Note: The 5 Required Areas are addressed throughout the narrative. This format does not need to be followed exactly. This is just an example.
Areas Addressed below:
- A clear rationale of the need for the work addressed and for the strategies and/or tools with which the work is carried out, The plan must be supported by evidence-based practices and clearly demonstration that the work is reciprocal in nature
- Work should have a conceptual or theoretical basis; i.e., is conducted within the context of existing peer reviewed knowledge. Normally, this is accomplished through a review of related work in an area showing what has been done in the past and providing a rationale as to why additional work is needed in this area.
In 2010 a university-school district partnership was formed between the Department of Elementary and Bilingual Education at California State University Fullerton and an elementary school site within the School District. Over the years our CSU Exit Surveys indicated that while our overall ratings exceeded the system average, science was one of the subject areas that our teacher candidates felt least prepared to teach. Through anecdotal evidence our department felt this was in direct correlation to what our candidates were experiencing in the field. Teacher candidates reported observing very little science instruction and even fewer opportunities to teach science during their student teaching experiences. The original focus of the partnership was science instruction in grades TK-5. Over the last 6 years this partnership has expanded to include Science, Technology, Engineering and Math and is referred to as the Partnership. The learning outcomes and goals associated with this collaborative effort include high-quality instruction to help elementary students develop knowledge, skills, and positive attitudes in these key areas, while also providing an opportunity for Cal State Fullerton’s teacher candidates to observe, teach, and reflect in an authentic classroom environment.
Despite increased attention to science education through STEM initiatives and the adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards, science teaching in elementary schools remains an area of concern. Many elementary teachers continue to rely on teacher-led discussions and explanations, and demonstrations rather than student engagement in authentic investigation and exploration to construct knowledge. Facilitating inquiry science is challenging for many elementary teachers because it requires disciplinary knowledge, as well as the pedagogical skills and confidence to engage students in acts including questioning, evidence gathering, and explaining. Thus, effective teaching requires what Shulman called pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) (Shulman, 1986). A component of PCK that is particularly relevant to this partnership is the ways that preservice teachers understand content, design instructional experiences, and engage elementary students in inquiry practices to support student learning.
However, facilitating inquiry science is challenging, requiring in-depth disciplinary knowledge and pedagogical skills that many teachers do not possess (Dorph et al., 2007; Houston, Fraser & Ledbetter, 2008). Although teachers have reported practicing inquiry-based instruction, researchers have found disconnect between their descriptions of their practice and what actually occurs in many classrooms (Munck, 2007; Tan & Wong, 2012). Bergman and Olson (2011) assert that “hands-on science is half the battle” (p. 44). Inquiry involves more than physical manipulation of materials. Critical and analytical reasoning coupled with self-discovery through exploration, are key components of an inquiry lesson (Bergman & Olson, 2011; Gibson & Chase, 2002; National Research Council, 2000).
The role of the teacher is significant and it is essential to provide opportunities for pre-service teachers to build their content knowledge and pedagogical skills through authentic experiences. The context of this partnership, aims to provide these experiences.
There are several components to the Partnership which have been designed with purpose and in response to current research (NAPDS, 2008; Sherretz & Kyle, 2011) and data collection that occurs each year. In 2009 the partnership involved 1 elementary school site and an after school science club. By 2011 the partnership had expanded to include 2 elementary sites and standards based instruction that occurred during the school day. The school sites were specifically chosen based on their context and population. To date the partnership has included 4 elementary school sites, 350 teacher candidates, 75 classroom teachers and over 2,000 TK-5 students. Our 2 current school sites are located within 10 miles of the university and consist of 75% English learners, 92% students receiving Free and Reduced Lunch, 45% of the families qualifying as homeless, and a 10th grade average parent education. The current elementary school sites feed into the same middle school and high school which is allowing us to look at a pipeline to college and career readiness.
