The Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC) and the City College of New York (CCNY) are collaborating on the development of workshops on the scientific method and data analysis skills to supplement methods courses for pre-service science teachers. The project goals are to incorporate computer-based data analysis into junior level methods courses for middle and high school pre-service teachers, to better prepare secondary school students for the STEM workforce via teacher preparation, to enable pre-service teachers to introduce current scientific research and data analysis in secondary school classrooms, and to increase the number of minority students pursuing careers in science teaching.

The project supports a two-day jump start workshop, modified weekly seminars, bi-weekly professional development workshops, and a two-week summer program to train pre-service teachers to access and use online scientific databases. Pre-service teachers are mentored by in-service teachers as they learn to develop research questions and hypotheses, which are tested using publicly available databases in biology, genetics, bioinformatics, geology, and engineering. Virtual experiments are conducted using the University of Colorado's Virtual Chemistry Laboratory. Pre-service teachers next engage in an internship and fieldwork as they assist secondary students with the design of Science Exit Projects which are required for graduation.

The project evaluation examines teacher preparation and training, as well as the application of on-line database resources in the classroom setting by measuring attitudes, behavior, and activities of students and teachers. Outcomes will be disseminated via journal publications, conference presentations, and websites on each partnering institution's webpage. Additional outreach targets education faculty at the other community colleges in the CUNY system. This two-year project will reach 129 science teachers (pre-service and in-service). The workshops and courses supported by this project prepare teachers for more challenging upper level courses, enhance pedagogical skills, and better prepare secondary students to succeed in technology fields as they address real-world problems using workforce applications.

Project Report

Project Summary Our project was as successful as we could have been in meeting our goals. We successfully recruited science majors from BMCC and encouraged them to consider pursuing science education as a possible career goal. At least two of these students continued on to CCNY and received bachelor’s degrees in science education. Our students worked with high school and middle school teachers to introduce the skills of the scientific method into the classroom through the mechanism of cyber learning. We revised the syllabi for courses in the masters program in science education at CCNY and now scientific inquiry through cyber learning if a permanent part of that curriculum. We also dispersed our findings and method through national conferences and workshops for other CUNY faculty. The project was not without difficulties. We had initially intended to use the Teacher Academy at BMCC and CCNY as a recruiting source for students, but this program lost funding before our own began. Since we were unable to find a role that Everton Barrett, the director of the Teacher Academy at BMCC, was capable of doing he left the project as did Lorraine Whitman who accepted an administrative position outside of CUNY. We therefore brought in students from BMCC and CCNY who had worked with us to act as recruiters and they did a fine job of going to science classes at BMCC to sell our program to students. Thanks to their efforts we were able to get enough students to run the program every semester in spite of the relatively small stipend we offered. One important finding we made in the process of teaching our seminars was that students at BMCC, and even many who were receiving or had received master’s degrees in science education, were ignorant of the scientific method. Many science teachers had even been taught to teach their students to "prove" their hypotheses. We therefore ended up spending a large proportion of our seminar time teaching the scientific method and helping our participants develop the skills they need to ask appropriate scientific questions. The time not spent on the scientific method was spent on the pedagogy of employing it in the middle school classroom and both our pre-service and in-service teachers reported that this worked very well. We presented our methods and results in several forums; the annual ATE conference, the education section of the American Chemical Society annual meeting and a CUNY wide seminar. In all cases we received excellent feedback and were greeted with positive sentiments about introducing novel inquiry to the middle school classroom through the use of cyber infrastructure. Many people gave us good ideas and suggestions to improve our work and we are appreciative of the learning opportunities afforded to us by these interactions. We are currently working on developing a publication based on the results of our work. Overall the program was well worthwhile. Although it is too early to see long-term results we are hopeful that the work we have begun here will lead to a greater understanding of science by science teachers in the schools we worked with and that it will be the germ of a movement that will become widespread in the academic community.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Undergraduate Education (DUE)
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Katherine J. Denniston
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CUNY Borough of Manhattan Community College
New York
United States
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