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National Research Council (US) Chemical Sciences Roundtable. Strengthening High School Chemistry Education Through Teacher Outreach Programs: A Workshop Summary to the Chemical Sciences Roundtable. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2009.

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Strengthening High School Chemistry Education Through Teacher Outreach Programs: A Workshop Summary to the Chemical Sciences Roundtable.

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This day-and-a-half workshop began with an introduction by the workshop organizers Mark Cardillo, Dreyfus Foundation; William (Bill) Carroll, Occidental Chemical Corporation; and Alex Harris, Brookhaven National Laboratory. They emphasized the challenge of addressing such a broad and sweeping topic as high school chemistry education. This led them to focus on in-service teacher outreach programs for high school education, because high school is where chemistry becomes a discrete discipline and outreach programs are a potential conduit by which the greater chemical community can make a contribution. Particular emphasis was placed on evaluations of the effectiveness of these programs.

Finally, Harris outlined the workshop organization. Day 1 consisted of two sessions and a poster session, and day 2 included a third session. Session 1 addressed the question What are the major and general issues in high school chemistry education? It included remarks on the current state of science and the importance of teachers. Sessions 2 and 3 addressed the question Who is doing what with respect to high school chemistry education (and how is effectiveness measured)? Session 2 focused on publicly funded government agency and university programs. Session 3 addressed privately funded for-profit and nonprofit programs.

Session 1 began with an overview of the state of science and science education in the United States, provided by Kathryn Sullivan, Battelle Center for Mathematics and Science Education Policy. Sullivan presented the current position of the United States in research and development and in scientific and mathematics education. She showed that research and development (R&D) have become more internationally distributed even as R&D in the United States has grown substantially in scale and scope. The need for more professional development opportunities for teachers was discussed. She also talked about the role of student and parent attitudes in education. For example, parents recognize the need for improved science and mathematics education but tend to be satisfied with the amount of science and mathematics their own children study in school. The National Science Board has identified better coordination and more effective teaching as the greatest needs of the U.S. educational system.

Session 1 continued with a presentation by Robert Tai, University of Virginia, on the current state of high school chemistry education. Gerry Wheeler, National Science Teachers Association, and Roxie Allen, Associated Chemistry Teachers of Texas, provided the national and state-level teachers’ perspective, respectively. The session concluded with a local teacher panel composed of Caryn Galatis, Thomas A. Edison High School, Virginia; Brian J. Kennedy, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, Virginia; and Kiara Hargrove, Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, Maryland. Tai’s presentation of longitudinal data demonstrated that exposure to particular subjects in high school chemistry, frequent peer interactions, and studying high-level mathematics are positively associated with chemistry grades in college, while time spent on community and student projects, labs, and instructional technologies can be negatively associated with college chemistry grades. He also showed that most high school chemistry teachers have taken college courses above the level they are assigned to teach, but they report needing help in using technology in science instruction, teaching classes with special needs students, and using inquiry-oriented teaching methods. Speakers indicated that laboratories in high school chemistry tend to be disconnected from coursework, focus on procedures rather than clear learning outcomes, and provide few opportunities for discussion or reflection. Across the country, new requirements that high school students take more advanced science courses have increased the need for well-prepared chemistry teachers. Teachers feel that a major challenge for high school chemistry teachers is connecting the subject to everyday experiences, and professional development that focuses on this linkage can be especially valuable.

The first half of Session 2 focused on publicly funded programs at government agencies. The presenters were L. Anthony Beck, National Institutes of Health (NIH); Katherine Covert and Joan Prival, National Science Foundation (NSF); Jeffery Dilks, Department of Energy (DOE); and Kenneth White, Brookhaven National Laboratory. These representatives presented programs in their respective institutions, and several common themes emerged. The programs frequently focus on inquiry-based training, hands-on experiences, or laboratory research to strengthen teachers’ content knowledge and familiarity with performing research. DOE uses its national laboratories as a resource both for teachers and students in these efforts. A common theme from these discussions was that assessing the effectiveness of educational activities remains challenging, although programs can make progress by relying on standardized instruments and by teaming with evaluation experts.

The second half of Session 2 presented publicly funded outreach programs considered representative of exemplary programs. The presenters were Irwin Talesnick, Queens University; Constance Blasie and Michael Klein, University of Pennsylvania; Sergey Nizkorodov, University of California-Irvine; and Gil Pacey of Miami University, Ohio. Outreach methods included the ChemEd conferences, summer workshops, and masters’ programs for teachers—all with varying levels of evaluation. Some programs and workshops offered course credit as a method to increase teacher involvement. A common theme was to have teachers that complete these programs impart what they have learned to their peers, multiplying the number of people reached. A poster session, which contained a sampling of teacher outreach programs, followed these discussions.

One the second day, Session 3 focused on privately funded outreach programs. Speakers were Bridget McCourt, Bayer Corporation; Reeny Davison, ASSET program; Bryce Hach, Hach Scientific Foundation; Patricia Soochan, Howard Hughes Medical Institute; and Sandra Laursen, University of Colorado-Boulder. These programs have a broad range, with some focusing on elementary and middle school education and others on high school education. They seek to generate future research chemists, chemistry teachers, and a scientifically literate public through a variety of methods, including volunteerism, workshops, educational materials, and scholarships. Some programs perform very little evaluation, while some place a great emphasis on it. The workshop ended with a panel to consider what actions could be useful in the future. These suggested actions were the opinions of individual panel members and do not represent consensus recommendations. The panel was moderated by Bill Carroll and included Joan Prival, Mary Kirchhoff, Penny J. Gilmer, Gerry Wheeler, and Hai-Lung Dai. The panel discussed possible improvements in coordination, program evaluation, and a focus on the early stages of education as a part of a comprehensive effort to improve U.S. science education.

Copyright © 2009, National Academy of Sciences.
Bookshelf ID: NBK26406


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