Nationally recognized for teacher preparation, Fresno Pacific University (FPU) has trained hundreds of K-12 teachers as partners in professional development projects in California's Central Valley. Recently, FPU's Schools of Education and Natural Sciences partnered with WestEd's K-12 Alliance to provide three years of professional development in science and literacy instruction for 50 elementary teachers in the Tulare City School District. The project was funded by the California Post-secondary Education Commission's (CPEC) Improving Teacher Quality (ITQ) Grant Program.
For each year of the project, professional development activities included 60 hours of summer and weekend training focused on development of content knowledge in Physical, Earth/Space and Life Science. Also, teachers participated in 28 hours of classroom follow-up each year. Classroom follow-up was based on WestEd's Teaching and Learning Collaborative (TLC) professional development model in which teachers work together to implement instructional strategies.
On September 12, 2014, ERC presented the following results of the project at CPEC's annual research conference at the California Department of Education.
Findings from district performance assessments in science (given twice per year):
- Students in treatment classrooms were more likely to score above a combined median or show post-test gains than students in control classrooms.
Findings from a nationally-validated science content test for teachers (given three times per year):
- Participating teachers showed statistically significant patterns of learning and retaining pedagogical content knowledge when compared to a control group. Pedagogical content knowledge is strategic knowledge for teaching science.
Findings from self-report surveys and focus groups:
Teacher participants reported the greatest improvements in the following areas:
- Use of the 5 E Learning Sequence to design lessons
- Implementation of the 5Es when teaching science
- Use of conceptual flow of science concepts
- Understanding common student misconceptions to guide instruction
- Analyzing student work as evidence of student understanding
Regarding the usefulness of learning the 5 E Learning Sequence, one teacher said that prior to understanding the 5 E's, he taught lessons as if showing students the last scene or conclusion of a movie, then expecting them to go back and watch the movie from the beginning and maintain interest. He said that now when using the 5 E's, his teaching is more like letting students start at the beginning of the movie and guiding them through an experience before seeing the conclusion. The 5 E Learning Sequence helps students maintain their curiosity along the way, while making discoveries one step at a time.
Another teacher expressed her appreciation for the project in simpler terms, "I am a different teacher because of this program. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!"