers (RET)

Brandi Geisinger and Mari Kemis, in collaboration with Karri Haen, are leading the evaluation of the NSF Center for Biorenewable Chemicals (CBiRC) Research Experiences for Teachers (RET) program at Iowa State University. The program mission is to improve the quality of secondary level education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in Iowa public schools. The RET program has four interconnected objectives: to alter teachers’ 1) confidence in teaching STEM concepts, 2) understanding of lab techniques, safety, and biorenewables topics, 3) confidence in explaining STEM career options to their students, and 4) understanding and teaching of the nature and practice of science. The RET provides high school teachers with first hand experiences in the design, methods and analysis of research associated with biorenewable chemicals engineered for the purpose of clean bio-based energy resources. Teachers participate in workshops, colloquia, and journal clubs and gain hands-on research experience working on independent research projects under the guidance of a faculty member. Through these experiences, teachers are reintroduced to the methods of scientific inquiry, invigorating high school STEM curricula. Relationships built in the RET enable teachers to understand and communicate the latest developments in STEM fields, inspiring student enthusiasm for higher education and career tracks in science and engineering.

The evaluation was informed by the literature on the constructivist sociocultural professional development model, evidence of inadequate science teacher preparation, and evidence of best practices for science teacher preparation (Bandura, 1977; Brand & Moore, 2011; Dorph et al., 2007; Fulp, 2002; Howe & Stubbs, 1997; Loucks-Horsley et al. 1989; Loucks-Horsley et al. 1998; Loucks-Horsley et al., 2003; Loucks-Horsley & Matsumoto, 1999; Posnanski, 2002; Sandholtz & Ringstaff, 2011; Shulman, 1987; Zembal-Saul et al., 2000). The evaluation of the RET program has had a number of significant impacts, including: 1) Understanding the value of the RET program in altering or enhancing science teachers’ understanding and teaching of science; 2) Validating a design assessment to test teacher improvement in research skills; 3) Measuring of teacher skill development and pedagogical approaches to inquiry-based science and teaching; 4) Determining how an extended program in partnership with a diversely-populated school district results in substantive changes in teaching and learning; and 5) Supporting and encouraging data collection activities that demonstrate the impact of the RET program and provide guidance for RET program improvement.

RET Evaluation Plan
<table width=’100%’>

Teacher’s First Year in RETTeacher’s Subsequent Years in RET
Online pre-program surveyFollow-up survey (8 months post-program)
Six weekly reflectionsSix weekly reflections
First online post-program surveySecond online post-program survey
Focus groupFocus group

In addition to the annual evaluation activities, a follow-up with all teachers who participated in the CBiRC RET over the past eight years will examine lasting changes in their knowledge of STEM subjects and concepts and how they teach (including using inquiry-based techniques), as well as how they view the impact their participation has had on their students, peers and school.

Evaluation References

Bandura, A. (1977). Self-efficacy: Toward a unifying theory of behavioral change. Psychological Review, 84, 191-215.

Brand, B. R., & Moore, S. J. (2011). Enhancing teachers’ application of inquiry-based strategies using a constructivist sociocultural professional development model. International Journal of Science Education, 33(7), 889-913.

Dorph, R., Goldstein, D., Lee, S., Lepori, K., Schneider, S., & Venkatesan, S. (2007). The status of science education in the Bay Area: Research brief. Berkeley, CA: University of California.

Fulp, S. L. (2002). Status of elementary school science teaching. Chapel Hill, NC: Horizon Research Inc.

Howe, A. C., & Stubbs, H. S. (1997). Empowering science teachers: A model for professional development. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 8(3), 167-182.

Loucks-Horsley, S., Carlson, M. O., Brink, L. H. Horwitz, P., Marsh, D. P., Pratt, H., Roy, K. R., & Worth, K. (1989). Developing and supporting teachers for elementary school science education. Washington, D.C.: The National Center for Improving Science Education.

Loucks-Horsley, S., Hewson, P. W., Love, N., & Stiles, K. E. (1998). Designing professional development for teachers of science and mathematics. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press Inc.

Loucks-Horsley, S., & Matsumoto, C. (1999). Research on professional development for teachers of mathematics and science: The state of the scene. School Science and Mathematics, 99(5), 258-271.

Loucks-Horsely, S., Love, N., Stiles, K., Mundry, S., & Hewson, P. W. (2003). Designing professional development for teachers of science and mathematics (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press, Inc.

Posnanski, T. J. (2002). Professional development programs for elementary science teachers: An analysis of teacher self-efficacy beliefs and a professional development model. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 13(2), 189-220.

Sandholtz, J. & Ringstaff, C. (2011). Reversing the downward spiral of science instruction in K-2 classrooms. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 22(6), 513-533.

Shulman, L. (1987). Knowledge and teaching: Foundations of the new reform. Harvard Educational Review, 57(1), 1-23.

Zembal-Saul, C., Blumenfeld, P., & Krajcik, J. (2000). Influence of guided cycles of planning, teaching, and reflection on prospective elementary teachers’ science content representations. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 37(4), 318-339.