UD receives NSF grant for science education majors
Published: Monday, October 17, 2005
Updated: Sunday, July 19, 2009 05:07
The National Science Foundation awarded the university a five-year, $2.2 million grant to examine the development of students as they train to be science teachers, according to Dr. Steven Fifield, education specialist at the Delaware Education Research and Development Center.
Deborah Allen, biology professor, said faculty from two colleges - Arts and Sciences and Human Services, Education and Public Policy - will work together on the project, which focuses on the science curriculum for elementary education majors, from their freshman year through their first years of teaching.
Allen said the funding gives researchers a unique opportunity to document the progress of future teachers.
"We will explore their knowledge, beliefs and practices related to the learning and teaching of science and how they may change as they progress through our program," she said.
Fifield said the goal of the project is to learn how students become science teachers.
"Since the grant is for a five-year period," he said, "we can see the students' long-term development rather than a snapshot."
Harry Shipman, physics and astronomy professor, said the researchers, who have worked together for more than 10 years, plan to improve the science program.
"We have a really good program according to our students," he said, "We want to look at the program systematically and improve its future." "Elementary education is one of the largest majors and this grant will make the program better."
The grant will also contribute to an existing program called the Science Semester, Fifield said.
The Science Semester is a 15-credit semester in which elementary education majors take three science courses and one science education course, he said. This allows students to incorporate science material with an understanding how to teach science.
"The Science Semester was the first step that led to the current grant," Fifield said. "This program better prepares students to teach science."
Another method of learning that will be examined is problem-based learning, or PBL, he said.
PBL is a collaborative learning program in which students work in small groups to solve complex problems that require teamwork, Fifield said.
"Listening to a lecture can be helpful, but not if that's all you do," he said.
Allen said other participants in the project include Zoubeida Dagher, associate professor of education; Richard Donham, associate policy scientist at the Mathematics and Science Education Resource Center; Danielle Ford, associate professor of education and John Madsen, associate professor of geology. Also, there are currently two graduate education students assisting the research.