Research identifies a national urgency to improve teacher performance and student achievement in science and engineering. This paper responds to this need and presents the results of seven-years of Research Experience for Teachers (RET) programs funded by the National Science Foundation in which engineering faculty collaborate with middle and high school teachers and their students. One program (3 years) is a comprehensive teacher professional development program in which middle school teachers participate in an intensive summer research experience in computer science and engineering labs, build curriculum based on the laboratory research content that they learn, participate in lesson study, and implement new curriculum in their middle classrooms. The second program (4 years) is a high school teacher RET program with similar components. This paper contains a combined report of results of both of the RET programs. The two programs had the combined intent of bringing innovative computer science and engineering research to middle and high school teachers and their students and improving teacher performance, while simultaneously improving student achievement through scientific inquiry, engaging students in computational thinking, and engineering design. The programs’ design included a summer intensive experience in which teachers fully participated in a computer science or engineering laboratory research and engaged in an inquiry focused content-to-pedagogy teacher professional development workshop, building curriculum from their lab research experience with foci on scientific experimentation and improving students’ science achievement and literacy. The programs were both aligned with Common Core Math Standards and Next Generation Science Standards and addressed the research question: What is the impact of an intensive research-based teacher professional development program on teacher and student performance?
In total, seventy teachers and their 10,398 students participated in the two RET programs combined. Assessment metrics used to determine the impact of the two RET programs were: a teacher instructional performance metric, the Science Teaching Efficacy Beliefs Instrument- revised, a science qualitative reading inventory, grade and content specific concept inventories, and a motivation for science questionnaire. The combined program results were the following. The RET teachers had a mean science teaching efficacy significantly higher than the national average. The mean score on teacher performance rating was also significantly higher than the state’s average rating. The RET teachers also had a significant performance gain pre-to-post program. Student related results indicated gains as well. Specifically, the participating teachers’ students made significant gains during their curricular intervention resulting from their teachers’ participation in the RET programs. The students gained science and engineering knowledge, increased their science interest and motivation, and demonstrated gains in science literacy as well. These results indicate that research experience for teachers programs benefit both the teachers and the students that they teach.
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