Tweaking Science Teaching to Engage Young Students




Cal Poly Pomona is involved in a number of teacher education initiatives, including Project Lead the Way (shown above), which is focused on K-12 engineering curriculum. Additionally, in​ 2014, the National Science Foundation awarded a five-year, $7.7 million grant to Cal Poly Pomona’s Center for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (CEMaST), to establish a new evidence-based program called Reinvigorating Elementary Science through a Partnership with California Teachers (RESPeCT).

This professional development program is a partnership with Pomona Unified School District and Cal Poly Pomona for testing innovative education techniques in math and science. Led by Professor Nicole Wickler, 10 Cal Poly Pomona professors are undertaking research with 168 Pomona Unified K-6 teachers and 7,500 students to develop new science curricula that is more engaging and challenging.

The trained teachers will then serve as mentors to other teachers—an effort that ultimately will benefit all the K-6 teachers and students in the district. A major innovation in the project will be the development of video-based learning resources and shared curriculum materials that integrate selected Common Core State Standards from mathematics and English language arts.

Another key to the program is collecting classroom videotapes of teachers teaching as a base for reflection/modification of the lessons and to assess teacher change in practice over time. There is also careful assessment of student learning and teacher content knowledge for both experimental and control groups.

The new techniques from this research will be assessed to determine their impact on the achievement gap between groups of students as defined by socioeconomic status, race/ethnicity, and gender. The program is showing remarkable success thus far, as student and teacher enthusiasm for math and science is rapidly growing in the Pomona school district.