The elementary sites have each committed a classroom space for teacher candidates to meet on their campus for several of their methods courses throughout their credentialing program. This model allows teacher candidates to directly connect theory to practice. Classroom teachers voluntarily allow teacher candidates to come into their classrooms to observe specific strategies as well as gain additional experiences in leading instruction. Prior to the teacher candidates first student teaching experience they are asked to conduct focused visits in various classrooms. For example, in their Educational Foundations course when discussing various topics like classroom management, student engagement, effective use of pedagogy, etc. they are asked to go into the elementary classrooms for brief periods of time and then return to their methods classroom for further discussion. This provides an opportunity to see the pragmatic application of various theories as well as an environment in which they can hear and learn from each others’ experiences. The same occurs with their mathematics course and often includes small group instruction.
For these additional clinical opportunities teacher candidates work in small teams so that they can co-observe, co-teach and co-reflect on their experiences. The teacher candidate’s science methods course has been significantly redesigned as a result of the partnership. It was discovered through post-course survey data and focus groups that teacher candidates struggled with inquiry based instruction. Specifically, getting students to ask meaningful questions. In analyzing teacher candidate lesson plans we also discovered that while they could define inquiry based instruction, what we saw evidenced in their lesson plans did not fully meet the definition of inquiry. As a result, the methods course now includes specific supports around both teacher questioning and how to encourage student questioning, dialogue and collaboration. Teacher candidates also reported needing more modeling of inquiry so the science methods course now includes an activity each week where the course instructor models an inquiry based lesson which is followed by a debrief and deconstruction of the lesson. Teacher candidates work in teams of 4 where they co-plan a 4-week science unit. Each week they alternate between co-teaching the lesson and co-observing their peers teaching a lesson. This model allows them to serve as peer coaches and conduct video reflections and analysis of their teaching. Their science methods course concludes with the candidates planning, coordinating and leading a Family Science Night. This event has become one of the most successful family events at the schools with over 900 participants across the 2 school sites. This has provided an excellent opportunity for the teacher candidates to serve as leaders and to see their impact on family and community.
Another component to the Partnership includes the purposeful integration of technology. Through a variety of private funding sources the university has been able to provide approximately 200 iPads including peripheral hardware and software to the current elementary sites. Professional development has served as a critical vehicle for supporting classroom teacher and teacher candidate application of technology throughout their instruction. Professional development has been provided by university faculty in both whole group and grade level settings and has also included grade level team participation in external trainings and conferences that have been supported through school district funds. The school district invested in this focus by providing additional infrastructure support at both school sites to ensure ample bandwidth and internet accessibility. Teacher candidates are provided with an iPad at the beginning of their program and they are expected to incorporate the use of technology throughout their experiences. In alignment with ITSE standards is reinforced that it is not about the device or the tool, it is about the meaningful integration of technology that encourages 21st Century Skills. Excellent teaching focuses on curriculum and instruction and technology is just one component. Our candidates have participated in The Hour of Code at the elementary school sites with along with various course readings has helped to reinforce the importance of computer science in the preparation of students who will be career and college ready.
In 2014 the partnership expanded to include a voluntary after school STEAM component. This 10-week experience provides teacher candidates with additional field based experiences at 5 Federally funded Title I school sites. Teacher candidates use an informal engineering curriculum as the basis for creating weekly STEAM lessons within the after school setting. Typically, the after school program consists of homework support and remediation so this partnership component provides an enrichment opportunity for over 150 elementary students (50% girls) that are currently underrepresented in STEAM fields. Our candidates leave feeling better prepared to teach STEAM and elementary students are exposed to STEAM curriculum with the sole purpose of increasing their confidence, aptitude and interest in STEAM.
Another critical component to this partnership is ongoing reflection and assessment. The leadership team meets frequently, surveys classroom teachers and teacher candidates and creates an action plan according to site based needs as well as responding to current research and change in state standards and requirements.
Areas Addressed below:
- A description of the evaluation process and outcomes that includes: research questions informed by and situated within the literature; an analysis of findings that are contextualized within the particular community/ district/ school/ classroom needs and the discipline; implications that illustrate the practical ways in which the project shaped or is shaping lived realities for the better; directions for future work.
- Demonstration of the quantitative and/or qualitative impact of the project. A clear impact on a district/community partner is required. These could include letter from partners, data collected, etc.
