2nd Edition, 27 February 1997
The Woodrow Wilson Leadership Institute in Environmental Science has as its pedagogical foundation the conviction that professional development for teachers requires learning essential science content through the perspectives and methods of inquiry. A basic premise is that teacher participants will have the same experiences they will later provide for their students.
Enhancing teacher content knowledge (and subsequent student knowledge) is the major thrust of the institute. Deep content knowledge is what we strive for and the stuff we work with. An inquiry-driven process is needed to reach that goal. So both content and process experts are integral.
The inquiry approach acknowledges that teachers have a personal, intellectual center composed of the process of inquiry and their own scientific knowledge. They venture from their center into the various content topics and back in order to enhance their knowledge. They do not have to become experts in every field presented. Instead they integrate new knowledge into their center, using it for their purposes. They experience the inquiry approach and are then ready to use it in their classrooms.
To this end, the leadership institute structure is envisioned to encompass:
Exactly who serves on this group and how they will work together will emerge from our conversations in the next few weeks.
The process of identifying key environmental concepts will be intertwined throughout the institute. Teachers will bring their school, district, or state standards and curriculum frameworks. All science strands will be represented. In the month or two leading up to the institute, the leadership team -- along with those participants-to-be who join the internet conversation -- will identify five or six key event-based strands, including strands for urban teachers. Through this process they will map the strands to the standards, webbing the ideas together.
A driving force and major goal of the institute is to flesh out these teacher maps so they're much more detailed and connected and webbed through the various disciplines. Curriculum enhancement tools such as STELLA will assist in the process. Teachers and teams will have an independent study adventure that boosts their personal science knowledge in what they teach as well as in the other strands. Through integration they will continually contextualize new knowledge.
The close working relationship between the mini-workshop presenters, the academic team, and teachers will allow teachers to take their own existing standards and curriculum frameworks, extract the strands, and then rebuild the curriculum (scope, sequence, and coordination) from a deeper content base. Participants will customize the institute, always coming back to talk with colleagues, discussing how it will work for a person knowledgeable about science for everyday life and for that person as a science teacher.
Reflections -- preliminary, mid-institute and post-institute -- will be engaged in by teachers to assess the value added by the institute's content and process. Teachers will build rubrics for themselves and their students based on national content standards. All assessments used will be translatable to classrooms and schools and used in Teacher Action Research (see below). Significant time and effort will be expended in reflecting on procedures and implications.
The Woodrow Wilson Web Site is an integral part of the institutes and will include periodic publication during the institute of insights, discoveries, and lessons learned. Web publication of a model environmental science course (or some other even more interesting end-product) is planned as is support for teacher-participants to maintain the web site in the following academic year. Web publications in each of the four years will be world resources.
As they interweave analyses of existing standards and their rebuilding and the impact on their existing curricula, participants will talk simultaneously about various new approaches that match an integrated conceptual picture. They will learn about their event and the event-based approach that challenges them to think about environmental concerns from their own back yards. The same process will be used to think locally and conceptually.
Groups of teams will take a New Jersey event and work through its analysis and implications. They will exchange data just as their students would. This interaction provides possibilities for a new awareness of commonalities and the breakdown of isolation. The process looks like this:
This process provides for interactive presentations and overall coherence while recognizing, encouraging, and supporting teacher leadership. Participants continually reflect upon and discuss the idea that students also have scientific questions, a need for relevant knowledge, and the ability to take responsibility for their own learning. Community will be important in teacher learning. Everyone will live and breathe environmental science content during their month together. Reconfigurations of learning affinities will assist those who have more difficulty in various science areas -- another model for classroom practice.
Another component of professional development is self-generated learning, the notion of action-research. Teachers will put together action plans to get curriculum strong and alive in their schools, generating critical questions and collecting data as to how these processes work, how they grow, and how their students will grow as a result. They will come to understand what action research is, how to get it started, and learn its intricacies:
The action research component is based on five (student/ participant) domains:
The Woodrow Wilson Leadership Institutes have definite systemic implications. There are two components at this time.
For the first-year applicants, the following was required:
Closer relationships between the Woodrow Wilson Leadership Program for Teachers and the various districts represented as well as lessons learned through interactions during the first institute and its follow-up will provide for more dramatic system implications in subsequent years. The correlation of teacher and student learning will be a focus of the relationship.
The Woodrow Wilson Leadership Program for Teachers process includes grant-supported national teacher outreach in the first year following each institute: condensed one- and two-week versions of the institute facilitated by successful participants in the one-month institutes. TORCH is a major component of the Woodrow Wilson Environmental Science Leadership Institutes.
Large districts will send teams to the institutes who return the learning to the rest of their teachers. Academics associated with the month-long institutes have agreed to support and/ or sponsor teacher outreach in subsequent years. Several institutions of higher education interested in environmental science have agreed to sponsor teams. Currently, Woodrow Wilson TORCH teams from past institutes (1982-1996) continue their outreach beyond the period of original donor funding. TORCH team institutes are supported by host/ sponsors and other Woodrow Wilson donors in subsequent years. A direct-mail effort is being conducted in the spring of 1997 to spread the word about the TORCH institutes to schools, districts, NSF-funded initiatives, and other reform efforts.