Science program adopts new standards to fight lagging student performance 

October 14, 2013

Where better to learn about animals than at the zoo? Where better to learn about nature than at a forest preserve? Where better to learn about physics than at the site of a large particle accelerator?

To make elementary and middle school teachers better teachers of science while utilizing the resources of the local scientific community, Benedictine University partners with Brookfield Zoo, Fermilab, the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County, Morton Arboretum and the Golden Apple Foundation to offer a Master of Science (M.S.) in Science Content and Process.

Students in the program learn inquiry-based teaching concepts at Benedictine University and study science content at the educational sites of the partner organizations. Students take courses in zoology at Brookfield Zoo, botany at Morton Arboretum, physics and astronomy at Fermilab and ecology and environmental science at various forest preserve sites.

The program's content and methodology is aligned with the "Next Generation Science Standards," which was inspired by "A Framework for K-12 Science Education" and developed by the National Research Council, the National Science Teachers Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and Achieve. It pays particular attention to the eight practices of science and engineering that the "Framework" identifies as essential for all students to learn. Classes model these active teaching practices so it becomes second nature for teachers to do so in their own classrooms.

Next Generation Science Standards are designed to replace the nearly two decades-old standards still in use by most states while addressing U.S. students' lagging performance – 14th in reading, 17th in science and 25th in mathematics – compared to students in 33 other economically developed countries.

"Many elementary teachers are underprepared to teach science," said Allison Wilson, professor of Biological Science at Benedictine University and M.S. in Science Content and Process program director. "Most elementary teachers have taken only the minimum science credit to meet their university general education requirements, and these courses may not have been the most appropriate preparation for teaching in the field."

The M.S. in Science Content and Process program enhances science knowledge and confidence in science teaching among elementary and middle school teachers and those employed as informal science educators at parks, zoos and museums.

"Teachers can use additional high-quality courses to improve their content knowledge and the tools to help them use technology in their classrooms," Wilson said.

The program is taught in a "learning team" model – a group of no more than 24 students who progress through the program at the same pace – that meets evenings and some Saturdays during the academic year. Day courses take place during the summer. Teachers can manage full-time employment yet still complete the program in two years.

The program is taught by Golden Apple Fellows, research scientists, naturalists and others who teach in the education programs of the partner organizations. Applicants must hold a valid teacher's license or a position in an informal education program. The learning team begins in June.

Wilson added that the ultimate goal of the program is to help inspire life-long enthusiasm for science among grade-school students.

"A teacher who is competent in science and comfortable teaching in an active setting will create greater interest in science among students," she said.

For additional information about the M.S. in Science Content and Process program, contact Wilson at awilson@ben.edu.



 

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Benedictine University is an independent Roman Catholic institution located in Lisle, Illinois just 25 miles west of Chicago, and has branch campuses in Springfield, Illinois and Mesa, Arizona. Founded in 1887, Benedictine provides 55 undergraduate majors and 17 graduate and four doctoral programs. Benedictine University is ranked No. 1 among the country's fastest-growing campuses between 2000-2010 in The Chronicle of Higher Education's list of private nonprofit research institutions, and Forbes magazine named Benedictine among "America's Top Colleges" for the third consecutive year in 2013. Benedictine University's Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) program is listed by Crain's Chicago Business as the fifth largest in the Chicago area in 2013.

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