Initially funded by grants from the National Science Foundation and Stuart Foundation to develop innovative solutions in science education, the Understanding Science Project at WestEd develops nationally field-tested professional development resource s designed to help teachers learn major concepts of K–8 science, examine how children make sense of those concepts, and analyze and improve their teaching.
Since its beginnings in 1998, the project has reached more than 500 teachers (impacting an estimated 12,000 students). At present, the program consists of content courses for elementary teachers, each on a different topic and grade span (for example, electric circuits in Grades 3–5). Courses for middle school teachers are being developed. The full set of Understanding Science courses will make up a comprehensive professional development curriculum, including 15 courses on the major ideas of earth, life, and physical science.
Course materials include narrative cases drawn from actual classroom episodes and focus on three key qualities of masterful science teaching: knowledge of science, knowledge of learners, and knowledge of teaching. An extensive, multiyear study has shown that Understanding Science courses build teacher knowledge, strengthen classroom practice, and positively impact student achievement. The most dramatic increases were among low-performing students.
For more information, refer to the Understanding Science Project.
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