Sep 10 2008

Supporting New Science Teachers

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Comments: 42

I saw this press release today and thought it would make a good addition to my recent discussion of how to improve science education. The study looks a the recent trend of school districts hiring science teachers who are trained in science but not teaching – uncertified science teachers. This practice is increasing due to the shortage of science teachers.

They found that the outcome of science education and the retention of new science teachers can be improved by two factors: supporting them with mentors (retired science teachers who observe them in the classroom) and with lesson plans.

This study and the accompanying article support the notion that good science teachers are a prerequisite to improved outcomes in science education. But it also suggests that providing access to science lesson plans (which could certainly be incorporated into a science-wiki) helped the teachers perform better and improved retention.

However, it looks like the study did not separate the two variables – mentoring and providing lesson plans, so we do not know the relative contribution of each.

It also raises the question of whether or not it is easier to teach teachers science or to teach scientists how to teach.  I think we should both – but I would be interested to see a comparison of outcomes.

In any case, this looks like a very practical solution to the problem of lack of enough good science teachers – recruiting those with science degrees and then supporting their teaching ability.  Hopefully these kinds of programs will spread. I also like the fact that these school districts were not afraid to experiment, and of course using objective outcome measures to assess how the programs worked.

42 responses so far