This project is conducting a longitudinal study of the effects of an innovative pre-service elementary science education program at Western Washington University which was established with support from an NSF MSP grant.
There are four overlapping studies on the pre-service teachers (PSTs) and in-service teachers who are graduates of the program: (1) Comparing the pedagogical beliefs and skills of elementary PSTs as a function of the number (0-3) of reformed science content courses taken; (2) Comparing the same outcome variables for PSTs placed for student teaching with trained or untrained mentor teachers; (3) Comparing the impact of the science methods/practicum on PSTs who experienced the WWU reformed courses and those who did not; (4) An exploratory case study of the instructional practices of 20 novice elementary science teachers. The research utilizes the following existing instruments. (1) CLASS, the Colorado Learning Attitudes on Science Survey, (2) the Horizon Classroom Observation Protocol, (3) the Washington Educator Skills Test-Endorsement, and (4) the Washington State Science Assessment for 5th graders in addition to some instruments developed by the project. Studies 1-3 will each have 45 treatment and 45 control participants. Evaluation is by Horizon Research Inc. It focuses on project progress and effectiveness, which is appropriate for a research project. Its participation will also facilitate the use of the Horizon Classroom Observation Protocol.
The new undergraduate program at WWU has implemented and institutionalized many of the recommendations for best practices in preparing elementary school teachers in science. This project is seeking to analyze the impact of three essential dimensions of teacher preparation: inquiry-based science content courses, science methods/practicum courses, and student teaching.