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Partnership to Improve Student Achievement in Physical Science: Integrating STEM Approaches (PISA2) Evidence of Changes in Elementary Science Classrooms

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PISA2, a multi-year professional development program for grade 3-8 teachers, was funded through the Math Science Partnership program in 2010. The goal was to improve students' achievement in science and engineering and ability to utilize 21st century skills by enhancing teacher content knowledge and pedagogical practices. Two models were offered--one preparing teachers for Science Specialization Endorsement through a sequence of 5 graduate courses (Scholars program) and one preparing teachers to implement strategies to support students' understanding of physical science and engineering concepts (Teacher Leader program). Together, these programs have impacted 400 teachers from urban and suburban districts. Here, we focus on the Teacher Leader program for elementary teachers (grades 3-5). The Teacher Leader professional development (PD) model consists of three components: one week-long summer institute, two one-day workshops during the school year, and two in-class visits to plan, observe and reflect on implementation strategies. With the release of NGSS, the PD providers were responsive to the competing priorities faced by elementary teachers who are now also required to teach science and engineering. We chose to focus on the use of the engineering design process to support physical science learning; claims, evidence and reasoning to link science to literacy; and use of notebooks to promote student thinking and reasoning. The central strategy was to illustrate through multiple experiences the ways in which science learning supports student growth across subject areas. Evidence from PD provider classroom visits and a teacher practices survey speak to the success of the PD model.