August 22, 2008

Improving Urban Earth Science Education: The TRUST Model

By Macdonald, Maritza Sloan, Heather; Miele, Eleanor; Powell, Wayne; Silvernail, David; Kinzler, Rosamond; Hong, Julia; Simon, Carmen

ABSTRACT TRUST, or Teacher Renewal for Urban Science Teaching, is a National Science Foundation funded Earth science teacher preparation partnership between the American Museum of Natural History and Brooklyn and Lehman Colleges of the City University of New York. Our research and practice form a promising and replicable model for formal-informal partnership between teacher education programs and science-rich institutions such as museums, zoos, and botanical gardens. The model takes a problem-based approach to urban teacher shortages by focusing on the knowledge required for Earth science teacher certification. The initiative included two types of participants, teachers seeking Earth science certification and teacher leaders/school administrators seeking to improve science instruction in their schools. Key features of the model included new college-based courses that focus on Earth systems science and urban Earth science investigation and a two week museum-based summer institute emphasizing essential questions, interactions with scientists, and approaches to science teaching outside the classroom. The overall findings after four-years of implementation, action research, and external evaluation indicate that the model successfully provides timely and relevant approaches to partnership that complex urban situations require.


Most metropolitan urban settings in the United States are home to large scientific institutions; to city, state, and private colleges that prepare teachers; and to large numbers of science-impoverished classrooms. Often a shortage of qualified science teachers, particularly Earth science teachers, also exists. Data on urban teacher retention and student performance clearly show that successful preparation, induction, and retention of science teachers for an urban setting require more than just traditional teacher education (New York City Education Department (NYCED), 2002). In 2002, all of these statements applied to New York City (NYC) and its very large urban school system (NYCED, 2002).

At the conception of this project in 2002, Brooklyn and Lehman Colleges of the City University of New York (CUNY) were in the midst of redesigning their programs in response to revised New York State (NYS) and National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) standards. Prior to 2002, teacher education students from the two colleges participated routinely in professional development activities at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), but these activities did not count towards their formal degree programs. The curriculum redesign process underway at the colleges represented an unparalleled opportunity to infuse museum scientific expertise and resources into their formal teacher preparation degree programs. Until this time, AMNH professional development activities generally focused on enhancing the formal preparation of individual teachers, but now the museum was looking for systemic ways to respond to recommendations made in reports from several national committees convened to assess the state science education in the US (e.g., National Commission on Mathematics and Science Teaching for the 21st Century (NCMST), 2000; National Commission on Teaching and America's Future (NCTAF), 1997; National Research Council (NRC), 1996). These reports stressed the importance of informal settings such as museums in science instruction. That same year, a National Science Foundation (NSF) solicitation for proposals to improve urban science teacher education through formal-informal institutional partnerships created the conditions for the colleges and the museum to envision a new way of preparing Earth science teachers. In 2003, with the award of four years of NSF funding, the TRUST project began.

TRUST provides a problem-based model for integration off ormal and informal teacher education that addresses the following aspects of urban science teaching:

* helping science teachers and schools take full advantage of the resources that exist in institutions charged with scientific research, dissemination of scientific knowledge, and education of the public, such as museums, botanical gardens, aquaria, parks, and zoos;

* redesigning programs and policies in urban science teacher education and informal science education institutions by using a problem-based and policy-driven approach to program design, teaching implementation, and research;

* creating alliances that make new educators comfortable with teaching and learning in a variety of contexts right from the beginning of their teacher preparation experience.

Objectives for the four-year funded period included project design and implementation; recruitment, induction and certification of 90 new Earth science teachers, recruitment and induction of 30 school administrators; development of a community network of science teachers; ana the sustainable integration of formal and informal teacher education. Project design and curriculum development involved representatives from all stakeholder groups and maintained a critical focus on the knowledge base required of certified Earth Science teachers in New York State (NYS) (foundations of scientific inquiry, space systems, atmospheric systems, geological systems, and water systems). At the same time the investigators focused on the following key research questions:

* What changes in policy are necessary to allow new and novice teachers and their schools access to research scientists, collections, and resources available at the museum?

* How can formal and informal institutions collaborate to select, prepare and support new science teachers through degree program completion, certification, and their first years of teaching and to support effective teaching in informal settings?

* How can collaborative research record institutional changes in policy, practice, and instruction occurring at the three partner institutions as a result of the TRUST project's problem solving approach and how can this research be used to develop the project as a replicable model?

