|Nicole Wickler, assistant professor of science education, is a co-principal investigator in a grant designed to help Southern California elementary school teachers create better instruction in science.|
For the United States to maintain its primary role in science and technology, science education in schools must be a priority.
Faculty member Nicole Wickler is a co-principal investigator in a National Science Foundation (NSF)- Research on Learning and Education grant designed to help Southern California elementary school teachers create better instruction in science. The program has two long-term goals: First, to assist teachers in their professional growth in science and science teaching. Second, to help students succeed in science and inspire them to continue their studies, even propelling them into science careers.
Wickler is a science educator at the Center for Education and Equity in Mathematics, Science and Technology (CEEMaST), located in the College of Science. CEEMaST works to improve the teaching and learning of science and mathematics for students and teachers at all levels.
?Prior research has shown that if young people do not have positive science experiences by the end of fifth grade, they choose not to pursue science courses in high school and college,? Wickler says.
The federal funds will support research about teacher learning as a result of their experiences in the state-funded San Gabriel Valley Science Project at CEEMaST. The study will also examine whether students? science learning improves in classrooms of participating teachers. The teachers? schools are in three districts near Cal Poly Pomona that have a high percentage of at-risk children (Pomona Unified, Hacienda La Puente Unified and Bassett Unified).
This past summer, about 30 teachers participated in a pilot study, attending CEEMaST workshops that examined some of the best curriculum and classroom practices from around the world. This school year, teachers will use the science lessons they created in the workshops. One lesson will be filmed and evaluated by education professionals. Next summer, 60 fourth- and fifth-grade teachers will participate in the professional development program. The NSF funds will allow the program to continue over the next three years.
Faculty members in the College of Science and the College of Agriculture are helping Wickler by providing the science content short courses for which teachers may elect to receive credit through the Extended University. Science faculty members also serve as consultants in the development of strategies to assess teachers? content learning as part of the NSF-funded research.
The collaborative research project is being carried out through a partnership between LessonLab Inc., a Santa Monica-based private educational organization, and CEEMaST. In addition to their expertise, LessonLab will provide videotaped international curriculum examples as well as a Web-based platform of instruction for participating teachers. Co-principal investigators at LessonLab include Kathleen Roth, Stephen Druker and Catherine Chen.
?If we can help fourth- and fifth-grade teachers understand science better, we could help thousands of students, who in the back of their mind might say, ?I could go to college at Cal Poly Pomona,? or ?Maybe I could be a scientist,? ? Wickler says.
Cal Poly Pomona will receive about $325,000 in NSF funds over the next three years. The grant will help pay for faculty time and teacher stipends.