Contextualized Content Courses: Lessons Learned and Implications
Authors: Joan Karp, Hannah Sevian, Marilyn Decker, Christos Zahopoulos, Bob Chen, Arthur Eisenkraft

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4. Results
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Claim 1 (What makes the CCC model successful): The presence or absence of particular attributes can determine the level of satisfaction and impact of a CCC for participants. These attributes are:

  • a balance of content, scientific process and teaching strategies;

  • coherence among the different aspects of the course (lecture, activities, and field trips);

  • models of good teaching practices by instructors;

  • good planning and organization;

  • clear objectives, expectations and goals;

  • positive working relationships between the instructors;

  • instructional team expertise;

  • support by instructors for participant learning;

  • creation of a supportive learning community; and

  • differentiated instruction for participants with different levels of background knowledge.

Claim 2 (Value of CCC's for participants): BPS teachers experience numerous positive impacts from their participation in CCC courses. The increase in content knowledge that they gain from the courses leads to other benefits and improvements to their teaching. Many report an increase in their confidence as science teachers overall, citing a more in-depth understanding of the topics they are teaching. They feel more able to help students understand the content better, are more knowledgeable about common student misconceptions, and can better assess student understanding. Teachers report and have been observed using new approaches and teaching strategies which they attribute to the CCCs. These include: more use of hands-on, inquiry, and other engaging strategies, including more use of the 7Es; greater connections between activities and content; more use of technology; new assessment strategies; and greater variety of teaching styles. Numerous teachers use activities they have done in the courses with their students, modified for the appropriate level. Other impacts include an increased understanding of the BPS curriculum across the grade levels; knowledge of and access to more resources; and an increase in the sense of community with other BPS science teachers.

Claim 3 (Impact of CCC's on instructors): CCC participants appreciate the collaborations between BPS teachers and STEM faculty co-instructors for the range of expertise and understanding they provide. The BPS instructors provide familiarity with the curriculum and quality teaching strategies, and mirror the teaching and content-level backgrounds of the participating teachers. The STEM faculty provide advanced content knowledge and the experience and approach of working scientists. The co-instructors report many positive impacts from their involvement with CCC courses. Both groups learned new teaching strategies from the experience of planning and teaching together, including new inquiry, hands-on, and discussion approaches, which many have employed in their teaching. They have increased their understanding of the curriculum and current K-12 practices in science education and have made connections across grade levels, middle school through college. Relationship-building and professional networking have also resulted from the collaborations, along with increased respect for teachers and faculty at each level. Some STEM faculty reported a new interest in teaching teachers, and some BPS teachers expressed new interest in teaching adults. In addition, BPS instructors, in particular, reported deeper understanding of the content, and major increases in confidence level and leadership skills.

Claim 4 (Impact on student achievement): Students of teachers who were CCC instructors, as well as teachers who participated in CCCs, scored higher on internal district end-of-course exams than students of teachers who did not participate in CCCs. These large differences in the scores of students of middle and high school CCC participants and instructors and those of non-participants did not exist prior to the 2005 CCC courses.

Claim 5 (Content knowledge gains for participants): Overall, pre-test to post-test changes in content knowledge are significant on research-quality science content knowledge measurement instruments for six courses. In our Bio-1 and Chem-1 courses, middle school and high school teachers had significantly different prior knowledge. Middle school teachers made greater gains, but both achieved significant gains. The differences between middle and high school teachers' post-test scores were not significant in either course, indicating that both courses succeeded in differentiating instruction enough that the middle school teachers achieved equivalent content proficiency.

Claim 6 (Retention of knowledge by participants). Our preliminary results indicate a significant positive relationship between the amount of related science content taught by teachers and their understanding of the content they learned in the summer courses. We also find significant differences between retention and understanding of the course material in teachers who taught 50% or more of the state standards related to the content of the course they took and those who taught less than that. In other words, teachers lose the content knowledge they gain during the summer unless they teach related material during the year following the summer professional development.