San Marcos,
08:23 AM

Professor aims to help future science teachers with NSF grant

By Eric Breier

Edward Price recalls sitting in most of his classes while somebody lectured to him when he was a student.

“We have a lot of evidence now that that’s not a very effective way for people to learn science, and physics in particular,” said Price, a professor of physics at Cal State San Marcos (CSUSM). “There are a lot of other approaches that are more effective. That would include, in general, things that get students actively engaged in class.”

Price is part of a project that aims to better prepare tomorrow’s teachers to effectively teach science thanks to a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Price is the principal investigator (PI) on an NSF award totaling $2,877,300, the largest NSF grant ever awarded to a CSUSM faculty member.

The project, titled “A Model of Educational Transformation: Developing a Community of Faculty Implementing Next Generation Physical Science and Everyday Thinking,” includes co-PIs and collaborators from the University of Colorado at Boulder, Kansas State, the University of Maryland, San Diego State and Tennessee Technological University.

The project’s goal is to bring together a community of faculty from across the country – about 50 primarily physics faculty – who will be engaged in transforming their courses and implementing materials in those courses to help prepare future elementary teachers.

“It’s sort of a national priority that we do well in science,” Price said. “It drives innovation and it’s important to understand the world. If we want a public well-educated in science, we need teachers who understand science. It starts at the elementary level. We need to prepare elementary teachers so they can teach their students science.”

While Price said there are many examples of good materials that can be used to help engage students in class, simply having the materials isn’t enough.

“It’s not a case of, ‘If you build it, they will come,’ ” he said. “Some people do, but not everybody.”

Price hopes this project will help bridge that gap. It will allow faculty to work as a community to share success stories on getting students to buy in to different approaches while also pulling from other resources that are developed along the way.

The project will include a combination of face-to-face meetings between participating faculty as well as online collaboration. Price said there will be a core group of 10 faculty members who will lead small clusters of other professors. The small groups will meet regularly online and the entire group will be able to share all resources.

Funding for the project began Sept. 1. Price and his co-PIs are already getting started with planning and designing, and the core group of faculty is expected to gather at CSUSM in January for a workshop. The core group will recruit other faculty throughout the year to participate in the project with plans to have the entire cohort meet next summer.

Price noted that there have been big changes in the knowledge expected of K-12 students through the Next Generation Science Standards.

“If we’re going to ask our teachers to prepare our students according to our Next Generation Science Standards, we should probably educate our teachers on that same material,” Price said. “The curriculum that all of the faculty in this project are going to be using, that curriculum is designed to align with those Next Generation Science Standards. The students who are in these courses that are planning to go out and become elementary teachers, they’re seeing the exact material. At a higher level, naturally, but they’re seeing the exact material that they’re going to want to be teaching their elementary students down the road. So this course is really designed to help those folks become effective elementary educators. All the faculty on this project will be teaching courses that are designed for future elementary teachers.”

The project has the potential to impact thousands of future elementary educators -- Price said an estimated 7,000 undergraduate students will participate in the project over the next five years.

“You start seeing how this thing could ripple out and it’s really exciting to imagine the kind of scale that you could get to,” Price said. “You could reach a lot of folks.”

Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.