Development for Education Professionals

Educational Development and Partnerships for Teacher Training and Professional Development

Academic and informal science education practitioner views about professional development in science education
Science Education
Tamsin Astor-Jack, Ellen McCallie, & Phyllis Balcerzak

Based on interviews conducted with eight key decision makers in a variety of institutions, both in higher and informal science education providing K-12 science teacher professional development, the authors discovered significant gaps between the two types of institutions with respect to resources and in particular to language use. A key term highlighted as a point of confusion between the providers lies in their uses of the word “inquiry.” Whereas “inquiry” – currently a fundamental concept in science teacher professional development – has been defined formally as a teaching strategy to develop understandings about science, the informal science providers tended to define it as a learning strategy. Although this and other differences seem to be due to a looser use of language that characterizes those involved in informal science rather than signifying fundamental differences with those involved in higher education, the authors nevertheless contend that more effective collaboration could take place once such issues of language and meaning confusion are addressed.

Broadening Views of Learning: Developing Educators for the 21st Century through an International Research Partnership at the Exploratorium and King’s College London
New Educator
Bronwyn Deban, Joshua P. Gutwill, Mike Petrich, and Karen Wilkinson

Considering the growing importance of science to nearly all sectors of the economy, the authors highlight the problems posed by the lower levels of interest in science-related careers displayed by students in industrialized countries today. They describe how policy makers have sought to address this imbalance by shifting their focus from traditional classroom and curriculum-based approaches to informal science approaches, with their hands-on and experiential style, in order to make science education more appealing to students, especially in the K-8 age range. While there have been numerous attempts at building collaborations between public school districts and informal science institutions, the authors note that most of these attempts have failed. The authors then discuss the experience of three institutions collaborating across the informal/formal divide: The Exploratium (a museum in San Francisco), King’s College London, and the University of California-Santa Cruz. These three institutions partnered to found the Center for Informal Learning and Schools in 2002 with the intention of training educators who are familiar with and adept at moving between these different institutional contexts and their different modes of learning.

Education for Life and Work: Developing Transferable Knowledge and Skills in the 21st Century
National Research Council
Edited by James W. Pellegrino and Margaret L. Hilton

The 21st century has fostered newly realized aptitudes for antiquated skills, and there are various, contemporary terms for those capabilities. In this book, the authors explain the concepts and terms included in the discourse of “21st century skills.” Deeper learning (taking what one has learned and applying it to new situations) develops expertise of content and skills. The product of deeper learning is transferable knowledge, and it inherently includes content knowledge and the ways to circumstantially apply that knowledge to answer questions as well as problem-solve effectively. The blend of knowledge and skills is what the authors refer to as “competencies.” The authors identify three broad domains of competence: cognitive, intrapersonal, and interpersonal. Without structure, there is no supported transfer; therefore the authors offer research recommendations for expanding learners abilities to transfer competencies learned in one discipline outside of their own realm.  Deeper learning, supported through teaching practices that create a positive, academically engaged student-community in which content knowledge and finely tuned intra- and interpersonal competencies are obtainable, is a means to achieve proficiency in any capacity. Due to their apparent role in everyday, practical situations, “21st century competencies” are important to identify and worthwhile to develop.


The Impact of a Professional Development Program Integrating Informal Science Education on Early Childhood Teachers’ Self-Efficacy and Beliefs about Inquiry-Based Science Teaching
Journal Of Elementary Science Education
Emilio Duran, Lena Ballone-Duran, Jodi Haney, & Svetlana Beltyukova

The authors discuss the impact of a formal/informal science partnership – Project ASTER (Active Science Teaching Encourages Reform), a collaborative effort between the University of Toledo, K-3 teachers, and the COSI (Center Of Science and Industry) science museum in Toledo, Ohio. The project aims at improving teachers’ self-efficacy and perceptions of inquiry-based science teaching through the joint development of teaching curriculum and encouraging field trips for K-3 students. The study finds that both were impacted positively as a consequence of the collaboration.

School site to Museum Floor: How informal science institutions work with schools
International Journal of Science Education
Michelle Phillips, Doreen Finkelstein & Saundra Wever‐Frerichs

Two research studies sponsored by the Centre for Informal Learning and Schools (CILS) investigated the programmes informal science institutions (ISIs) currently provide to support K–12 science education, particularly in the area of teacher professional development (PD). The first study was a large‐scale survey with 475 ISIs responding about the programmes they offer schools and teachers beyond one‐day field trips. A large majority of ISIs (73%) reported having one or more of these programmes, with more than one‐half (59%) providing one or more forms of teacher PD. ISIs also reported a tendency for their programmes to be under‐subscribed, and said funding was the biggest barrier to their ability to provide these programmes. A second study focused on ISI‐based teacher PD programmes, looking at whom they serve, how they are funded, and their specific programmatic elements. This study also investigated the extent to which ISI‐based PD incorporates features shown to produce measurable effects on teachers’ instructional practice. Researchers administered an intensive survey to over 310 ISIs with teacher PD offerings to obtain detail regarding the programming. The findings reported here indicate that the particular promise of ISI‐based teacher PD is the potential to incorporate features of PD that have been shown by research to produce measurable effects on teachers’ practice. The results from these two studies suggest that while some opportunities may be missed to leverage the strengths of the ISIs’ learning environment in K–12 science education, ISIs continue to support K–12 science education in the United States in important and varied ways.

Teaching Science in the City: Exploring Linkages between Teacher Learning and Student Learning across Formal and Informal Contexts
New Educator
Jennie S. Brotman & Maria S. Rivera Maulucci

The authors of this article describe and evaluate a particular informal/formal science education partnership in New York City, the Science in the City Seminar. The seminar, a partnership between a local natural history museum, an undergraduate teacher education program, and local public schools, aims to support teacher development and to help educators improve science teaching practices in urban public schools. The seminar focuses on three central ideas: 1) collaboration in practical partnerships, particularly in lesson design, 2) the use of the city as a resource for science teaching and learning, 3) building upon what students and teachers each bring to science teaching and learning, and 4) the use of evidence to assess student learning. The authors stress the value of learning in museums in connection with mandated science curricula, and the reciprocal connections between student learning in both the informal museum and formal classroom contexts. Other important topics discussed include the impact of teacher learning on students, particularly from the perspective of equity, and the various ways structured and unstructured student engagement strategies were employed.

Astor-Jack, T., McCallie, E., & Balcerzak, P. (2007). Academic and informal science education practitioner views about professional development in science education. Science Education, 91(4), 604-628. doi:10.1002/sce.20205

Bevan, B., & Dillon, J. (2010). Broadening Views of Learning: Developing Educators for the 21st Century through an International Research Partnership at the Exploratorium and King’s College London. New Educator, 6(3-4), 13.

Brotman, J. S., & Rivera Maulucci, M. S. (2010). Teaching Science in the City: Exploring Linkages between Teacher Learning and Student Learning across Formal and Informal Contexts. The New Educator, 6(3-4), 15.

Duran, E., Ballone-Duran, L., Haney, J., & Beltyukova, S. The impact of a professional development program integrating informal science education on early childhood teachers’ self-efficacy and beliefs about inquiry-based science teaching. Journal of Elementary Science Education, 21(4), 53-70. doi:10.1007/bf03182357

Phillips, M., Finkelstein, D., & Wever‐Frerichs, S. (2007). School Site to Museum Floor: How informal science institutions work with schools. International Journal of Science Education, 29(12).