Essential to the project's success was the support and long-term commitments of key individuals at the museum, the colleges and the NYCED. For example, the college administrators from the provosts and deans to department chairs and program directors supported the initiative by serving on steering committees, attending discussion sessions, promoting the initiative on their respective campuses, and supporting tuition waiver requests for participants. At the museum, the vice president for education, a team of scientists, and the directors of professional development and online instruction strongly believed in the concept and their ability to make the AMNH dimension of the program a core part of museum's work. Development of the initiative within and between the partner institutions evolved into a combination of two separate but complementary teacher development cultures that expand teachers' opportunities to learn and teach Earth science in and outside formal programs and curriculum. The following sections describe the theoretical context of the initiative, the local educational context, goals of the project model, project design, and the preliminary findings from external and internal evaluations. The final sections address institutionalization and replication of the model, future research directions and our conclusions.


TRUST was inspired by a crisis in Earth science instruction in NYC schools and the lack of certified teachers to address it. This crisis was exemplified in Bronx where the number of student who took the Earth science NYS Regents' Exam in 2001, the year before funding was sought for this project, was less than half of the number of student who took the physics exam, less then a quarter of the number of students who took the chemistry exam and less than a tenth of the number of students who took the biology exam (NYSED, 2002). The pass rate for the Bronx students on the Earth science exam was dramatically lower than that in the other science disciplines. With a service population of nearly 200,000 students, Bronx schools employed only 6 certified Earth science teachers in 2001 (NYSED, 2002).

Following publication of the NCTAFs "What Matters Most (1997), the museum met with deans from private and public NYC universities to identify ways in which the museum could help affect NCTAF recommendations for science teacher preparation reforms and reduce the retention crisis occurring in NYC schools. The outcomes of these discussions included collaborations with three Teachers for a New Era programs, credit-bearing graduate level museum-based and online course offerings, and initiation of educators' institutes. While these early relationships between AMNH and higher education institutions initiated measures aimed at science teacher education reform, they did not include development, institutional commitments, and changes required for sustained partnerships. Professional literature on informal science learning reinforced the findings of various national committee reports, recommending pedagogical and instructional approaches that highlight personal interest; multiple modalities of understanding such as exhibitions and objects; and interactivity with phenomena or technology (Hein and Alexander, 1998; Bransford et al., 1999; Bybee, 2001; Paris, 2002). Researchers also called for improvement of scientific literacy through inclusion of informal science learning approaches in the fulfillment of accountability measures such as teacher certification requirements, student learning standards, and high stakes student assessment (Bybee, 2001; FaIk, 2001). The report of the NCMST (2001), "Before it is too late," stressed the importance of intensive summer institutes that focused on content and work with scientists. Recommendations made in national science technology engineering and mathematics policy reports (e.g., NCMST, 2000; NCTAF, 1997; NRC, 1996) and the professional literature informed many of the decisions made during design of the museum-based summer institute and college- based-courses. Decisions on instructional approach were influenced by "How People Learn" (Bransford et al., 1999), the focus on essential questions proposed by Wiggins and McTighe (1998) in "Understanding by Design", and Chin and Chia's (2004) work on the use of student questions to drive problem-based learning. The 2001 No Child Left Behind Act, which focused only on literacy and math, leaving the sciences for later, provided further motivation to makes sure that the sciences were not "left behind". Figure 1. Schematic of TRUST model components.


The Problem: Shortage of Certified Earth Science Educators and Poor Student Performance - The NYSED statistics available as this project was conceived in 2002 indicated that of the 474 people teaching Earth science in NYC schools, only 10 had Earth science certification (NYCED, 2002). In addition, the situation was compounded by the overall shortage of qualified teachers. Of the 3,953 science teachers, 24% were over 55 and eligible for retirement. Approximately 70% of temporarily licensed and retiring science teachers would have to be replaced by fall 2004 to meet new state certification regulations (NYSED, 2003). During the three years prior to 2002, the local board of education had attempted to alleviate teacher shortages by recruiting recent graduates, career changers, and teachers from other countries. Most of these recruits lacked teaching experience, but were placed directly into classrooms prior to receiving formal teacher preparation.

The scarcity of adequately prepared science teachers was particularly severe in the Bronx and Brooklyn, the regions served by Lehman and Brooklyn Colleges, with the worst shortages in areas of lowest socioeconomic status. According to the 2000 Census, the Bronx has the highest proportion of children, 29.82%, of all the counties in the state. Only 7.12% of these children are identified as non- Hispanic White (Bosworth, 2000). Brooklyn is the largest borough in the city with a population of nearly 2.5 million. Children constitute 26% of its population, with 27% of them identified as non- Hispanic White. Thus, the vast majority of children in the areas served by the two colleges belong to groups that are underrepresented in math, science, and technology professions. In addition, as of September 4, 2002, 12 high schools and 8 middle schools in these boroughs were classified as "Schools Under Review" by the Office of the Chancellor for Education as a result of poor academic achievement (NYCED, 2002). The need for better science instruction in Brooklyn and the Bronx is further corroborated by data from the state-wide exams in 2000 and 2001, which showed poor performance in Earth Science relative to Biology, Chemistry, and even Physics, the subject thought of as the most challenging. NYSED reports also indicated that fewer students were taking the Earth Science exam in order to fulfill graduation requirements. It is not clear whether this is due to reduced offering of Earth science classes because of the lack of qualified teachers or the "weeding" out of students not expected to pass the exam.

