This project provides proof-of-concept evaluation of Earth2Class (E2C), an innovative professional development program for middle and high school teachers that brings together research scientists from the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University (LDEO) and classroom educators. E2C has been operating informally at LDEO for several years as a grass roots, teacher-initiated and teacher-led program that has brought together scientists and teachers in ways that participants find useful. The program provides background information to help teachers understand more about cutting-edge investigations and educational technology strategies for developing appropriate lessons. In this project, the E2C team is evaluating prior accomplishments, building on strengths, identifying weaknesses, and creating a more effective program of peer-training that serves the needs of hundreds of teachers and thousands of students. Many of the teachers and students are from districts with significant percentages of minority students
The E2C web site, www.earth2class.org, provides resources for teachers and students through archived versions of workshops and links to pertinent local and national scientific projects. It also contains tested examples of how to integrate research results into student-oriented lessons and assessment criteria. The website also builds networks among teachers and scientists that provide mentoring after workshops when teachers are ready to create a curriculum unit and can effectively receive feedback about how to improve lessons. Web-based communications and follow-up meetings throughout the year allow teachers to share successes and failures, which significantly increase the chances they will incorporate workshop materials into their curriculum. Intellectual merit of the project lies in the identification of characteristics that serve as models for establishing similar programs at other institutions. The project has a broad impact on the education of large numbers of teachers and their students who would not be likely to learn of the research discoveries unless the discoveries are incorporated into textbooks. The E2C format provides teachers and students with immediate access to a range of geoscience investigations, and introduces students at the impressionable middle and high school levels to Earth Science career possibilities. Formative and summative evaluations are assessing changes in content knowledge of teachers and their ability to serve as effective peer-trainers to disseminate geoscience research results. Information collected by the assessments aids understanding of how to bridge gaps between the work of researcher and the classroom teacher/student, create readily accessible materials based on geoscience research suitable for Standards-based student learning, and design programs tailored to diverse school cultures and needs. Results from the program will be shared through the E2C web site and other electronic formats linked to DLESE, presentations at science and science education conferences, professional journals, and curriculum materials in CD or other format.