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Impact of Cornell GK-12 Program on Graduate Student Fellows

Presented by M.E. Krasny, N.M. Trautmann, and L. Avery at the 87th Annual Meetings of the Ecological Society of America. Tucson, AZ, 2002.

The NSF Graduate Teaching Fellows in K-12 Education program (GK-12), through which graduate students teach in pre-college science classrooms, has multiple goals for graduate and k-12 students and teachers. We conducted written surveys to determine what graduate fellows learned from their GK-12 experience. Fellows felt they learned a great deal about teaching, specifically how to facilitate inquiry-based projects in classrooms, and how to improve their presentation and classroom management skills. They also enhanced their ability to develop and assess curricula and to communicate about their research to non-scientists. Although only two fellows mentioned in response to an open-ended question that they learned about new areas of science, follow-up questions indicated that learning about science from the other fellows and from having to prepare to teach was important for most fellows. The fact that fellows learned about science as well as about teaching is interesting in light of a concern that involvement in a GK-12 program might work counter to a graduate student’s development as a research scientist. However, it is likely that at least for the Cornell GK-12 program, where fellows develop their own classroom activities rather than teach canned curricula, the commitment required from graduate students is greater than that entailed in other types of funding, e.g., teaching assistantships. The question of whether the learning that occurs through GK-12 fellows’ experiences balances the significant commitment required will be explored.




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