The Partners: Two Teacher Education Programs and a Science-Rich Institution - Historically, the mission of the CUNY colleges has been to educate the children of immigrants, minorities, and other disadvantaged groups, acculturating them to the academy and bringing them into the mainstream of society. Brooklyn College's Graduate Program in Childhood Education specializes in Science and Environmental Education for grades K-4 and 5-9. Lehman College's Masters of Science in Science Education Program prepares science teachers for middle and high school (grades 7-12) certification.

Since it first opened to the public over 130 years ago, AMNH has been involved in teacher education. With its dual mission of research and education, its rich collections of specimens and artifacts, exhibits and public programs, and staff of working scientists and educators, the museum meets a broad variety of education needs throughout the community. Prior to development of the TRUST program, museum professional development activities generally focused on individual teachers and operated parallel to existing structures in formal teacher education institutions. Professional development for teachers included 1-day workshops, week- long summer educators' institutes exhibit-based curriculum materials, but none of the programs were incorporated as credit- bearing required components within formal teacher preparation institutions.


An overview of the TRUST model is described here and summarized in Figure 1. Details of each of the model components are presented in the subsections which follow. The first year of the of the four- year grant-funded period was reserved for planning and partnership development. Although the project proposal contained the foundations of the model structure, it remained to finalize the details of logistical and curricular planning. New graduate level geology content courses for educators at each of the colleges were designed to be articulated with a 60-hour summer institute at the AMNH, followed by an additional 10 hours of AMNH lecture and activity series. TRUST participants received a stipend of $1,000 disbursed in increments upon completion of each of the project component requirements. This foundation structure was supplemented by additional resources from the museum: 3-hour content knowledge review sessions with AMNH scientist-educators for the Content Specialty Test required for NYS Earth Science Teacher Certification, Movable Museum visits to participants' schools, online learning seminars and resources, and participant access to a variety of AMNH resources and to the museum itself. In addition, participants were included in the growing TRUST network of Earth science educators through regular communication and gatherings. Former participants were to be enlisted as experts and incorporated into the Advisory Board. Participants were also reincorporated into project implementation in a variety of roles once they had completed the structured part of the program thereby creating a growing community of shared experience and expertise.

With a mandate to recruit and retain 90 teachers and 30 school/ teacher leaders during the four-year funded period, the specific objectives of the TRUST project were to:

* improve retention of new and novice teachers of Earth science;

* increase the number of certified Earth science teachers by facilitating and encouraging participants to obtain NYS teacher certification in Earth science within two years of enrolling in TRUST;

* improve the quality of Earth science instruction by enhancing teachers knowledge base, confidence, and curriculum development ability;

* improve the quality of Earth science instruction in informal settings by preparing teachers to access resources available in science-rich institutions;

* prepare school administrators/teacher leaders to affect changes in their schools to facilitate and enhance Earth science instruction;

* accomplish attitudinal, structural, and political changes within the partnership institutions to successfully address identified problems in urban science education; and

* document and evaluate the project's structure, procedures, and outcomes as an integrated replicable model.

Planning and Relationship Development Year - The planning year of the project focused on two core questions: What, in exact terms, is the problem? What can each of our institutions bring to the solution? This was a departure from the usual manner in which the various partnership institutions respond to teacher preparation needs. Typically, the partnership institutions, like most institutions involved in the preand in-service teacher education, take an institution-centered approach to addressing the problem; that is, they attempt to solve the shortage of highly qualified teachers by developing new content courses that are designed almost exclusively by academic content specialists and based largely on existing institutional resources. Although well intentioned, these courses many times become surveys of a discipline, and are not particularly responsive to teacher needs in providing standards- based classroom instruction.

TRUST used a different approach to this problem, one that put the problem at the center by defining and directly addressing the issues faced by NYC Earth science teachers and students. The project staff began the problem-based program design by answering a set of programmatic questions. These were: (1) What do NYC students need to know about Earth science to meet state standards; (2) What do teachers need a deeper knowledge or in order to become certified in Earth science teaching and to help students meet the state standards; and (3) How can the partnership design a program that increases teacher depth of Earth science content knowledge and pedagogical knowledge? In addition to curriculum and logistical planning, the one-year design period was also used to develop a strong documentation and evaluation component, a feature typically lacking in formal-informal partnerships prior to TRUST. One of the first organizational steps taken was the creation of an Advisory Board that was made up of stake holders: members of the NYCED, deans from the colleges, and, in particular, experienced teachers. The Advisory Board met at intervals throughout the project to hear of its progress and evolution, to offer feedback and to suggest future directions. A subgroup of the Advisory Board along with the investigators and the external evaluator carried out detailed design of the summer institute. The college investigators were responsible for design of the courses at their respective institutions.

