A Model of Educational Transformation: Developing a Community of Faculty Implementing Next Generation Physical Science and Everyday Thinking
This project addresses a critical aspect of science education, that of preparing elementary teachers to be knowledgeable of physical science concepts and confident in engaging early grade students in exploring physical science. Moreover, this project seeks to address the first recommendation of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology Engage to Excel report, to "catalyze widespread adoption of empirically validated teaching practices." This project will tackle a core challenge associated with moving beyond dissemination to implementation, impact, and sustainability. It will engage a community of faculty, professors of physics and of physics education, in course transformation and continued professional development through the implementation of and research on an existing physical science curriculum for pre-service elementary teachers, the Next Generation Physical Science and Everyday Thinking (Next Gen PET) curriculum, which is aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), and the National Research Council K-12 Science Education Framework. Preliminary data indicate the effectiveness of these materials. However, the simple availability of these materials does not ensure their adoption by a wider audience; rather, research indicates that "develop and disseminate" approaches have limited impact. This project will instead form a community of instructors that can share expertise, and document implementation strategies, challenges, and lessons learned. This community will engage 50 faculty members from across the country in course transformation using Next Gen PET, and will reach more than 7000 students during the project. Long-term impacts will include a large group of prospective elementary teachers better prepared to meet the challenges of teaching NGSS-aligned activities to their future students, as well as a community of expert practitioners and advocates who can engage in educational transformation in the larger physics education community.
Three goals guide the project. The first is to establish and engage the Next Gen PET community of practice, consisting of project leadership and faculty implementers. The community of practice (CoP) will include three tiers: the project leadership, a small group of experienced PET instructors called the expert-cadre (already identified), and a larger expanded-cadre. Goal two is to evaluate direct impacts on faculty and students. The third goal is to contribute to the research base on faculty change and educational transformation. This project hypothesizes that faculty involvement in a structured and supported CoP will lead to far-reaching and sustainable educational transformation. The project's research agenda will examine this conjecture by investigating an overarching question: To what extent does the Next Gen PET community of practice lead to effective educational transformation? The research design uses an embedded systems or ecological perspective on human development where individual faculty are seen to influence the development of the community and the community is seen as influencing the development of faculty (Cole, 1996; Rogoff, 2003). Several levels of research will contribute to addressing the overarching question above. Community-level: How does the CoP get established and how does the CoP develop discursive norms around effective pedagogical practice over time? Faculty-level (a): Does the CoP support faculty in responding to known challenges associated with course transformation efforts (which are often barriers to change in the standard dissemination models)? Faculty-level (b): What are the partial and conditional ways faculty take-up the Next Gen PET materials and core pedagogical practices over time? Broad Community-level: To what extent does the CoP model impact faculty not directly involved in the CoP? Ultimately, this project will contribute to a more informed, scientifically literate population and to the literature on educational transformation and faculty change. This project contributes to the improvement of undergraduate education as it attends to the NSF-IUSE framework which "promotes new and exciting approaches to using research on STEM learning and education to address STEM education challenges across and within institutions, as well as within and across specific disciplines."