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Teacher Training in CAPSI/Pasadena

The CAPSI model for training teachers was developed over a period of time in the pilot schools of Pasadena. Lead teachers provide training to teachers who have not taught a particular module. Ideally, lead teachers will have already taught the module in question at least twice. The training takes place in a cooperative learning group of from two to twelve teachers at a time. The average number of teachers in the groups is four to five.

Also joining the group is a volunteer scientist whose discipline often is not the science topic of the module. Thus, the scientist is not a content resource but, rather, someone who, stimulated by his or her own curiosity, will model scientific behavior and habits of thinking. A physicist seeing mealy worms for the first time may know much less about them than the teachers in the group, but his or her experiences and training as a scientist may prompt him or her to ask a series of questions, suggest ideas to test, or even make statements such as, "I haven't a clue. How could we find out?"

The module training sessions last one day, then the trainee teachers teach the module in their classrooms. Each module is from six-eight weeks long. During this period, a resource teacher visits to help. The emphasis in this early phase of training is on thorough familiarity with the materials and on classroom management. The lack of these has proved to be a major impediment to the introduction of hands-on science in many schools in the past, according to CAPSI/Pasadena leaders.

At the end of the school year, one week is set aside for follow-up debriefings. Ideally, each debriefing is conducted by the same lead teacher who conducted the initial training and the scientist, too. Debriefing days are held for modules only in the first year that they have been used. Debriefing is still a day-long affair in Pasadena, but in other school districts, financial and time constraints have sometimes limited debriefings to half a day.

Over time, teachers in training continue to be visited by the resource teachers. Some of the outstanding teachers of a particular module also become lead teachers for that module and may even become involved in training teachers in other schools in the district. The intention is to help teachers move from mechanical use to routine use to a truly creative involvement with the materials, the students, their colleagues, and, ultimately, with their own professional development as life-long learners. (See Background: Professional Development.)

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