The initiative required development of acceptance and integration at each of the partnership institutions. The planning period allowed for multiple meetings between the partnership personnel, which included college faculty, museum educators, museum scientists, school principals, and experienced teachers - all of whom enthusiastically focusecT on increasing the number of certified and highly qualified Earth science teachers and improving Earth science instruction in NYC schools. The investigators worked together and within their respective institutions to determine how best to integrate informal science education at the museum with formal teacher education programs and college policies. Ultimately, each partner took on the role it played best, but did so within the construct of the partnership: The museum maintained its role as resource- and experience-rich content provider by identifying and involving museum scientists and by presenting research on learning in museums to enhance participants' experiences with scientists, objects, exhibitions, visualizations, and a variety of technologies. The colleges played their established role as accredited degree granting institutions with state-approved teacher certification programs focusing on Earth science content and science education in formal settings. Cross-over of personnel between formal and informal institutions existed in both directions: AMNH educators were reviewed, approved, and hired as CUNY adjunct professors so that credit bearing courses offered by the colleges could be taught at the museum by museum instructors. Lehman and Brooklyn College faculty involved in the project were museum research associates in various disciplines, having been approved by the AMNH Senate. Cross over between the natural sciences and education also existed within institutions as exemplified by the following:

* the Lehman College investigators is a geoscientist who at the time was a faculty member in the Division of Education and the director of the science education program;

* one of the Brooklyn College investigators, a geoscientist with formal training in science education, is a faculty member of a geoscience department and has a history of close collaboration with the Brooklyn College School of Education;

* the other Brooklyn College investigators is a science educator and faculty member in the School of Education who originally studied and worked as a biologist;

* the AMNH investigators, director of AMNH professional development at the time, has extensive experience in urban teacher education and research.

Logistical coordination between the partner institutions was also required. At the museum, investigators and scientific staff worked on redesigning the focus and scheduling of lectures to meet content requirements and college and teacher schedules, created opportunities and found funding for TRUST participants to be included in other museum professional development activities, provided college faculty with museum access, and reassigned museum staff time for museum-based support and mentoring of teachers and their students. At the colleges, investigators completed program redesign and submission for state and NCATE accreditation, shepherded new course curricula through a complex university and state approval process, and oversaw programming and scheduling of the new courses. Towards the end of the first year, with the majority of the planning in place, the investigators turned to participant recruitment.

Participants - Two categories of participants were recruited from the high-need, urban schools of NYC: science teachers and experienced teachers leaders/school administrators.

Each college had a recruitment and retention target of 15 teachers per year for a total of 90 teachers for the grant funded period of the project. The majority of participants were drawn from the pool of in-service and pre-service teachers enrolled in the colleges' degree programs who were seeking Earth science certification. The master's degree candidates come from diverse racial, cultural, and linguistic communities. Nearly half were newly recruited career changers with little or no experience in teaching. Some were educated in the very schools in which they teach. Many come from countries and cultures similar to those of their students and are commonly members of minority groups typically under- represented in scientific professions. Many are bilingual and have significant life experience valuable for teaching in this context.

Both colleges participate in alternative route to certification programs that address the urgent need for trained and certified teachers. Lehman College also directed recruitment efforts towards Bronx middle and high school science programs, seeking teachers who had already completed a degree in science education and who were interested in professional development leading to certification in a second subject area.

The museum recruited and selected approximately 10 educators per year with experience as science teacher leaders, administrators, and school counselors with the goal of recruiting and retaining 30 leadership participants for the funded period. The decision to recruit these leadership participants was based on prior research that found that teachers often wanted to use museums as instructional settings, but school administrators were reluctant to consider such trips as academic experiences even when teachers had planed curriculum-integrated visits with pre- and post-visit activities (Dhingra et al., 2006). The leadership group participants were recruited from three distinct contexts: middle school teachers doing scientific investigations that use resources at informal institutions, a group of newly created small high schools in which there is generally only one or two science teachers who perforce became leaders, and districts serving large populations of English language learners.

