Physics (13) Faculty and administrators at the University have recently reassessed the appropriateness and utility of the science content courses offered to preservice elementary and early childhood teachers. The outcomes of these assessments is that (1) the Introduction to Physical Science course for preservice teachers (PHSC 101) needs to more appropriately reflect the Maryland State Content Standards in science, (2) the content topics in PHSC 101 need to be restructured in such a way that they become more coherent and interconnected, and (3) a greater amount of educational technology needs to be integrated into PHSC 101.
After comparing different curricula, the Physical Science for Elementary Teachers (PSET) curriculum has been selected as the curriculum that forms the basis for changes in the curriculum. PSET is an inquiry-based, computer-supported curriculum that engages students in constructing meaningful understanding of important physical science concepts. PSET addresses the specific needs of the PHSC 101 course by including a well-developed force and motion unit, by providing an energy and interaction framework that serves as an overarching theme, and by integrating a significant technology component in the form of computer simulations, computer-driven data sensors, and DVD videos of children discussing and doing science. The PSET course is being adapted to the needs of the course and its students.
Expected outcomes of this project are: use of the revised PSET curriculum in all sections of PHSC 101 by Summer 2008; increase in understanding of physical science content for the PHSC 101 students; institution of workshops and mentoring to support and sustain new faculty (particularly part-time faculty) as they implement the PSET curriculum; documentation of implementation challenges faced by new PSET faculty; and presentation of project results at national meetings of the Association for the Education of Teachers in Science (AETS) and the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) and subsequent publication in a peer reviewed journal.
Intellectual merit: Each year, 336 preservice teachers (over 90% female) will gain a deeper understanding of physical science concepts, inquiry-based instruction, and use of educational technology.
Broader impacts: Once PSET is successfully used in PHSC 101, it can subsequently be adapted to a graduate-level Physical Science for Teachers course. Also, changes to the PHSC 101 course are helping to drive conceptual and technological changes in other undergraduate content courses, including an earth space science course and a science teaching practicum course. Finally, the research from this project on PSET learning outcomes and implementation challenges can add significantly to the existing body of research on the effectiveness of PSET and the professional development of inquiry-based science instructors.