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How to Spread the Knowledge of Physics Beyond the Walls of the Classroom

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  1. How to Spread the Knowledge of Physics Beyond the Walls of the Classroom … and still get tenure

  2. Scientists in the K-12 Classroom: Can We Make a Difference? Diandra Leslie-Pelecky Department of Physics & Astronomy Center for Materials Research & Analysis University of Nebraska

  3. Acknowledgements • Gayle Buck(Dept. of Teaching, Learning and Teacher Education) • PF Co-PIs • Sue Kirby, Clinton Elementary • Roger Kirby, UNL Physics • Pat Dussault, UNL Chemistry • Barb Jacobson, Lincoln Public Schools • Pat Dixon (National High-Field Magnet Lab), Evaluator

  4. Outline • Motivation • What am I doing here? • Why should you care? • Can scientists meaningfully participate in K-12 education? • Project Fulcrum Case Study • Can pre-tenure scientists meaningfully participate in K-12 education? • Some suggestion to help you make a decision • Conclusions

  5. Outreach According to Webster (n.) 1. The act of reaching out (n.) 2. The extent of reach (n.) 3. The extending of services beyond usual limits

  6. Outreach Academic Definition Those things your colleagues know aren’t teaching or research

  7. Will Working on Education/Outreach Affect My Research and Teaching? Yes.

  8. #1: Negotiate! When something is added, something else has to give • Not just outreach – Anything beyond standard expectations • Reduced teaching load? – probably not good idea • Reduced service load? – usually more feasible

  9. Balancing Act Tenure Decision • Negotiated trading part of my teaching responsibilities for ‘education/outreach’ activities • Included in tenure contract • Managed to negotiate other ‘perks’ in exchange

  10. Why?

  11. “Public opinion is everything. With public sentiment nothing can fail; without it, nothing can succeed.” Abraham Lincoln

  12. A survey of 30,000 students found that: had the strongest influence in getting the students interested in science. the characters in the Star Trek television program Other interest promoters were teachers, parents and the TV program 'Beekman's World.' Source: USA Today 123(2591), 15 (1994)

  13. Vocabulary of Science Constructs The Earth goes around the sun once per year The Earth goes around the sun once each year The Earth travels around the sun Light travels faster than sound Humans did not live at the same time as the dinosaurs Light travels faster than sound Cigarette smoking causes lung cancer Antibiotics kills viruses as well as bacteria Electrons are smaller than atoms Electrons are smaller than atoms Lasers do not work by focusing sound waves The father’s gene determines whether the baby is a boy or girl 20% 40% 60% 80% Source: 2002 Science and Engineering Indicators

  14. Public Belief in Paranormal Phenomena 2001 Astrology or position of stars and planets can affect peoples’ lives 1995 1990 People can hear from or communicate mentally with someone who has died Ghosts or spirits of dead people can come back in certain places and situations Houses can be haunted Extrasensory perception

  15. “…pseudoscience is a sort of background noise, annoying, but rarely rising to a level that seriously interferes with scientific discourse…

  16. “…The more serious threat is to the public, which is not often in a position to judge which claims are real and which are not. Those who are fortunate enough to have chosen science as a career have an obligation to help the public make that distinction.” Robert L. Park, 2001

  17. But I Don’t Have Time for Altruism The Case for Self-Interest

  18. 0.8% 0.36% 0.7% Bachelor’s Degrees in Physics Source: AIP

  19. Bachelor’s Degrees in Physics Source: AIP

  20. Ph.D.s in Physics Source: AIP

  21. NSF’s Role in Education & Outreach

  22. “One of the principal strategies in support of NSF's goals is to foster integration of research and education through the programs, projects and activities it supports at academic and research institutions.” NSF - GPG Motivation NSF: Integration of Research and Education

  23. Not competing against established scientists Prestigious 4-5 year grants carry you through tenure ‘Regular’ grants requiring education portion, too Giving reviewers two targets Weight of education/ outreach activities varies among programs Have to do both if you get funded #2: To CAREER or Not to CAREER? Pros Cons

  24. NSF CAREER Award Worked with teachers and students in a Title I school • 97% of students eligible for free- or reduced-price lunch • 30% ‘turnover rate’ • Kids came to school in the winter without coats – or shoes • Teachers on first-name basis with probation officers, police

  25. Teachers Needed • Science equipment • More (and more current) science knowledge • More time for teaching/planning • Experience with the excitement of science Had • Incredible dedication to kids • Desire to learn about science and science teaching

  26. Administrator Motivation • NSF develops large $ education and outreach programs • Large research centers (MRSEC, NSEC, ERC) require education/outreach components

  27. $$$ Overhead Resources for outreach Infrastructure Demonstrates ability to Write grants Organize large-scale projects If it’s a really bad idea, probably won’t get funded Have to write the grant Can’t decide to just stop doing it Reports PI meetings Everybody expects you to do it for them #3: External Funding Pros Cons • Shirley Mills • PF Project Manager • Former elementary school teacher • Grad student in Higher-Education Adm.