College-based Courses - Two of the college investigators developed new graduate level geology and Earth systems science courses at their respective colleges, submitting them for evaluation and approval following the university and state protocols for new courses. The courses were designed specifically for teachers, with a focus on pedagogy and modeled instructional practices that teachers could emulate in their classrooms. Modeling of pedagogic practices was integrated into content teaching at multiple levels in order to establish a well-defined pedagogical content knowledge model of instruction as proposed by Darling-Hammond and Bransford (2005) in "Preparing teachers for a changing world: What teachers should learn and be able to do." In addition to the content courses described above, new variable-credit graduate level independent study courses in geology were created at each college through which students could receive credit for the TRUST Summer Institute for Earth and Space Science and the Fall Lecture Series.

Table 1. New course development in the context of the TRUST project.

Each of these courses was approved by the CUNY Board of Trustees and the NYS Board of Regents and instated in the course bulletins of the colleges. They continue to be offered on a regular basis as part of the sustained legacy of the TRUST project. Course titles, brief descriptions, and the essential questions upon which the courses are based appear in Table 1.

Museum-Based Summer Institute - The AMNH Summer Institute for Earth and Space Science provided 60 hours of museum-based instruction over a period of 2 weeks for each of the three TRUST cohorts. The summer institute was designed as a structured blending of content and pedagogy utilizing and modeling research-based best practice for learning in informal museum settings (Hein and Alexander, 1998). The content and structure of curriculum design were anchored to the five content areas required by the NYS Content Specialty Test in Earth science (NYSED, 2003), the National Science Education Standards (National Research Council, 1996), and NYS learning standards (NYSED, 1996): foundations of scientific inquiry, space systems, atmospheric systems, geological systems, and water systems. AMNH instructors for the institute included six curators and a team of four science educators. Together with college faculty and several members of the Advisory Board, they developed ten essential questions to engage participants in the range of content required for Earth science teacher certification (Table2). The first week focused on space science and the second on Earth science with a different essential question addressed each day.

Table 2. AMNH summer institute for earth and space science essential questions.

Close collaboration between scientists and teacher educators at AMNH led to a careful balance of lectures, classroom activities, behind the scenes laboratory and collections explorations, field expeditions, exhibition tours and in-depth exhibition explorations. Teacher participants were grouped by age/grade level taught and assigned a grade level specific museum educator mentor. These mentors remained accessible to teachers throughout the following school year and beyond. In addition, a variety of media and interactive resources made remotely available through the AMNH website were integrated throughout the institute. Participant were introduced to these web-based resources in the course of the AMNH summer institute and many made use of them for curriculum planning. AMNH scientists and educators joined participants for meals and other informal discussions in order to facilitate continued interaction. Participants kept journals and regular reflections meetings were scheduled to monitor comprehension and ensure integration of content as they progressed throughout the two weeks. The leadership group participated in the summer institute with the teachers' group in the mornings to solidify Earth science content knowledge and create community. In the afternoon they attended a seminar on program evaluation, national and local science policy, and grant-writing. The key museum exhibitions used for instruction were the Rose Center for Earth and Space, the Cullman Hall of the Universe, the Gottesman Hall of Planet Earth, the Hall of Meteorites, and the Millstein Hall of Ocean Life. Continuing Museum- based Activities - An additional 10 hours of museum-based activities and instruction consisting of scientific lectures, field trips to the museum with students, and visits to schools by the Astrophysics Moveable Museum vehicle were scheduled throughout the school year following each summer institute. AMNH educators were available to answer questions and provide additional museum resources via internet and telephone throughout the year. Prior to Earth science content certification exams, a museum educator held review sessions which were highly valued by project participants.

Program Evaluation - Evaluation of the program and its implementation was carried out by external evaluator with expertise in teacher education at the national level. The evaluation was designed to assess effectiveness and impacts of the model through its components and activities and the participants' experiences as well as that of instructors, investigators and scientists. The program underwent formative evaluation and revision at the end of each course and institute. The external evaluator follows participants over a period of three years subsequent to their enrollment in TRUST. Short-term certification and graduation rates of participants and changes that participants implement within their schools during the first two years following participation in TRUST were tracked by the investigators. In addition, the investigators conducted individual and collaborative action research projects focusing on the program development, instruction within its various components, implications of institutional change, and teacher retention in the subject and in NYC. Findings of these independent lines of research will be published separately.

With the shortage of certified Earth science teacher in NYC as the primary problem addressed by the TRUST project, an evaluation logic model was utilized in assessing the effectiveness and impacts of the project components and activities (Figure 2). The external evaluation logic model identifies the input components as the formal teacher education programs at the colleges, museum resources, and NYC teachers and school/teacher leaders. Effectiveness of the TRUST model was assessed in terms of participant professional development by collecting evidence at Key points: college-based content courses, museum-basea summer institute, ongoing (post-TRUST) professional development activities, and ongoing museum-college collaboration. Short term impacts of the project were evaluated by examining changes in schooling contexts as measured by reported change in classrooms, schools, school-initiated professional development, and changes within the partnership institutions. Long term impacts on Earth science knowledge and skills ofNYC students were beyond the scope of this project, but investigators intend to monitor these impacts in future years. Evaluation instruments and documentation methods include surveys, individual and group interviews, observations, participant-generated documents such as journals and assignments, curriculum and assessment materials for the college- based courses and the museum-based summer institute.

