September 19 Julie Brenninkmeyer Museum of Science, Boston "Engineering the Future: Designing the World of the 21st Century" "Engineering the Future: Designing the World of the 21st Century" is a full-year high school course being developed by the Museum of Science, Boston. Students learn about the role of engineers in society and how they create the human-made world. Students can then examine how everyone is affected by changes in technology and how people influence future technological development by the choices they make as workers, consumers, and citizens. The course is intended to help today's high school students understand the ways in which they will engineer the world of the future, whether or not they pursue technical careers. Engineering the Future maps directly to Massachusetts and national standards. It prepares students for the engineering/technology MCAS and provides students with an introduction to key physics concepts. October 3 Merle Bruno School of Natural Science, Hampshire College Beverly Park Woolf and Toby Dragon Dept. of Computer Science, University of Massachusetts "Fostering Inquiry and Critical Thinking through Technology" We describe several Web-based tutors that provide support for inquiry and problem-based learning and move students towards more active learning. The learning objective for students is to solve open-ended problems based on observations, formulating questions, and organizing data. Using computational tutors in large lecture-style classrooms, students are invited to solve cases, e.g., to diagnose a patient's disease or predict the location of the next earthquake. Teams of students ask their own questions, generate hypotheses and test their predictions in biology, geology and forestry. Students brainstorm predictions that might resolve some aspect of the problem and enter possible causes for the observed phenomena. They gather data to confirm or refute each hypothesis and resolve open questions. For example students of biology interview a patient about symptoms and request specific physiological signs, medical history, lab tests or patient examinations. Tools help students organize their data so they can more readily see patterns in the level of support for different hypotheses, learn to assess evidence that impacts their hypotheses and search for data through a variety of outside sources, including the Web. These tutors were evaluated with high school students and with undergraduates at three colleges. We discuss these results along with recent cognitive research on teaching and learning which formed the basis of the project. For more information, see http://ccbit.cs.umass.edu/Rashihome/ October 17 Rob Snyder Amherst Regional High School, Retired
"Teaching Talent Can Be Measured By a Test - True or False; Are Teacher Certification Tests a Gateway or a Barrier?"
Many states now require that prospective science teachers graduating from colleges and universities pass a certification test before they can accept a teaching position. In many instances, less than 50% of prospective teachers are able to attain a passing score on the certification test in a field they have studied as an undergraduate. This raises a number of questions. Are the tests necessary? Are the tests flawed? Is there a discontinuity between undergraduate and graduate coursework and the science content of the tests? Should the tests be administered after several years of teaching in order to determine if a teacher is to be awarded a professional status (such as tenure)? Should there a national exam rather than exams administered by each state? Are the dynamics of the average public school classroom such that class management skills become more important than high level content knowledge? Rob Snyder retired three years ago, after a 34 year career as a middle school and high school science teacher, and will share how his experience as a "pre-certification test" teacher in New York and Massachusetts, his experience as a teacher-mentor, and his recent experience as a writer of teacher certification tests has shaped his view of the teacher certification process.
Bruce Byers Dept. of Biology, University of Massachusetts
"Evolution in the classroom: How should we respond to the Intelligent Design challenge?"
November 21 Charlene D'Avanzo Dean, School of Natural Science, Hampshire College "Teaching Issues & Experiments in Ecology (TIEE): a Peer-Reviewed Electronic Journal Designed to Help Ecology Faculty Teach Better" TIEE was established in 2000 with support from NSF and the Ecological Society of America (ESA). It is designed to meet three challenges to the reform of ecology teaching: 1) Integrating sound science, innovative pedagogy, and instructional technology, 2) Disseminating accessible and adaptable materials for a wide range of faculty, and 3) Elevating teaching as scholarship through a peer reviewed journal. In addition to introducing TIEE, I will describe evaluation results and our new "research practitioner" program in which faculty do research on their own teaching. December 5 Joe Berger School of Education, University of Massachusetts The Afghanistan Higher Education Project (HEP) focuses on the re-development and strengthening of the capacity of the education system by focusing on improved teaching and capacity building at the tertiary level. The intended results include improved quality pre-service and in-service teacher education for secondary school teachers. The HEP team is charged with developing leadership, staff capacity and the structures and systems within the Faculties of Education and the Ministry of Higher Education to spearhead the i) rebuilding of secondary and higher education; and ii) creating a national system of pre-service education and in-service professional development to support secondary education teachers, school administrators, and faculty in seventeen four-year tertiary institutions.