Elementary, middle, and high school together in a single room.
Sounds like the one-room schoolhouse of yesteryear, but it’s actually a professional development program whose unique approach brings together teachers of all grades, from kindergarten through grade 12.
“This is a novel approach,” says EDC’s Brian Lord, speaking about the Consortium for New Explorations in Coherent Teacher Education (CONNECT-ED). “No other professional development program works across the grades in quite the same way that this one does.”
EDC is conducting an evaluation of CONNECT-ED to measure the program’s implementation and impact. “It is unlike much of traditional professional development that aims to impart specific content or pedagogical strategy,” says Lord. “Our evaluation shows that CONNECT-ED is succeeding in changing how teachers think about science and mathematics education.”
CONNECT-ED works with K–12 math and science teachers, emphasizing an inquiry approach to teaching and learning, organizing professional development content around key science and math concepts, and encouraging participants to make connections across grade levels.
Participating in the program are 13 New Jersey public school districts, one independent school, Rider University, Princeton University, Raritan Valley Community College, Bristol-Myers Squibb Company, and the National Staff Development Council. Funders for the program include the Wachovia Foundation, the Martinson Family Foundation, and the Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education.
In the first phase of the program, district-based teams, each comprising three teachers (one each from the elementary, middle, and high school levels); a district administrator; and a university or industry scientist, spent six months designing Big Idea Modules that traced the development of science or math concepts across grade levels. The design teams then presented their modules to other teachers at a week-long summer institute at Princeton University.
Describing the process of developing the modules, one design team participant wrote, “We work very well together. We all have different strengths and vantage points. We may spar and wrestle a little bit, but the process is exciting and a great learning experience.”
In all, 45 modules in chemistry, physics and astronomy, earth science, life science, and mathematics were developed. Each module features three grade appropriate activities that help students and teachers see the conceptual connections and serve as a platform for professional learning.
EDC’s evaluation of the first phase of CONNECT-ED used surveys, questionnaires, interviews, and pre- and post-content assessments. It found that the program was effective in smoothing the transition between grades, developing highly qualified teachers in math and science, building relationships between teachers and university/industry scientists, and preparing select teachers to carry out professional development in their districts.
“Overall, the level of CONNECT-ED involvement has a measurable impact on individuals’ choices and practices regarding curriculum decision-making, instruction, professional development, and teacher literacy in science,” says Lord.
For the second phase of CONNECT-ED, which began in 2008, educators are working together in groups known as Professional Learning Communities (PLCs). Each group contains members of the district’s original design team as well as new teachers, and sets its own goals for mathematics and science education improvement and the development of teacher leadership within the district. CONNECT-ED supports the groups by providing teacher leadership training, “train-the-trainers” workshops on designing modules, small grants, and professional development programs from CONNECT-ED and other organizations.
EDC’s evaluation of both phases of CONNECT-ED is funded by Rider University.
Originally published on January 29, 2010