The Center for Science Education and Professional Development is part of Learning Innovations at WestEd, and focuses on initiatives designed to improve the teaching, learning, and assessment of elementary- and middle-level science. Learning Innovations' work is supported by grants from local and national foundations, and by individual contracts.
Learning Innovations' recent grant from the National Science Foundation supported a project called Strengthening Science Inquiry, Assessment, and Teaching
. This project resulted in research and the production of models and materials for professional development leaders to use as they design and implement preservice and inservice programs in inquiry science and continuous assessment.
The center conducted research in science education and professional development and continues to implement research findings in the form of consulting, professional development, and continuous assessment to local and national clients. While certain beliefs and practices hold true in all of our work, we also tailor support to meet the needs of each individual client. Our work is geared toward teachers, teacher leaders, and professional developers, and we encourage other stakeholders, such as administrators, school board and community members, to participate.
All of our professional development sessions provide participants with opportunities to:
- experience facilitator modeling of practices of inquiry and continuous assessment;
- experience inquiry and continuous assessment as adult learners;
- practice inquiry and continuous assessment in classrooms with support from peers and center staff;
- increase conceptual understanding of science content; and
- reflect with peers and center staff on theory, personal strengths and challenges, and integrating inquiry and continuous assessment into existing practices.
The processes of inquiry, continuous assessment, and teaching are interwoven and integral to effective learning. These processes can be practiced and modeled with learners at all levels, from students in the classroom to teachers and professional developers seeking to enhance their craft. To grow and change, all learners need opportunities over time to engage with new ideas, practice new processes, reflect with peers, and gain support from mentors.
Our work can take many forms, depending on the needs of the client. To support clients to truly change, we provide in-depth, sustained professional development. To that end, most clients build projects that include several of these options:
- a one- or two-day awareness session in which participants engage in the initial stages of a cycle of inquiry, see continuous assessment modeled, and consider the types of support they might need to go further;
- awareness sessions for administrators and teacher representatives to put a spotlight on science and consider the science needs of a district;
- meetings with science committees and/or administrators around curriculum development, materials management, finding time for science, and other issues;
- a multiday summer institute during which participants experience a full cycle of inquiry as adult learners, see continuous assessment modeled, and increase their knowledge of a particular content area (e.g., motion, light, fluids);
- after-school sessions during which peers share successes and challenges in implementing inquiry and continuous assessment in their classrooms as well as feedback, ongoing support, and resources;
- after-school sessions providing support and engaging participants in discussion around a particular issue or "big idea" (e.g., effective questioning, adapting kits to be more inquiry-oriented);
- classroom visits during which center staff support participants through co-teaching, planning, or further practice and discussion; and
- tailored services and products to meet individual clients' needs.
This year the Center for Science Education work includes a:
- Science Unit Development course through the regional education service agency, the Champlain Valley Education Development Center
- curriculum alignment and professional development initiative in Science for the Caledonia North Supervisiory Union
- contract with the Vermont State Department of Education for research and evaluation on the department's Formative Assessment Pilot Project
- curriculum development initiative in Science for the Burlington School District
Director: Maura O'Brien
Contact: Maura Carlson
This project is part of WestEd's Learning Innovations.
Resources related to this project: