Caltech-Exploratorium Summer Teacher Institute in the Life Sciences

  • Project Description

    Create a national model for professional development that strengthens teacher knowledge of cutting-edge biology and its applications to the health sciences and biomedical research Develop new teaching strategies for integrating current science research content and methodologies into the classroom that use hands-on activities developed by CESTI-LS Develop the leadership skills and capacities of the participating life science teachers so that they can successfully disseminate what they learn to their colleagues Strengthen student understanding and appreciation for key concepts questions and techniques that are the foundation of modern research in the life sciences Engage Caltech graduate biology students in working to strengthen life science teaching and learning

  • Abstract

    The Exploratorium California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and the San Mateo County Office of Education (SMCOE) propose to develop the Caltech-Exploratorium Summer Teacher Institute in the Life Sciences (CESTI-LS) for middle and high school teachers creating a model national program for integrating cutting-edge biological research in fields such as cellular biology neurosciences molecular and developmental biology and genomics and bioinformatics into the middle and high school life sciences curriculum. CESTI-LS will strengthen teachers’ knowledge of advanced life science research and develop new ways to integrate research into the classroom using inquiry-based hands-on activities developed by the teachers themselves in concert with Exploratorium faculty Caltech professors and Caltech graduate students. Ultimately CESTI-LS will strengthen student understanding of research in the life sciences and biomedical fields and deepen the public’s appreciation of the implications of that research for health and everyday life. The five-year program will be developed and implemented in two phases. The first two years Phase I will be devoted to formulating and testing the CESTI-LS professional development curriculum and prototype classroom activities in San Mateo County. During the three-year period of Phase II the institutes will be open to teachers nationally. Over the five-year project period CESTI-LS will support 75 middle and high school teachers in a sequential in-depth two-year program totaling some 190 hours of training. The curricula activities and teaching tools developed through the CESTI-LS will be incorporated into the Exploratorium’s teaching programs on-line teaching resources and publications programs and will be disseminated nationally.

  • Dissemination Strategies

    Exploratorium web publications and online resources. CESTI-LS activities and related education resources will be posted on the Exploratorium website for broad dissemination. Exploratorium Learning Studio. CESTI-LS activities will be cataloged and made available through the Exploratorium’s Teacher Resource Library. Informal and formal science teacher networks. Dissemination of activities through formal presentations at national and state teacher conferences (NABT CSTA NSTA etc.) and within both formal and informal teacher networks that lead teachers will form with their peers.

  • Project Evaluation(s)

    Evaluation of our partnership and institutional capacity building: External evaluators will conduct in-depth assessments of the partnership and the capacities of the Exploratorium Caltech and the San Mateo County Office of Education. In terms of tools for measuring capacity evaluators will draw upon an instrument they have developed and used over the past five years in assessing similar partnerships. Assessment of such capacities as leadership vision professional development expertise program design knowledge resources and institutional priority is the major focus in years 1 and 2. In years 3 and 4 the focus of the capacity-building study will be on the development of case studies of a selected sample of schools. The goal is to assess the extent to which the participation of lead teachers create a process within the department school and district that increases the ability to serve students. In year 5 evaluators will make a final assessment of the overall strength of the partnership and the capacities of the institutions involved in the project (the museum the university and participating school districts). The study of program quality. Evaluators will monitor the quality of CESTI-LS summer institutes workshops and other activities. Through interviews and surveys evaluators will assess participant perceptions of the CESTI-LS experiences. Through direct observations evaluators will use protocols developed by others as well as their skill in observing professional development to document the overall quality of offerings. Evaluators will also contract with other expert reviewers to attend and critique offerings. Study of teacher’s intellectual growth as intellectual leaders as classroom practitioners and their effects on local school environments. Evaluators will document the ways that the CESTI-LS project is able to create and support a national network of leading science teachers. The approach to assessing this goal will include surveys of teacher participants that measure professional growth and interviews with teacher participants that complement and deepen the survey findings. Small-scale pilot interviews will be conducted in years 1 and 2; the focus on teacher learning and change will be greater in years 3 4 and 5 as both the program and teacher leadership matures. This includes a longitudinal study of select participants that tracs the growth of teachers over multiple years and gathers data from colleagues and students. To measure the growth of classroom practice evaluators will visit 10 randomly selected classrooms of participants in three succeeding years (year 2 on a pilot basis and years 3 and 4). Subjects will include CESTI-LS participants and controls representing a sample of economically stratified schools. The study of the benefits for Caltech graduate students and middle and high school students. Throughout the project evaluators will longitudinally survey and interview Caltech graduate biology students to assess the extent that CESTI-LS developed their educational skills and capacities. The studies of secondary student outcomes will be piloted in year 3 and conducted in years 4 and 5 when the partnership is mature and when findings associated with the teacher learning and leadership and with the institutional capacities have been established. Scores on standardized tests will also be examined as one measure of the quality of the learning experience; in particular evaluators will look for changes in scores over a three- to five-year period and focus on the extent to which teacher participants were able to help each succeeding class do better than the previous one will be assessed. Additionally evaluators will conduct Turing Tests of student work and experience. This test uses double blind methodology to assess the distinguishability (or not) of two samples on complex dimensions. Turing Tests will be designed that assess the degree to which students are receiving a richer learning experience as a result of their teachers’ participation in the institute. Evaluators will conduct the following distinguishability tests in closely matched classrooms: a study of Student experience as captured by videotaped interviews with students Student work as captured in student writing and other work products Student explanations of inquiry oriented tasks as captured in tape recorded interviews Finally attitudinal measures of students will study the degree to which the classroom experiences provided by CESTI-LS participants are promoting positive attitudes toward the study of science and even school more broadly.

  • Resources for Sharing

    Diverse repertoire of classroom biology activities. CESTI-LS will develop a set of innovative inquiry-rich classroom activities designed to bring modern biology content and research techniques to the middle and high school science classroom.

Project Audience

Middle and high school biology teachers; Caltech graduate biology students.

Subjects Addressed

Science content current research techniques and imaging tools associated with life sciences research conducted at Caltech. The project explicitly connects this content to the California State Science Content Standards for middle and high school life science.