The leadership team knew instantly that this partnership was having a positive impact on both teacher candidates and practicing teachers. Classroom teachers informally reported how being able to observe how their students were more engaged during inquiry based lessons changed their approach to teaching science. Teachers began asking for professional development opportunities and university faculty provided trainings and support. When analyzing California State Test data in 2013 it was noted that the 5th grade science achievement rose from 25% proficient to 49% proficient (see appendix for raw data A.1.2).
The partner schools shared that their attendance rates have increased to a daily average of 98% and their “Open House” event was better attended than any other past year. The principal stated that he attributed some of this increase to the implementation of technology across all classrooms. He noted that as he went from classroom to classroom at Open House the majority of the teachers had their iPads being used by their elementary students teaching their families what they use the iPads for in class (see appendix for raw data A.1.2).
In 2014 one of the elementary school sites became the first and only Title I school in the district to pass the CELDT test and in 2015 that same school site, Elementary, earned their first awards in 50 years. They earned the Golden Bell Award and were also recognized as a Gold Ribbon School (see appendix for raw data A.1.2).
The District honored the leadership team with their “You are the Advantage” award in 2014. This award is given to people or organizations that have had a positive impact within their schools or district.
In spring 2015 the director from CSUF was able to take the assistant principal to the site of another partnership we have with X School in a X school district.. X school has been participating in a No Excuses campaign for several years in an effort to promote college preparedness. Each classroom adopts a university and wears their shirts on Fridays. The premise is that teachers begin talking about college and helping all of their students to see college as a possibility. As a result of this visit, the school became a No Excuses school. In Fall 2016 they had a local resident and alumni of a major university visit the kindergarten class that had adopted his university. During the visit he committed to paying for 4 years of a college education for each of the students in that kindergarten class.
The College of Education and the Department of Elementary and Bilingual Education at California State University Fullerton are committed to this partnership. The data analysis each year is providing evidence that there is substantial benefit to our teacher candidates. In looking at the most recent data three themes emerged from the analysis of lesson plans, peer observation forms, group discussion forms, and individual written reflections (see appendix A.1.2):
- Personal Growth
- Increased confidence to facilitate inquiry
- More sophisticated understanding of inquiry
- Nature of teacher questions changed over time
- Intentional planning (detailed, conceptual focus)
- Assessing Student Learning
- Increased focus on student conceptual understanding
- Evaluation and lesson objective alignment
Areas Addressed below:
- Evidence of dissemination activities and feedback from stakeholders must be included. Dissemination may be accomplished in various ways, including formal presentations to partnership groups and reports for partners.
Effective dissemination is essential in order to make sure that the results are
well-tailored to the needs to the school and school district. To this end, a dissemination plan has been developed and will also served and serves as internal communication including dialog with stakeholders and end users. The dissemination strategy/activities followed the principles and best practices successfully tested in other projects:
- All public results will be accessible from the project website and sent to all parties who may benefit from them.
- The reports will refer to other research projects and build on the existing results and literature.
- Research will be conducted following sound analysis and scientific practice principles, taking into account as much as possible policy requirements and needs.
- All people who will contribute to the project activities, for example by taking part in public surveys or expert interviews, will be duly informed about the final outcomes and the implications stemming from project results.
- All research results/reports will be duly reviewed and a copy will be sent to relevant partners involved in the project before these are published or disseminated.
Dissemination activities and exploitation of the results of the project will be
implemented through well-targeted mechanisms. Three main dissemination lines will be: (1) Internet communication; (2) Reports; (3) Events and
Networks. All three lines will address the three main target groups (the academic and school communities and, the general public). The partnership will regularly publish news releases and provide updated information on the project in order to ensure inclusion of teachers, parents, CSUF members, and district administrators. Each partner is committed to produce news releases about the results of, or activities related to, this work All press releases will be published on the project website. In addition, we will have a public event once every two years.
As part of the partnership we have intentionally set up monthly meeting with all teachers, the principal and other district personnel. We have made decision together on how to dissemination the information. Here are the ways in which this work has been disseminated thus far:
- COE Website (link)
- District Website (link)
- Community Engaged Report 2015 (appendix A.3.1)
- OC Register article (appendix A.3.2)
- iSTEM Showcase with CSUF (appendix A.3.3)
- Report to District and Board (written and presentation) (Appendix A.3.4)