  28. #3b: Pace Yourself One $1,000,000 grant is better than 10 $100,000 grants

  29. Graduate Teaching Fellows in K-12 Schools NSF’s Primary Goal Produce scientific research leaders who are aware of and sympathetic to the challenges addressing K-12 education

  30. NSF’s GK-12 Program • Partnershipswith schools • STEM graduate students learn new teaching methods and improve communication skills;  • Increase teacher content knowledge • Increase teacher confidence • Increase the content knowledge of K-12 students • Provide professional role models with whom K-12 students can relate.

  31. GK-12 Models • U. Hawaii’s Ecology, Evolution and Conservation Biology Grad Program • Cornell’s Environmental Inquiry Research Partnership • University of Washington’s Engineering Educators • NCSU’s Math/Science Integration Project • Georgia State’s ‘Science on a Bus’ • Harvard, BU (2), Tufts, U. Mass Boston…

  32. #4: Treat Your Project Like Research • Define the problem and approach • Assemble Resources • People • Equipment • Infrastructure • Money • Take/analyze data • Re-do the experiment the right way • Publish • Ask for more money

  33. Scientists as Role Models: Are We Really Having Any Impact?? Eisenhower Professional Development Program National Science Foundation

  34. Pilot Study Graduate students work with 4th/5th graders at a Title I school • Do student attitudes toward science change? • Does student content knowledge increase? • Do teachers change the way they teach science?

  35. Experimental Setup • 8 weeks of Magnetism/Circuits • 80 fourth/fifth graders • Title I school • Large ELL population • 2 hours/week • 4 teachers • 3 science graduate students

  36. Assessment Details • Pre-surveyed students about their attitudes toward science and scientists • Image of Science & Scientist Scale (Krajkovich, 1982) • Student Opinion Survey (McMillan, Simonetta, Singh, 1994) • Student Interviews • Teachers provided measures of the students’ prior and current performance in science • A selected sample of students was interviewed every two weeks

  37. Psst…. …You know, the kids don’t believe you’re scientists

  38. Addressing Role Models • Emphasize graduate students as scientists from the university • Have students talk about their research • Videotape • Lead graduate student • In her lab, explaining her research • Shown in week #4

  39. Results Students did not accept that their visitors were scientists • 87% described the visitors as ‘teachers’ • When asked whether the visitors were scientists, 75% explicitly said NO

  40. Results The visitors didn’t look like scientists • ‘They were too pretty to be scientists. Only women who aren’t pretty enough to be in the movies would be scientists’ • ‘Scientists would be wearing white coats with glasses, have grey hair and be old’

  41. Results The visitors didn’t act like scientists • ‘They showed expressions’ • ‘They let us do fun things’ • ‘Real scientists talk about complicated things’ • ‘They are trying to make things easier for us to understand’

  42. Results The parents didn’t get it either • ‘When will the real scientists show up?’ • ‘It was really nice of the scientists to let their wives do this’

  43. Conclusion • Students started with common stereotypes about scientists • The scientists in the classroom did not fit these stereotypes • Not only did the students not change their stereotypes, they rejected the visitors as scientists because they didn’t fit the stereotypes Buck, Leslie-Pelecky and Kirby, J. Elem. Sci. Educ. 14(2), 1-10 (2002)

  44. Public Stereotypes of Scientists “The scientist is a man who wears a white coat and works in a laboratory. He is elderly or middle aged and wears glasses…. He may wear a beard, may be …unkempt… He is surrounded by equipment… and spends his days doing experiments. Mead and Mertraux, 1957

  45. Breaking Stereotypes • Introduce scientists via videotape first to establish identity • Have scientists start by dressing like stereotypes, then gradually becoming ‘themselves’ • Have scientists start by doing ‘shows’, and then have them move into working with students in a ‘teaching’ mode. • Ensure that scientists are always referred to as ‘scientists’, not ‘grad students’ or ‘teachers’

  46. Psst…. …You know, the kids don’t believe you’re scientists

  47. #5: Make Your Time Count • Dabbling is a waste of time • Know what’s been done • Collaborate: Find people who compliment your experience and share your goals • You can do more harm than good

  48. Project Fulcrum – Year 3 – Give me a long enough lever and a place to stand and I can move the Earth – Archimedes

  49. Project Fulcrum • Joint project between Arts & Sciences, Teachers College, Lincoln Public Schools • 30 Resident Scientists/3 years in grades 3-8 • Resident Scientists spend entire year as school-wide resources w/Lead Teacher • 8 h/wk student contact; 2 h/wk planning, no more than 4 h/wk prep • Weekly ‘group meetings’ for teachers, Resident Scientists • Stipends same as NSF Research Fellows • $27,500 2003-2004 • $30,000 2004-2005

  50. Project Fulcrum Goals • Provide grad students with realistic picture of K-12 education and their possible role in it • Increase student access to inquiry-driven experiences • Improve student and teacher attitudes toward • Science • Scientists • Help Fellows improve pedagogical, communication and teamwork skills • Assess the program • Strengthen partnerships