Teacher Preparation Models and Programs: Featured Projects

MAT PosterAn Innovative Approach to Earth Science Teacher Preparation: Uniting Science, Informal Science Education, and Schools to Raise Student Achievement (NSF #1119444)
PI: Maritza Macdonald | Co-PI(s): Ro Kinzler, Mordecai Mac Low, and Ed Mathez
Institution: American Museum of Natural History (AMNH)
Grade band(s): Middle-High
Location: New York, NY
Project website: https://www.amnh.org/learn-teach/master-of-arts-in-teaching

About the model:
The American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) has designed, implemented, researched, and evaluated the first five years of its museum-based Master of Arts in Teaching Earth Science Residency 712 program (AMNH MAT). The AMNH MAT is the first museum-based program in the U.S. that leads to the Earth Science 712 Initial/Professional Certificate in New York State (NYS). The program is in its sixth cohort of participants and has graduated 78 residents in its first five cohorts. The program is made possible through a NYS Race to the Top competitive innovation grant and there are multiple innovative features of the program, beginning with its location at AMNH. The program continues to grow with innovative design features, such as partnerships between the Museum’s education and science departments and partnerships with four residency public schools.

The 15-month program is distributed among four residencies, and students participate in two semester-long school residencies, with rotations between middle and high school settings, co-teaching with mentors in science, special education, and new English language learners. Students also participate in two Museum summer residencies, which consists of co-teaching adolescents at the Museum in summer 1 and conducting field and laboratory research with Museum scientists in summer 2. Co-teaching by scientists and educators is an instructional innovation that builds pedagogical content knowledge (PCK).

Key challenges this model responds to:
The AMNH MAT was designed to address the critical shortage of certified Earth science teachers in New York State and, in particular, New York City. Earth science has been a longstanding area of need, with shortages reported as far back as 1999 (U.S. Department of Education, 2014). During the 201011 school year, 39 percent of New York City Earth science teachers were not certified to teach in the area (NYSED, 2012). More broadly, as of 200607, 6.5 percent of science teachers in New York State and 16.5 percent of science teachers in New York City were not “highly qualified.” And as of 2011, the turnover rate of New York City science teachers was 6 percent compared to 3 percent for New York State—additional indicators of need (NYSED, 2011). For these reasons, the NYS Regents, through NYS Race to the Top innovation grants, offers the opportunity for institutions outside traditional teacher preparation institutions to submit for competition designs that respond to areas of high need.

The great demand for AMNH MAT graduates was clearly demonstrated by the fact that 31 of the 96 Earth science teachers hired by the New York City Department of Education in 2013 and 2014 were graduates from the AMNH MAT program’s first two cohorts (Office of Teacher Recruitment & Policy, NYCDOE). Statewide, AMNH graduates represent about 10 percent of all Earth science teachers graduating annually from traditional and alternative teacher preparation programs (based on latest data available from https://title2.ed.gov/Public/Home.aspx).

Research questions:
Key questions were designed to assess the program impacts in four different areas: (1) impacts of the program on the preparation of beginning Earth science teachers; (2) impacts of the program’s teacher graduates on the performance of their students; (3) impacts of the program on partnership schools; and (4) impacts of the MAT program on the Museum and its faculty and staff.

To assess the development, revisions, and impact of the program goals, the AMNH MAT has been evaluated in formative and summative reviews by the Center for Education Policy, Applied Research, and Evaluation at the University of Southern Maine. The quantitative research was conducted by New York University’s Institute for Education and Social Policy (NYU IESP), which studied the impact of AMNH graduates on the academic achievement of students they taught during the first two years, and a qualitative case study was focused on the instructional practices of graduates.

Emerging findings:
To date, the AMNH MAT Earth Science Residency Program has prepared 78 teachers certified to teach Earth science and middle school science in high-needs schools in New York State. 

Findings from our first two cohorts of graduates indicate that AMNH MAT’s retention rate is on par with, and even exceeds, the average retention rate reported by residency programs; it is certainly far above the national average for teachers prepared across all programs working in high-needs schools and teaching in subject areas for which there are teacher shortages.