Table 3. Effective evidence: college-based content courses.

Table 4. Effectiveness evidence: museum-based summer institute.

Table 5. Effectiveness evidence: ongoing museum contact and professional development.


The preliminary findings of the external evaluation are summarized in terms ofthe TRUST model's effectiveness on participant professional development and short term impacts on schooling context. Data collection on the long term impacts on student performance and some short term impacts is ongoing so that these findings are not yet available. Individual items and response percentages for the surveys used in the external evaluation appear in Tables 3, 4, 5, and 6. Also presented are data on participant retention and certification and evidence collected in longitudinal studies of individual participants.

Model Effectiveness: Professional Development Effectiveness of the model was gauged by the reported impact it had on aspect of professional development of the participants: content knowledge base, pedagogic practice in both classroom and informal settings, confidence in knowledge and practice, and professionalism or membership in a profession. These impacts were measured at specific stages as the participant progressed through the program thereby assessing the efficacy of each program components.

College-based Courses - Participants reported increased content knowledge and that they felt more confident and better prepared to teach Earth science after completing the college-based courses (Table 3). They also reported having learned how to use the city, museums, and other informal resources and that they hoped to emulate teaching strategies modeled by the course instructors. The content courses were found to be good preparation for the Summer Institute. The courses received high overall ratings and rating for most items increased from 2005 to 2006 indicating improvement in course design and instructional technique in response to formative evaluation.

Museum-based Summer Institute - Participants tended to describe their museum learning experience as stimulating, rewarding, and enjoyable (Table 4). The vast majority reported meeting research scientists as the most intellectually satisfying part of the institute and all participants agreed that learning and interacting with museum scientists helped improve their teaching. Ongoing professional development and ongoing contact with museum mentors was rated as very important or important.

Table 6 Impact evidence: schooling context.

Figure 2. External evaluation logic model.

Participant Use of the Museum as an Instructional Setting - Among the objectives of the TRUST project was to encourage use of informal science learning institution as instructional settings. Of those participants who have continued to teach, over 50% brought their students to AMNH to use the museum as a setting for Earth science instruction for the first time. Over 64% of the leadership group participants brought students on instructional trips to AMNH for the first time and over 25% brought teachers for field trips and/or professional development for the first time. These figures reflect the instructional use of only AMNH and do not take into account participant instructional use of other informal settings such as parks, zoos, or other museums.

Participant Role in Dissemination of the TRUST Project Model - Over the course of the four year funded period numerous presentations disseminating information about the TRUST project were made at several national and international professional organization conferences including ones in geosciences, teacher development, informal education, and science teaching research. TRUST participants attending national and international conferences accompanied by the investigators, further expanding their professional experience and career accomplishments. Many of these conference presentations and their accompanying proceedings publications included participants as presenters and coauthors. This experience increased their sense of professional identity and provided participants with opportunities to learn and interact with teachers and scientists outside their immediate communities. Interested participants also received funding support to join the National Science Teacher Association and will attend the spring 2008 conference in Boston.

Continued Connection to the Museum - Even after they had completed all requirements of the TRUST program, 35% of the 2004 and 2005 TRUST participants (teacher and leadership) continue to attend AMNH teacher professional development activities. Participants describe ongoing access to the museum as very helpful and express the desire to remain connected to the TRUST community (Table 5). TRUST participants have proven to be an excellent candidate pool for leadership roles in other AMNH professional development programs. One such program is Urban Advantage, a collaborative partnership led by AMNH that integrates the resources and expertise of eight of NYCs cultural institutions, for which 45% of the 2005 and 2006 TRUST leadership participants were selected. These former TRUST participants act as Lead Teachers within the Urban Advantage program, providing professional development in Earth science to large numbers of middle school teachers. Five of these Lead Teachers have improved science instruction at their schools, transforming them into Urban Advantage Demonstration Sites.

