Specialists Program

There are three categories of specialists that will be part of this project and coordinated by all three Principal Investigators. Each group will have individual roles to play, while at the same time be an integral part of the overall project objectives.

  1. One member of each four-member team for the summer Institutes will be a specialist. This person may be a district curriculum coordinator, a district or school level administrator, a university scientist, and/or an educational researcher. The specialist will be a full member of the team and will participate in almost all of the same activities as the teacher team members. However, there will be times when the specialists are separated and involved in different activities independently from the teachers. During the independent sessions, work will be provided that will focus on becoming a mentor and a facilitator for the teachers when they return to the classroom. Research has indicated that change in teachers' classroom practices are more likely to happen when there is a support system that includes mentors and administrators. By developing the administrators as mentors, the possibility for enhanced teacher support is increased.

    There will be an emphasis placed on NSES during the sessions with specialists. These specialists need to understand the philosophy of the NSES and the importance of making changes in the way science is taught. If changes are to be made in the preparation of future science teachers, those responsible for science education must be grounded in the philosophy behind the recommendations in the national standards.

  2. Post-doctoral positions and graduate assistantships will be available at each of the three involved centers; i.e. the CSME, the MEC&A and the PSLC. The post-doctoral fellows will work with the project staff on research projects. Research projects will include working with the polymer science, science and/or mathematics discipline affiliates, or marine science professors on projects that involve the teaching of science. There is a research component to this project (outlined below) that would be an excellent opportunity for a post-doctoral student to develop a study that could have an impact on science/teacher education.

    The CSME at The University of Southern Mississippi is located in the College of Science and Technology instead of a College of Education. As a result, there is a strong content focus in the graduate programs. CSME offers Masters and Ph.D. degrees in science education with emphasis areas in mathematics, biology, chemistry, coastal science, geology, marine science, and/or physics. An emphasis in polymer science is being developed and should be in place by the Spring 2001 semester. By offering graduate degrees with strong emphasis on the content of coastal science, marine science, and/or polymer science, graduates of the program are qualified for positions in college and/or university science departments as science educators. In addition, graduates of the program will be qualified to enter into informal science programs such as aquariums, science centers, museums, exploratoriums, and/or discovery centers. The combination of a strong content knowledge base in marine or polymer science and an understanding of pedagogical issues involved in science education provides a unique opportunity for specialists, once they leave the program, to impact the teaching of science on the college level, the preparation of future science teachers, and in informal science settings. Specialists interested in pursuing advanced degrees will have the opportunity to enter a graduate program through CSME.

  3. Twelve scholars, comprised of specialists from the categories of university scientists, informal science educators, and state departments of education personnel, will be involved within the three USM Centers. Each of these (PSLC, CSME and MEC&A) will have the scholars working in three-month time periods or an equivalent of one FTE per USM Center per year. These twelve scholars will each undertake a three-month individual collaboration with members of the particular Center in which they are located involving polymer and/or marine science content material development, or a science education research project. A scholar may also choose to combine the work of two or three of the Centers into one project. These individual projects will annually allow "win-win" partnerships for each of the three USM Centers, the twelve participants, and one of NSF's goal in achieving improved connection between science research results, and what educators know and are able to teach about research findings.

    Possible projects include:

    • A scholar may visit the MEC&A to examine methods of maintaining and expanding aquarium activities, or identifying ways of developing an outreach program for formal and informal education specialists preparations.

    • A scholar may choose to focus on an informal science education project that integrates polymer materials with marine applications such as medicines from the sea, erosion preventatives, anti-pollutants, waterfront development, or polymers used in the offshore oil industry.

    • A scholar may choose to focus on exhibitry that "bridges the gap" between research data and everyday life. For example, the natural or man-made environments in which they are raised may predicate the price of oysters. Man-made oyster beds often involves the use of polymers in the marine environment.

    • A scholar in science education may explore a comparison between multimedia and online assessment practices with traditional classroom assessments. Or, a scholar may develop material for student learning at different education levels. With the interdisciplinary nature of polymer and marine science, the materials could be naturally centered around the concepts imbedded in the content areas.

    The three groups of specialists will not be working in isolation. The scholars will interact with the post-doctoral and graduate students and could collaborate on research topics of common interest. Also, the post-doctoral and graduate students will have ample opportunity to work with the summer institute participants, including the specialist on each team. Specialist from the summer institute team will be encouraged to continue their education through the graduate program in the CSME and would therefore cross over to a different category of specialist. Interaction between the three groups will be encouraged and supported by all project staff members.