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- January 1, 2008 - December 31, 2011
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impact statement impact
- The project officially started January 2008. We can state that all teachers participating in the first August work session gave very positive feedback. We have impacted a minimum of 10 teachers, and most likely more, as we pilot tested the curriculum in two other classrooms, and our cohort of P-1 teachers have shared their experiences with their colleagues at their school. Comments from participating teachers showed that they enjoyed the program and gained a much better understanding of earth science topics. We are in the process of systematically analyzing the results of the Pre-Post Teacher Knowledge Test of all participant teachers. Examples from the data include the following: One teacher, an elementary-grade teacher, demonstrated an enhanced understanding of the use of evidence by scientists and growth in understanding other aspects of nature of science, including that scientists use creativity in all aspects of their work, at the end of the week. This is particularly encouraging given we had only one week for the professional development, and this relates to evolution learning progressions, leading to understanding Darwinian theory of evolution through natural selection.
impact statement issue
- First, many teachers lack a basic understanding of concepts of evolution, inquiry, and the nature of science. At the college level, many students still do not understand the nature of science or evolutionary concept, including prospective teachers. Second, many students, including those of underrepresented groups, begin to lose interest in science in middle school. Studies indicate that authentic science learning experiences may motivate these students in science learning. However, teachers have few opportunities to engage their children in authentic fieldwork, especially in urban settings. Third, this project addresses the need for science teachers to access interesting and authentic resources and interactive materials related to evolution, inquiry, and the nature of science beyond those generally available in the classroom. Teachers may not feel comfortable or well prepared to teach evolutionary theory, due to its controversial and socially contentious context. Unlike other content areas of science, evolution lacks actual real-world and data-driven opportunities in the classroom. The populations affected include all citizens, starting with young children to older adults.
impact statement response
- During the first full year of the project (Jan. 1-Dec. 31, 2008), we made excellent progress on all phases of the project: (1) scientific work; (2) educational materials development; (3) educational assessments; and (4) website development. Early in the year, we developed a brochure to market the project. Many New York teachers applied -- over three times what we could accept in the program. We selected a cohort of 10 P-1 teachers: four elementary teachers, three middle school teachers, and three high school teachers, as well as alternates for each level. All 10 teachers participated in the project. We conducted an intense week-long work session (August 2008) at the Museum of the Earth and Snee Hall to immerse P-1 teachers in the fossil inquiry. We prepared binders of complete sets of materials, including how objectives matched with state and national standards. We distributed this binder to each P-1 teacher at the beginning of the week, along with a book bag, a copy of "Teaching about Evolution and the Nature of Science," a digital camera, and a laptop Dell computer for use in the classroom. Throughout the week we received very positive feedback from the teachers. Our outside evaluator reported that the implementation reflected a number of aspects of best practice for professional development. Observed indicators of effective implementation included: experience and expertise of facilitators, effective and informative formal presentations, and appropriate pace for the purposes and audience of the session. Further, project personnel were observed to be enthusiastic about the program and were developing a trusting rapport with most participants. Observed indicators of effective impact include enhanced participant content knowledge and confidence in teaching science, participants’ willingness and ability to use designated instructional materials in classrooms, and professional networking opportunities established/supported by project. Most participants stated that they planned to use project instructional materials/activities with students and were confident that student understanding of concepts would be enhanced by the activities. Some participants noted that they would be more likely to visit fieldwork sites with students and engage students in scientific inquiry after this experience. The research team, led by Dr. Barbara Crawford, developed instruments (working with the external evaluator), interview protocols, and video analysis of lessons from classrooms in order to track teachers’ developing understandings of evolutionary theory, inquiry, and the nature of science. The teacher application served as one source of data related to our P-1 teachers’ backgrounds. To gather some baseline data on his or her teaching practice, we visited the classroom of each teacher in June 2008. Throughout fall 2008 we scheduled classroom visits with all P-1 teachers as they enacted the curriculum. In particular, we gathered in-depth analysis of classroom instruction in classrooms having a high percentage of English language learners. In developing the Fossil Finders website we worked closely with Elizabeth Ellis, project coordinator for the Cornell Information Technologies (CIT) Website Development Team, and David Brooks of CIT, to design and fully develop an interactive website. The site went live in November 2008, and it includes an interactive database for students and teachers to input their data from fossil samples. See www.fossilfinders.org.
impact statement summary
- In this newly funded National Science Foundation research project, the goal is to enhance understanding of the nature of science and evolutionary concepts, as well as to motivate all children to learn more about science. The Fossil Finders project uses research-based practice to support teachers in engaging children in classrooms across the country in an authentic investigation of Devonian fossils in order to enhance learning about evolutionary and earth science concepts, inquiry, and the nature of science. Goals include supporting teachers in understanding how to help all children use evidence in constructing explanations of natural phenomena and how to motivate culturally and linguistically diverse groups of children to engage in learning science. The project is a collaboration of the Cornell University Department of Education and the Paleontological Research Institution (PRI) in Ithaca, N.Y. Teachers from classrooms from two grade spans (fifth-sixth and seventh-ninth) receive professional development and instructional materials. Strategies include using fossil evidence from scientific samples of layers of shale from an Upstate New York outcrop and entering and interpreting data on an interactive website, where children learn how to identify the fossils they find and add their own data to an emerging database.
Other federal funding
- National Science Foundation
- Allmon, Warren Douglas Researcher
- Cornell University Information Technologies Partner (Cornell University Information Technologies)
- Crawford, Barbara A Researcher
- Ohio Evaluation and Assessment Center for Mathematics and Science Education Partner (Ohio Evaluation and Assessment Center for Mathematics and Science Education)
- Paleontological Research Institution; New York Partner (Paleontological Research Institution)
- Ross, Robert Researcher
- Applied Research
- Crawford, Barbara A Cornell Faculty Member