Ongoing Professional Growth of TRUST Participants - Several members of the leadership group have grown in the profession by enrolling in advanced degrees. Three have enrolled in science education doctoral programs for at Teachers College, Columbia University and the Graduate Center, CUNY. One TRUST participant, a 2007 graduate of CUNY Urban Education Doctoral Program, was recently hired as a faculty member of Teachers College. Two participants have become assistant principals whose schools use the museum extensively as an instructional setting and for teacher professional development. One participant who entered the TRUST program as an assistant principal has moved on to become Science Instructional Supervisor for the NYCED. Short Term Impact: Schooling Context - Although this initiative and its documentation focus on the development of a model for formal-informal partnership in teacher education and not specifically on classroom practice, evaluation is beginning to report changes in participants' classrooms and schools as well as in their careers. Short-term impacts on schooling context fall into four categories: classroom changes, school changes, professional development changes and university-museum changes. Because time is required for changes in schooling context take place over longer time periods, these impacts require collection of data for more than one to two year. The evidence discussed here and reported in Table 6 was collected from the 2005 cohort participants during 2005, 2006, and 2007.

Classroom changes reported by participants as resulting from their TRUST experience include feeling more confident to teach space and Earth science (95-100%). The majority described TRUST as good preparation for teaching content relevant to student tests and assessments and reported sharing their summer experiences with their students (79-100%). Reported impacts on pedagogic practice include use of essential questions to organize their teaching units and use of informal setting for instruction (78-98%). Participant also felt their TRUST experience had made them a better resource for other science teachers at their school and that their involvement in TRUST had improved their school's science program. Of the 30 leadership participants, 28 have reported and/or demonstrated increased offerings of NYS Regents Earth science courses at their schools. These changes in school structure make available to students the option of taking the NYS Regents Examination which may in turn result in more students earning Regents High School Diplomas, enhancing their eligibility to enter college.

Of particular note are the sustained impacts of TRUST on the schooling contexts. Typically, an intervention program, such as TRUST, has a substantial impact in the first year, followed by a decline in impacts in subsequent years. In this case, the impacts as evidenced by the survey data reported in Tables 3-6 were substantial in the first year and continued to be sustained, and in many cases, enhanced 2 to 3 years after completion of the program. Interviews with participants suggest these impacts continued because of the quality of the courses and summer institute, but also were directly attributable to the partners providing ongoing professional development opportunities for participants.

Retention and Earth Science Certification of TRUST Participants - Improving teacher retention in a high-need urban environment was a key objective of TRUST. Retention figures for all three cohorts reveal that 82% of all teacher participants and 91% of all leadership participants are still active in the NYCED school system. Retention rate for the 2004 cohort, the only cohort with a three years record since inception of the program, is 78%. This is relatively high compared to the 65% retention rates in the third year for NYC Teaching Fellows, a NYCED sponsored! alternative route to certification program (NYSED, 2004). Some TRUST teachers have left the city, but continue to teach, while others have left teaching altogether. Reasons given for leaving are generally personal and/or typical of urban settings, such as higher salaries offered in suburban districts or in other professions and access to affordable housing. Those who left NYC to teach elsewhere in NYS, continue to teach Earth science. Others (7%), although no longer in NYC public school classrooms, have continued in education careers, becoming faculty members in teacher education programs at local colleges, including Brooklyn College School of Education and Teachers College, Columbia University.

One of the goals of the TRUST program was to address the shortage of certified Earth science teachers. Of the 23 member 2004 teacher cohort, 44% are now certified in Earth science; all of them received this certification after participating in TRUST. The 2005 teacher cohort numbered 25, of whom 47% are certified in Earth Science; six members of this cohort were certified prior to entering TRUST. Because teacher certification by the NYSED requires that candidates to pass a content knowledge exam, we view the certification rate as an indicator that participants have met the standard for Earth science content knowledge set by NYSED. Whether this is directly related to participation in TRUST is debatable, however, 89-93% of participants report that their experience in the program did enhance their content knowledge (Table 3). The 2006 teacher cohort has only just completed TRUST so data collection concerning certification within two years is not yet available. Of those in the leadership group, 11 % of the 2004 cohort has attained Earth science subject area certification, 18% of the 2005 cohort, and so far 9% of the 2006 cohort. Those teachers who have remained active in the NYCED system, who have not yet attained Earth science teacher certification, are certified in other subject including biology, chemistry, general science, childhood and early childhood education (Common Branch).


Based on the outcomes of the four-year project and the continued need to recruit, prepare, and retain science teachers in NYC, the partners will continue to offer the college course-museum institute cycle every other year to students enrolled in the colleges' science education programs as well as to teachers seeking professional development and/or second subject certification in Earth science. In addition, Lehman College has institutionalized an AMNH-based curriculum development course entitled Museum as a Resource for Teaching Science, a required course in the Masters of Science in Science Education degree. Brooklyn College has received NSF funding to develop a new masters-level program for Earth science teachers in which each of the required courses include components at informal institutions. In addition to offering the TRUST Summer Institute for Earth and Space Science, AMNH is currently developing a Life Science Summer Institute with corporate funding. While tuition will cover the cost of course offerings at the colleges during the semester, raising funds to cover the cost of participants' summer stipends and tuition will continue to be a challenge. This funding will make it possible to serve greater numbers of teachers who commonly teach summer school or work summer jobs in order to supplement their income.

