January 6, 2009

College training affects K-12 teaching

How science teachers are taught and how post-secondary educators are retained on staff are affecting science education in grades K-12, a U.S. study indicates.

A study of the California State University system indicates nearly 40 percent of its science faculty with education specialty positions was seriously considering leaving the job, highlighting potential national trends, Nancy Pelaez, a Purdue University associate professor of biological sciences, said in a news release.

A CSU and Purdue research team that evaluated science faculty with education specialties suggested job satisfaction could improve with increased training opportunities, reduced professional isolation and improved academic infrastructure. The findings were published in Science magazine.

There are likely similarities in the career dynamics for faculty with interests in education at institutions throughout the nation, Pelaez said. Faculty members who specialize in science education are a growing number.

She said positions are particularly important as the nation faces a shortage of students pursuing degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The model of seeding university science departments with faculty who are trained in educational methodology and approaches shows promise for retaining more science majors, Pelaez said, and developing approaches to reform science education at the K-12 level.