Re-visiting the wheel.
"Resources and Programs in Higher Education"

An Editorial by David T. Crowther


If you want to skip the dialogue - go directly to the survey below:

I have recently been educationally rejuvenated. I don't know about you, but when I stay at the same place for a while and teach primarily the same courses over time I tend to get stagnant. This is not due to making the best of each day and adding new things to the courses that I am teaching, but rather the lack of new stimuli that pushes me into new levels of my own learning. In other words - I have been challenged once again and I love it!! When I was working in Nebraska, I was involved in a project to develop content science courses that were both taught and offered in the respective science departments. At that time we developed a biology course for education majors, chemistry for educations majors, and then after I left a physics and earth science course were developed for education majors. That was really fun and the challenge of keeping up with the content in the different areas was continually challenging and rewarding.

When I was hired in Nevada, one of the major goals for my position was to try to replicate the Nebraska model in Nevada. Now, five years later, I am proud to say the we are there. The process has been long and intense, but this semester I am co-teaching Biology 110 (introductory hands-on biology for elementary / middle level education majors) with my colleague, Al Gubanich - a 30 year veteran of teaching biology 100, 190 (Intro biology for non majors and intro biology for majors) as well as many courses in his content specialty, ornithology).

Biology 110 is taught differently than the lecture based non-majors general biology course as 110 meets for lab every Monday for 4 hours (15 lab sessions per semester) and then we meet for a recitation on Thursday afternoon from 4-5 p.m. to discuss in depth the learning that took place in the lab setting. The labs are primarily hands-on inquiry labs utilizing activities that can be used in the classroom whenever possible. Note that there are some labs that we have developed that are very sophisticated and require equipment that is not readily accessible to a classroom - or is not appropriate for a middle level classroom - but the point is that teachers must develop content knowledge that is far beyond even what they would teach in the school setting so that they can develop labs and activities that provide foundational experiences and will lead to higher levels of content and understanding for later on. We are laying the foundation so to speak.

I bring all of this up because in 1996 we did a survey on both the AETS and NARST list serves and asked people what courses were offered at their universities that were content science courses for Elementary / middle level Education majors. This survey resulted in a section included in the EJSE entitled "Resources and Programs in Higher Education" that we have not updated since then. . . . Here is what we did (This is from the editorial in 1996):

One of the problems that I have been exploring for the past several years is the progress of science education reform and the preparation of elementary teachers in content science areas. We have reports and documents that show the science education reform movement is alive and well. In fact, a few recently released reports state that there is progress in the nations schools in math and science. However, there is no formal comprehensive report or data repository showing what institutions of higher education and teacher preparation programs of content science courses are doing to align more closely with the science reform movements. We hear and read of individual programs or institutions at regional/ national association conferences and in various professional journals. These reports explain mostly isolated incidences where a university or college is piloting a program or innovative classes offered from Colleges of Arts and Sciences and / or Colleges of Education, some newly developed - others which have not changed in 18 years, but once again are seen on the "cutting edge." It is for this purpose that the Electronic Journal of Science Education is devoting a new "Resources and Programs in Higher Education"section which is designed as a collection place of innovative teacher preparation programs in both the Colleges of Arts and Sciences as well as Colleges of Education or combination thereof !

To begin, and as a reminder, the National Science Education Standards (NRC, 1996) are a science reform effort ranged from Kindergarten through College (K-16). The Standards promote that science is a process of understanding and exploring the world in which we live. They advocate that "Learning science is something that students do, not something that is done to them" (p. 20). The standards also state that "since science content increases and changes, a teacher's understanding in science must keep pace" (p.57). The Standards go even further to suggest how teachers and prospective teachers should learn and keep pace with science: "Prospective and practicing teachers must take science courses in which they learn science through inquiry, having the same opportunities as their students will have to develop understanding" (p.60). The Standards employ science content as only one part of several facets of science instruction. They also equally encourage the process of doing science along with history, philosophy, technology, connections of unifying themes in science, and a personal and social perspective in science with the three basic content areas of life, physical and earth science."

The 1996 results were interesting in that we reported that 36 universities /colleges in 25 states (all in the U.S.) have programs designed specifically for elementary education majors. Additionally, the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia has 5 multi-disciplinary courses taught from different science departments designed for Education Majors. Of the responses to the list-serv request, it was found that the University of Washington, Seattle reported the highest number and offers 6 specialized science courses in their teacher preparation program.

Number of universities/colleges surveyed and resulting number
of specialized courses offered for Elementary Education Majors
Number of courses offered
University of Washington, Seattle (1)  6
3 5
14 4
12 3
7 2
9 1

Of these specialized courses, the majority of courses offered are in the Physical (Physics / chemistry) sciences with Life science courses offered as a close second. From 37 programs, eight offer the content courses in the college of education and 29 of the 37 programs offer the content courses in the respective science departments with many of these collaboratively taught or designed with education folks. Six other universities / colleges in 3 additional (3 same) states are currently designing courses for elementary education majors.

So here we are again. We, as a science education community, have had a lot of time to make changes in the teacher preparation programs across the United States and the world. The National Science Education Standards (NSES) have been published and highly advertised to the extent that 49 of 50 states have Science Standards (built upon the NSES, and Benchnmarks to a certain degree). Note that there are still several states in the process of writing them or updating them as well - Idaho is one example.

I would like to update the data base for the "Resources and Programs in Higher Education" so if you would fill out the following form and submit the information from your University / College or forward the information to a person who could respond - it would be greatly appreciated. And as I finished the editorial in 1996, "In the never ending effort to realize and capitalize upon the opportunities available of electronic resources, we will come closer together as a science education community and perhaps utilize the efforts of our colleagues so that none of us have to reinvent the wheel while improving the field of science education."

Dave Crowther
Associate Editor EJSE

------------------------------Cut here for Survey-----------------------------

Dear Colleagues,

I am interested in putting together a list of Universities/Colleges that have specialized content science courses for elementary and or middle level education majors.

If you are part of, or know details about, a program where specific science content courses have been developed specifically for elementary education or middle level education majors please E-mail me directly back and I will compile a list. I am interested in details like what the course is, where it is taught (name of institution ) and what department offers it ( eg. science department or a college of education), who teaches the course, what department the instructor is from, where this fits into graduation requirements, does the course replace a general education requirement or is it in addition to a general education requirement in the same content area, and preferably a contact person & number associated with the program. Note that we are not looking for a general science methods course, but rather content specific science courses.

"Resources and Programs in Higher Education" Update 2001
Please complete the following information for EACH course offered by your institution.

Name of person submitting information:
E-mail of person submitting:


Course Title:

Course number:

Course "catalogue" Description:

Department offering course:

Faculty teaching the course and department?

Does this course count as a Core requirement for graduation from your University?

Is this course required for graduation from the education program or a teacher license requirement?

How many credit hours of content science are required for your elementary education majors at your institution? What are the content areas covered in these required courses? What number of these are special courses for Ed majors? What number of courses are these that are general courses?

Thanks for your time - we will post the results at the end of the Summer....

David T. Crowther
Associate Professor Science Education
University of Nevada, Reno
Reno, Nevada 89557
(775) 784-4961 ex 2004