  • 33 out of 36 graduates of the AMNH Earth Science Residency Program from the first and second cohorts, or 92 percent, have stayed in teaching for 3 or more years: 94 percent (31 out of 33) are currently teaching in high-needs schools; and ~80 percent (26 out of 33) are currently teaching in New York State.
  • Studies of teacher retention nationally find that around 20-30 percent of teachers leave the profession within the first five years (70-80 percent retention rate). However, attrition is even higher from high-needs schools and in subject areas for which there are teacher shortages.
  • Research specifically focused on residency programs finds higher retention rates, ranging from 80-90 percent in the same district after three years and 70-80 percent after five years.

In relationship to one of the main goals of the program, which is to provide students in New York State with greater access to Earth science education, data from New York City shows an increase in the number of students taking Earth science and the Earth Science Regents Exam in the schools that have hired AMNH MAT graduates.

  • The number of students taking the Earth Science Regents Exam in the hiring schools has increased ~13 percent between 2013 and 2016.
  • In some of the individual schools, we see increases as large as 50-70 more students taking the exam.

Research examining student outcome data indicates that students of AMNH MAT graduates are doing as well as students taught by other Earth science teachers with similar years of experience in New York City. AMNH MAT graduates teach a high percentage of students who qualify for free and reduced-price lunch; students of our graduates are also lower performing when they enter the Earth science course compared to students citywide.

We also see a positive trend in that more recent graduates have students that are passing the Earth Science Regents Exam at higher rates. Students of graduates from the 2nd and 3rd year of the program are between 6 and 11 percentage points more likely to pass the Earth Science Regents Exam at the 65 percent level than a group of similar students.


Conference Papers & Presentations:




MORE PosterModel of Research-Based Education (MORE) for Teachers (NSF #1119678)
PI: Daniel Hanley | Co-PI(s): Matthew Miller
Institution: Western Washington University
Grade band(s): Elementary
Location: Washington State


About the model:
The MORE for Teachers project developed and studied a professional development (PD) program to help elementary teachers effectively mentor preservice teachers in science.  An innovative aspect of the PD was that it was couched within the context of an elementary science practice course. The PD was specifically designed to increase cooperating teachers’ understanding of research-based elements of effective science instruction (Banilower, Cohen, Pasley, & Weiss, 2010), and develop their skills with facilitating learning-focused mentoring conversations (Lipton & Wellman, 2007) around the elements of effective science instruction. The effective science instruction framework and learning-focused conversations were both “student-centered”, and focused teachers’ observations and subsequent mentoring conversations on the extent to which the elementary students developed their understanding of the learning targets for the lessons and the factors that contributed or inhibited student learning. The program was longitudinal in nature and grounded in research on effective PD (Bradbury & Koballa Jr, 2008; Meyer, 2002). It was comprised of three cycles of PD, where each cycle included one university-based PD day, multiple opportunities for cooperating teachers to practice new mentoring strategies with the preservice teachers in their classrooms, and a school-based meeting for cooperating teachers to learn from each other’s mentoring experiences. Eighty-four teachers from six elementary schools participated in the PD program, which was coupled with an elementary science practicum course that provided the context for cooperating teachers to practice observing preservice teachers’ science lessons using the research-based framework and practice facilitating learning-focused mentoring conversations with preservice teachers following observations.

For more information about the MORE for Teachers project, please contact Dan Hanley at Daniel.hanley@wwu.edu.

