Graduate Student, OSU School of Environment & Natural Resources
The Great Lakes region of North America, holding 20% of the world’s fresh water and home to ¼ of the U.S. population, can provide its 13 million K-12 learners with a relevant context for science learning, unique opportunities for exploring local environmental issues, and connections to global issues. By linking Great Lakes research scientists with educators, students, and the public, the COSEE (Centers for Ocean Sciences Education Excellence) Great Lakes pursues its goal of enhancing science and environmental literacy of both adults and students.
This doctoral research had a three-fold purpose in the COSEE Great Lakes context. First, this study aimed to characterize the population of Great Lakes scientists and K-12 teachers in the Great Lakes region targeted as potential audiences for activities of COSEE Great Lakes. Second, this study aimed to identify factors that may affect educational collaboration between teachers and scientists. Third, this study was conducted as a part of an ongoing process of evaluating overall COSEE program outcomes related to increasing educational collaborations.
This dissertation consists of three research reports on professional development and interprofessional collaboration of K-12 teachers and scientists. The first report in Chapter 2 investigates primary and secondary teachers’ views of collaboration with scientists and incorporates the findings of teacher surveys into discussions about
professional development programs for educators. From 180 schools randomly selected in the eight Great Lakes States, 194 primary and secondary educators responded to a mailed survey. Through the survey responses, the educators reported that while they have positive attitudes toward their collaboration with scientists, their professional preparation has not equipped them with enough understanding of the process of science and the professions of scientists. Regression analysis shows that five predictor variables account for a majority of the variance in explaining educators’ experience in collaboration with scientists (a combined predictive ability of 32%): attitudes towards collaboration, professional preparation (science competencies), teaching experience in years, contemporary views of science/science education and perceived institutional supports.
The second report in Chapter 3 is an attempt to reveal interactions in education by scientists whose research is focused on the Great Lakes, and incorporates the findings into discussions about scientists’ potential for the role of education partner. In this parallel study, marine and aquatic scientists were recruited to complete a survey at a conference on Great Lakes research in 2006. Through 94 scientist responses, scientists reported that they were involved in educational outreach more frequently as a “resource” than a “partner” in Morrow’s framework (2000). Professional training of scientists and their lack of knowledge in education may explain the ways in which scientists are involved in educational outreach. The results show that most scientists had little chance to obtain knowledge in professional education during their professional science training.
Scientists’ lack of knowledge in education was demonstrated by their unfamiliarity with key terms/concepts in education. Regression analyses shows that four predictor variables account for a majority of the variance in explaining scientists’ experience in collaboration with teachers (a combined predictive ability of 42%): familiarity with terms in education, professional training (educational competencies and collaborative cultures) and age.
The third report in Chapter 4 elaborates on the results and discussions in Chapters 2 and 3 by comparing the two groups and by identifying implications of the findings for teacher-scientist collaboration. Comparing responses from educators (n=194) and scientists (n=94), this study answers how educators differ in the perceptions of education collaboration from scientists, in addition to two other research questions: how do educators in the Great Lakes region collaborate with scientists, and what barriers may deter their participation in collaboration. Regression analyses for the two groups suggest that to foster mutual learning in teacher-scientist collaboration, further consideration must be given to increasing educators’ science competencies and scientists’ collaborative attributes when we develop professional development programs for educators and scientists.