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America’s Lab Report: Investigations in High School Science
of their own choosing. Catley (2004) reports that “having gone through the process of frustration, false starts and the elation of completion, [the teachers] came away with a deeper understanding of how inquiry works and a sense of empowerment. They felt confident to guide their students through the same process, where there is no ‘right answer.’”
It is unclear whether these and other ad hoc efforts to provide summer research experiences reach the majority of high school science teachers. Although no national information is available about high school teachers’ participation in laboratory internship programs, a recent survey found that only 1 in 10 novice elementary school teachers had participated in internship programs in which they worked directly with scientists or engineers. Among those who had, an overwhelming majority said the experience had helped them better understand science content and improved both their teaching practice and their enthusiasm (Bayer Corporation, 2004). Further research is needed to assess the extent to which such programs help teachers develop the knowledge and skills required to lead laboratory experiences in ways that help students master science subject matter and progress toward other science learning goals.
Providing Expert Assistance to Schools and Teachers. In addition to the many programs to increase teachers’ knowledge and abilities discussed above, the scientific community sometimes engages scientists to work directly with students. For example, Northeastern University has established a program called RE-SEED (Retirees Enhancing Science Education through Experiments and Demonstration), which arranges for engineers, scientists, and other individuals with science backgrounds to assist middle school teachers with leading students in laboratory experiences. Volunteers receive training, a sourcebook of activities appropriate for middle school students, a kit of science materials, and a set of videotapes. To date, over 400 RE-SEED volunteers have worked with schools in 10 states. A survey of students, teachers, and volunteers yielded positive results. Large majorities of students indicated that the program had increased their interest in science, while large majorities of teachers said they would recommend the program to other teachers and that the volunteers had had a beneficial effect on their science teaching. Among the volunteers, 97 percent said they would recommend RE-SEED to a colleague, and most said that the training, placement in schools, and support from staff had made their time well spent (Zahopoulos, 2003).
The California Institute of Technology has a program to help scientists and graduate students work with teachers in elementary school classrooms in the Pasadena school district. The Chemistry Department of City College (City University of New York) places undergraduate science and engineering majors in middle school classrooms to assist teachers during laboratory activities and learn classroom management from the teachers. Once again,