Key challenges this model responds to:
Teaching science is a “complex, knowledge-intense undertaking” (Darling-Hammond, 2006, p. 301) that requires preservice teachers to bring together substantive understandings of science content and teaching pedagogy to support students’ learning (Smagorinsky, Cook, & Johnson, 2003). In order to support the complex process of learning to teach science, there are currently calls to increase opportunities for clinical practice in teacher preparation (Darling-Hammond, 2014; Field & Scoy, 2014; Goodwin, Roegman, & Reagan, 2016; Guha, Hyler, & Darling-Hammond, 2016; McDonald et al., 2014; NCTR, 2015). While cooperating teachers are uniquely positioned to support the clinical experiences of preservice teachers’ professional growth, the expertise they bring to mentoring candidates varies widely. Many elementary teachers, even those with “veteran” status, are not sufficiently prepared to teach science (Banilower et al., 2013) and “may not have mentoring expertise to guide effectively the preservice teachers’ learning in primary science education” (Hudson, 2007, p. 201). There is, therefore, a need for prospective science teachers/mentors to engage in PD that develops their understanding of the ways to teach science effectively and mentor novices into this important work.

Research questions:

  1. To what extent did the MORE for Teachers PD program increase cooperating teachers’ beliefs about effective science instruction and the quality of mentoring conversations?
  2. To what extent did participating in learning-focused mentoring conversations increase preservice teachers’ beliefs about effective science instruction?

Emerging findings:
We studied the impacts of the MORE for Teachers mentoring PD using a one-group, repeated-measures quasi-experimental research design (Shadish, Cook, and Campbell, 2002) that included pre/post-surveys of mentor teachers’ beliefs about effective science instruction, using the Teachers’ Beliefs about Effective Science Teaching (TBEST) survey (Smith, Smith, & Banilower, 2014). A paired-samples t-test between pre- and post-survey scores showed statistically significant increases (p<.05) in teachers’ beliefs about effective science instruction. 

We also analyzed pre/post transcripts of mentoring conversations between cooperating teachers and preservice teachers before and after the PD program.  We found that prior to the PD, teachers did most of the talking in mentoring conversations (65% of the conversation on average), assumed a “consulting stance” of telling the preservice teacher what they observed and what to do next (73% of conversation on average), and focused the conversation mostly on classroom management (46% of conversation on average). In conversations held after the PD, the talk was more evenly split between teachers and preservice teachers (55% teacher talk, 45% PST talk), teachers employed a “coaching stance” more frequently where they elicited information from the preservice teachers (25% Pre-PD to 51% Post-PD), and the conversations focused more on the elements of effective science instruction (35% Pre-PD to 52% Post-PD).

Additionally, we employed a quasi-experimental research design with an equivalent comparison group, and developed a two-level hierarchical linear regression (HLM) model, to examine the differences in preservice teachers’ beliefs about effective science instruction from the beginning to end of the practicum course for preservice teachers who participated in learning-focused mentoring conversations (N=73) compared to their peers in the practicum courses who did not participate in mentoring conversations (N=173).  Preservice teachers who were mentored showed significantly greater gains in the sophistication of their beliefs about effective science instruction, compared to their non-mentored peers. While the effect size was small (.1), this is impressive given the small intervention where preservice teachers participated in two, 15-minute learning focused mentoring conversations during their elementary science practicum course. 





Online Mentoring Program: In order to broadly disseminate the MORE for Teachers mentoring program, we have developed an online mentoring program that includes three, 15-minute mentoring modules. The modules feature engaging animations and authentic cases to highlight best practices in mentoring and giving feedback. They are designed to help teachers and administrators effectively mentor preservice teachers, novice teachers, or any teacher who wants to improve student learning in their classroom. The free, online mentoring modules will be available to the public, starting in August 2018, through a Western Washington University canvas website, and through the American Federation of Teachers’ Share My Lesson website.

VISTA PosterVideocases for Science Teaching Analysis Plus (ViSTA Plus): Efficacy of a Videocase-Based, Analysis-of-Practice Teacher Preparation Program (NSF #1220635)
PI: Chris Wilson | Co-PI(s): Molly Stuhlsatz
Institution: Biological Sciences Curriculum Study, Inc. (BSCS)
Grade band(s): Elementary–Middle
Location: Texas, New Mexico
Project website: https://bscs.org/bscs-vista-plus

About the model:
ViSTA Plus is a unique multi-year preservice teacher education program for elementary science designed around three fundamental principles:

