Long-Term Engagement in Authentic Research with NASA (LEARN): Innovative Practices Suggested By a New Model for Teacher Research Experiences

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Margaret R Pippin1, Jacob D Joseph2, Melissa M Yang3, Ali H Omar4, Sarah Crecelius5, Tina Harte5, Preston M Lewis Jr3, Jessica Taylor6, Robert Bujosa7, Cara Moulton8, Charles S Haggard9, Simone Hyater-Adams10, Rebecca Kollmeyer11 and Alec Weisman12, (1)NASA Langley Research Ctr, Hampton, VA, United States, (2)Self Employed, Richmond, VA, United States, (3)NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, VA, United States, (4)NASA/Langley Research Ctr, Hampton, VA, United States, (5)Science Systems and Applications, Inc. Hampton, Hampton, VA, United States, (6)NASA Langley, Newport News, VA, United States, (7)College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, VA, United States, (8)Sitting Bull College, Fort Yates, ND, United States, (9)Georgia Institute of Technology Main Campus, Atlanta, GA, United States, (10)University of Colorado at Boulder, Boulder, CO, United States, (11)University of Alabama in Huntsville, Huntsville, AL, United States, (12)Duke University, Durham, NC, United States
NASA's LEARN Project is an innovative program that provides long-term immersion in the practice of atmospheric science for middle and high school in-service teachers. Working alongside NASA scientists and using authentic NASA Science Mission Directorate research data, teachers develop individual research topics of interest during two weeks in the summer while on-site at NASA Langley. With continued, intensive mentoring by NASA scientists, the teachers further develop their research throughout the academic year through virtual group meetings and data team meetings mirroring scientific collaborations. At the end of the first year, LEARN teachers present scientific posters. The LEARN experience has had such an impact that multiple teachers from the first two cohorts have elected to continue their research. The LEARN project evaluation has provided insights into particularly effective elements of this new approach. Findings indicate that teachers’ perceptions of the scientific enterprise have changed, and that LEARN provided substantial resources to help them take real-world research to their students. This presentation will focus on key factors from LEARN’s implementation that inform best practices for the incorporation of authentic scientific research into teacher professional development experiences. We suggest that these factors should be considered in the development of other such experiences, including: (1) The involvement of a single scientist as both the project leader/manager and the project scientist, to ensure that the project can meet teachers’ needs. (2) An emphasis on framing and approaching scientific research questions, so that teachers can learn to evaluate the feasibility of studies based on scope, scale, and availability of data. (3) Long term, ongoing relationships where teachers and scientists work as collaborators, beyond the workshop “mold.” (4) A focus on meeting the needs of individual teachers, whether their needs relate to elements of research and analysis, or to their tight professional schedules. (5) Above all, flexibility and patience. LEARN builds relationships with teachers slowly, over a long period of time. In the middle, life often intervenes. LEARN has emphasized that teachers’ success is more important than deadlines or following a rigid protocol.