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OPPS: Training of Lead Teams

General Scheme of Training Workshops. All Operation Primary Physical Science (OPPS) lead teams are to participate in a total of 30 days of training workshops over two years. The first workshop was 15 days in duration and took place in the summer of 1996 at Towson State College in Towson, Maryland.

The remaining 15 days of lead team training will occur iover the course of 1997 and 1998. Participants receive travel expenses, a subsistence allowance, and a stipend from OPPS.

The spreading out of the training is deliberate and allows team members to begin to teach teachers after their first year. This scheme has been shown to enhance the value of the lead teams' training in the second year.

The total duration of lead team training for OPPS is roughly twice as long as that in Operation Physics (OpPhys) and Operation Chemistry (OpChem). The longer OPPS training allows for complete modeling of every workshop for teachers that the teams subsquently will be leading. OpPhys experience showed that this complete modeling is important, as the lead teams had a tendency to teach in nearly the same way they had been taught.

Content Areas and Materials. The content areas focused on in lead team workshops and materials are all in physical science workshop manuals that were designed to be appropriate for and to meet the needs of elementary school teachers of grades K-3. The content areas covered are

  • Describing Matter
  • Interactions of Matter
  • Energy and Matter
  • Sound and Music
  • Magnets
  • Mirrors and Lenses
  • Light and Color
  • Moving Objects (including position, motion, and forces)
  • "Sun and Moon" (light and shadows and patterns of change)

In each of these content areas, lead teams learn how to deliver one 2-3 day workshop to their teachers. The subject of "science as inquiry" is integrated throughout. The depth of scientific treatment in the manuals that accompany each workshop is similar to that found in introductory college-level physics textbooks.

Training Workshops. Each workshop is 3-4 days long and is suffused with the spirit and recommendations of the National Science Education Standards. Specifically, each workshop not only covers the scientific content that teachers should know and understand but also models the inquiry-centered, hands-on approach that teachers are expected to learn and use with their students.

Each workshop models a definite pedagogy--a learning cycle that begins with "elicit, explore, investigate, and apply" and ends with "assess and reflect." The developers of the workshops view this emphasis as a big improvement over the Operation Physics approach. Seen as particularly valuable are the "assess" and "reflect" steps of the cycle. When "assessing," team members identify what they learned; when "reflecting," they look back at the discovery process by which they gained their knowledge.

Lead teams also learn how to work with teachers on translating the workshop material for the classroom. The participants consider how children learn, what they think and know, and what the National Science Education Standards, state and local frameworks, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science's Benchmarks for Science Literacy have to say. Then they examine (and use) some widely used elementary science curriculum materials, such as the Science and Technology for Children units of the National Science Resources Center, the Full-Option Science System units developed by the Lawrence Hall of Science, and Insights from the Education Development Center.

As a final activity, the participants plan for K-3 students using the learning cycle.

At the end, the entire workshop is assessed by the participants in light of one of the tables of "Changing Emphases" from the National Science Education Standards. This table lists traditional pedagogical approaches (e.g. "focusing on student acquisition of information") that are to receive less emphasis and those (e.g. "focusing on student understanding and use of scientific knowledge, ideas, and inquiry processes") that are to receive more. See p. 52 of the National Science Education

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