  1. Teacher preparation should focus on the key skills and practices that will make a difference for student learning. In ViSTA Plus, those key skills are introduced through two lenses, or focus areas: student thinking and coherent instruction. Eighteen specific strategies bring these lenses to life in classroom practice. 
  2. Learning to teach science is most effective if it is focused on real classroom situations.  Classroom videos provide preservice teachers the opportunity to slow down the action of the classroom, focus on students’ ideas about science and how best to respond to student ideas, and develop skills using strategies that support student learning. 
  3. New teachers need a supportive environment to grow their knowledge and understanding of effective science teaching. The ViSTA Plus program begins with a video-based methods course focused on the two-lens framework. It continues with facilitated small learning teams, as new teachers analyze videos of themselves and their peers using the STeLLA strategies during their student teaching and first year in their own classroom.

This project uniquely studies preservice teachers beginning with their method’s course, and follows them through their student teaching year and into their first year as an in-service teacher.

Key challenges this model responds to:
As new teachers brace for the inevitable chaos of their first year in the classroom, hoping to maintain a sense of order, it’s easy to get sidetracked from what really matters—advancing student learning. In the ViSTA Plus program we learned that elementary teachers are eager and successfully able to develop effective practices, even as they are struggling with the challenges of first-year teaching.

Often, elementary teachers are daunted by the prospect of teaching science because of their own lack of content knowledge or negative experiences with science learning. In addition, preparing elementary teachers to teach science is frequently given a low priority amidst all the various topics needed for certification. Commonly, a single one-semester class addresses how to teach science. These courses cannot cover everything science elementary teachers are expected to know and lack a focus on the common but inaccurate ways students make sense of science ideas that get in the way of deeper science learning. 

The ViSTA Plus program addresses these challenges with a focused vision of effective science instruction designed to support new teachers as they deepen their own understanding of key science concepts and learn strategies to notice and respond to student thinking. Preservice teachers learn to make connections to key science concepts and move beyond thinking of science as a series of fun hands-on activities to understanding how students can make sense of the world and their experiences with fundamental science ideas. 

Research questions:

  1. What gains do teachers in the ViSTA Plus program and “business-as-usual” program experience in science content knowledge, pedagogical content knowledge (PCK), and science teaching practice?
  2. What gains do elementary students of teachers in the ViSTA Plus and “business-as-usual” groups experience in knowledge of science content?

Emerging Findings:

  1. Teacher learning
    Teachers in the ViSTA Plus group had significantly higher gains on all outcomes than students in the business-as-usual (BAU) group. These differences were evident at the end of the methods course, and were still present at the end of the student teaching experience. The effect sizes between the ViSTA Plus and BAU groups are shown below.

a. Science Content (measured using a multiple-choice assessment):
        i.      Post methods course effect size = 0.80, p<.001
       ii.      Post student teaching effect size = 0.76, p<.003
b. Teacher Reasoning (measured using constructed response items):
        i.      Post methods course effect size = 0.85, p<.001
       ii.      Post student teaching effect size = 0.45, p<.114
c. Teacher PCK (measured using a classroom video analysis task):
        i.      Post methods course effect size = 1.68, p<.001
       ii.      Post student teaching effect size = 0.74, p<.012
d. Teacher practice (measuring via analysis of classroom video):
        i.      Post student teaching effect size = 2.02, p<.01

Of particular note, as shown in the graph below, the teachers in the ViSTA Plus significantly increased their science PCK during their methods course, whereas significant growth was only seen in the comparison BAU group after student teaching. This finding speaks to the value and importance of bringing classroom video and associated structured video analysis into science methods courses.

2. Student learning
Students of student teachers in both the ViSTA Plus and BAU groups increased in their understanding of grade-level science concepts. However, the students of preservice teachers in the ViSTA Plus group had significantly greater gains after instruction, effect size = 0.38, p<.01. This finding demonstrates that not only is the ViSTA Plus program developing teachers with higher content knowledge and PCK, but that the program also results in significant differences in student learning.


Conference Presentation: