Supported Site Seattle Pacific University: Collaboration

Successes

  • Continued meetings of the Science Education Task Force, composed of faculty from physics and education, support authentic collaboration between the School of Education (SOE) and Physics Department.
  • Science methods courses are being taught by faculty member Eleanor Close, who holds a joint appointment in the School of Education and the Physics Department, and Lezlie DeWater, who is the Teacher-in-Residence (TIR) in the Physics Department.
  • Working with SOE faculty from the Science Education Task Force, Eleanor Close and Lezlie DeWater have implemented changes in the methods course sequence for K-8 certification candidates that effectively double the number of science methods credits in the sequence.
  • Physics faculty and Lezlie DeWater worked on an interdisciplinary task force of CAS and SOE faculty to design a new major that will be required of all elementary certification candidates beginning in the 2009-10 academic year. The new major will significantly increase the science and math coursework required of all pre-service elementary teachers (from 15 to 24 credits), and all required science and math courses in the major will now be designed specifically for this student population (24 credits of special courses, replacing 10 credits currently offered specifically for pre-service elementary teachers).
  • Partnerships with local school districts provide strategic, content-rich, professional development opportunities for teachers. We offer professional development workshops for teachers in 5 large public and private school districts across the state of Washington.
  • We partner with Seattle Public Schools (SPS) on a Math Science Partnership project funded to them from the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction in Washington State. The project, Professional Teachers of Science, provides a summer institute and academic-year sessions focused on blending teachers’ content knowledge, knowledge of student thinking, and skills in formative assessment. SPU PhysTEC faculty teach the courses in an equal partnership with high school science coaches from SPS.
  • We have received an Earth System Science Education Alliance (ESSEA) grant of $40k funded by the NSF through the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES). This grant supports professional development courses for teachers which explore the inter-relationships of Earth’s spheres: Biosphere, Lithosphere, Hydrosphere & Atmosphere. We are partnering with Seattle Public Schools to recruit participants and construct courses which are most relevant to teacher needs.
  • We strengthened our connection with the new Chief Academic Officer of Seattle Public Schools. She was invited to co-present with project personnel in workshops for SPU faculty and students on the 2007 Day of Common Learning. We introduced her to the SPU Vice President for Academic Affairs and the Deans of the School of Education and the College of Arts and Sciences.
  • To increase the visibility of the program and its potential to affect quality of teaching in high school physics, we conducted a series of three workshops for Bellevue physics teachers on special relativity.
  • We worked with the state contractors to develop a new test that physics teaching candidates must pass in order to become endorsed.  Currently, 15% of the test attempts to assess candidates’ knowledge of problematic student ideas in physics. PhysTEC faculty also worked on the new test for the secondary general science endorsement.
  • Our TIR Lezlie DeWater was asked to work with Seattle Public Schools elementary science coaches in providing PD on energy.
  • We worked with the State Science Teaching and Learning specialists in their efforts to improve our state’s science standards.  

Challenges

  • Currently students in our ARC program are not required to take any science specific methods courses. Therefore, in order to create a cohort of secondary physics teachers and maximize the impact of our PhysTEC programs, we need to provide resources, mentorship, and professional community for these teachers.
  • Currently, the majority of SPU graduates teaching science in the K-12 classroom are elementary teachers. Therefore, it is critical that we support these teachers both before and after they begin teaching.
  • Several physics majors have begun to seriously consider K-12 teaching as a career path but have failed to complete the certification process at SPU. We think this may be a result of lack coherence between course offerings in the Physics Department and the School of Education.

Sustainability/Physics Department Buy-In

  • The Physics Department and the School of Education have now partnered on several grants and programs initiatives. This partnership continues and supports a growing recognition among faculty of the value gained from authentic collaboration.

Lessons Learned

  • Providing excellent courses for future physics teachers is not enough! The Physics Department and the School of Education must work closely together to understand the relevance of every course which will be taken by a future physics teacher.
  • The starting point for establishing partnerships with local school districts is to find out what they need. We have been successful in cultivating school district partnerships because we have been willing to adapt our offerings to their specific needs. These conversations should go beyond simply asking what topics should be “covered,” to including pedagogical strategies and learning outcomes.

Activity Summary

  • The SPU Science Education Task Force met four times to discuss strategies for improving recruitment and training of science and math teachers at SPU. We are working with the School of Education to allow the LA course to satisfy a general methods requirement.
  • We are working with the School of Education to allow the LA course to satisfy a general methods requirement.
  • We have developed a network of education and corporate partners in our broad efforts to support teachers of science.

Seattle Public Schools
We work with Seattle Public Schools on several synergistic activities. These include collecting student data on their initial conceptions in properties of matter and piloting our professional development activities.

Bellevue Public Schools
Bellevue school district has been our initial site for research and development of the properties of matter content. They are in the second year of administering pre and post-assessments to all their 8th grade students. Many Bellevue teachers have participated in the project-supported professional development courses. Bellevue has also collaborated with SPU to offer additional and ongoing professional development opportunities to 7th- and 8th- grade science teachers.

Edmonds Community College
A project-supported professional development course was taught off-site for Everett teachers at the Edmonds Community College Everett Branch Campus.

Everett Public Schools
Everett school teachers have participated extensively in project-supported professional development courses. In addition, an Everett science teacher has been a significant contributor to the project, and has served as supervising teacher for two of our PhysTEC student-teachers.

Issaquah School District
We volunteered to assist Issaquah School District’s efforts to support all district physics teachers develop a scope and sequence in physics, identify important outcomes of physics instruction in high school physics, and develop common assessments.

The Boeing Company
The Boeing Company has provided us with a continuing grant, which provides partial support for the Teacher-in-Residence, an invaluable member of our project team.

Educational Service District 105
ESD 105 in Yakima Valley, WA is a key collaborator for us at the elementary grade levels. We have twice provided a series of blended content-pedagogy workshops in physical science to K-6 teachers in ESD 105, with special emphasis in the topical areas covered by our NSF TPC grant.

Institute for Systems Biology
We have a long collaboration with ISB's Center for Inquiry Science as we work to sustain science education reform in Washington State and to further develop leadership in the system. ISB has played a key role in publicizing our professional development courses.

Archdiocese of Seattle, Catholic Schools
Project staff provided a professional development workshop for K-8 teachers in August 2006 and August 2007. The workshop topics were those researched by our NSF TPC grant.