The TRUST model is replicable by partnerships prepared to take a problem-based approach and to entertain policy change that challenge status quo practices in order to solve instructional, recruitment, and retention problems. The model can also be used within institutions that wish to encourage collaboration between the natural sciences and education. Such collaboration is greatly enhanced when cross-pollination of personnel occurs. In the case of TRUST cross over of personnel already existed at the outset of the project, but willing faculty and engaged administrators could easily create similar structures. A possible third form of model replication could be aimed at teachers seeking second suDJect area certification. These teachers would benefit not only by amassing the required credits and experience for a second certification, but also by fulfilling the professional development requirement to maintain their existing certification status, currently 175 hours every five years in NYS.

Three areas of further research spring from the TRUST project:

* longitudinal study following a set of teacher participants to gage retention, career satisfaction, impact on formal state assessment of student performance, and incorporation of informal experiences;

* examination of the role of museums in long terms school change and teacher retention through study of a set of leadership participants; and

* a comparative study of different models of formal-informal partnerships for science teacher education as recommended by Borko (2004).


The model evaluation findings to date are very positive. Evidence indicates that participants from the 2004-5 cohort are seeking and attaining Earth science teacher certification (i.e. passing the NYSTCE Earth Science Content Specialty Test) within two years of entering TRUST. This is a clear indication that they are meeting the content knowledge standards set by the NYSED. Retention of TRUST participants in science education positions is significantly higher than non-TRUST participants, including those enrolled in alternative certification programs. Participants report learning deeper science content in the college-based courses and from their direct interactions with museum scientists as well as gaining more pedagogical content knowledge through their interactions with college and museum educators. Participants are using resources available in science-rich informal institutions for both curriculum development and as instructional settings. TRUST participants tend to maintain contact with AMNH, engaging in other professional development activities and programs. Some have demonstrated significant professional growth seeking and attaining higher degrees and professional positions. Within the schooling context, expansion and enhancement of Earth science instruction through change affected by TRUST leadership participants is being reported and documented. Within the partnership institutions a number of attitudinal, structural, and political changes have been accomplished in the course of building the TRUST model as a sustainable feature of each institution. The four college-based courses are fully instated and will continue to be offered. The museum has committed to continued offerings of the summer institute and requirements for completion of degree programs at the colleges now include museum-based courses taught by museum instructors. College and museum administrators have committed resources and continue to support the ongoing partnership. Museum educators report a deeper knowledge of the requirements for teacher certification and a better understanding of how to identify relevant resources at informal science-rich community institutions such as museums, parks and zoos. Scientists involved in the summer institute report a better understanding of what teachers need to know and be able to do as well as a greater appreciation and enthusiasm for science education.

By taking a problem-centered rather than institution-centered approach the TRUST partners invented a new and different model to help resolve the immediate problem of preparing more qualified teachers by forging a partnership that focused on content knowledge and instructional resource needs of teachers and students and the local context. Sustained access to museum resources and professional development activities and the purposeful building and maintenance of a learning community play an important role in the success of the model. Concerted involvement of educators and scientists in the project insured strong content-based pedagogy with a deep understanding of the science and the nature of science. In attaining its objectives, the TRUST project effectively responds to many of the recommendations made in national reports and the professional literature that call for science education reform. The success of TRUST in the complex urban context NYC teacher education (Boyd et al., 2006) distinguishes it a model worthy of replication in the movement to improve science teacher development (Wilson et al., 2001).


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Maritza Macdonald

American Museum of Natural History, Department of Education, Central Park

West at 79th Street, New York, NY 10024

Heather Sloan

Lehman College, City University of New York, Department of Environmental,

Geographic and Geological Sciences, Bronx, NY 10468,

[email protected]

Eleanor Miele

Brooklyn College, City University of New York, School of Education, and

Department of Geology, 2900 Bedford Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11210

Wayne Powell

Brooklyn College, City University of New York, School of Education, and

Department of Geology, 2900 Bedford Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11210

David Silvernail

University of Southern Maine, Center for Education Policy, Applied Research and

Evaluation, 37 College Avenue -117 Bailey Hall Gorham, ME 04038

Rosamond Kinzler

American Museum of Natural History, Department of Education and National

Center for Science Literacy, Education and Technology, New York, NY 10024

Julia Hong

American Museum of Natural History, Department of Education and National

Center for Science Literacy, Education and Technology, New York, NY 10024

Carmen Simon

New York City Education Department, Teachers' Preparatory School, 1550 E

New York Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11212

Copyright National Association of Geoscience Teachers May 2008

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