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Western Washington UniversityCommunications and Marketing
DATE: August 25, 2011 7:44:25 AM PDT
NSF Funds $2.9 Million Study of Elementary Science Teacher Preparation at WWU

Contacts:  Chris Ohana, Principal Investigator, Science, Mathematics and Technology Education (SMATE) and Associate Professor, Department of Elementary Education, (360) 650-6533, Chris.Ohana@wwu.edu; Matt Miller, Co-PI, Associate Professor, Department of Elementary Education, (360) 650- 2628, Matthew.Miller@wwu.edu and Daniel Hanley, Project Director, SMATE, (360) 650-4683, Daniel.Hanley@wwuu.edu

BELLINGHAM – A new $2.9 million grant awarded to Western Washington University by the National Science Foundation will fund a five-year study of the impact of Western’s innovative elementary science teacher preparation program. 

The grant, “Model of Research-based Education for Teachers (MORE for Teachers),” will explore elementary teachers’ development of important knowledge and skills that studies have shown promote students’ deep understanding of important science concepts.

This longitudinal study will follow future K-6 science teachers as they complete their science content courses and instructional methods courses at WWU and comparison institutions.  The researchers will also follow a group of graduates of the innovative teaching program during their first few years in the classroom to determine the impacts on their science instruction and students’ understanding of science.

“This grant is a great example of the deep collaboration between the College of Sciences and Technology and Woodring College of Education,” said George Nelson, director of the Science, Mathematics, and Technology Education Program at WWU and chair of the grant’s advisory board. “Our unique structure enables us to innovate beyond the cutting edge of current thinking in teacher preparation and do the careful research necessary to create new knowledge that can inform the nation.”

This research will produce understandings about specific components of Western’s research-based teacher education program for elementary science teachers and K-6 schools that contribute to high-quality instructional practices in elementary science classrooms. This study will help the WWU researchers continue to make refinements to the program, which is currently a model for universities across the country.  Findings from this research will also help the broader K-12 education community understand how teachers apply their knowledge, skills, and beliefs in school settings that support effective science teaching and learning.

“University teacher educators rarely have the opportunity to follow their students into their teaching careers. In this study, we will not only track our students into their first years of teaching but we will also be able to isolate specific elements within our program to see what the impacts might be on teaching” said principal investigator, Chris Ohana. “This research promises to improve the quality of teacher preparation at Western and across the country.”

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