Supporting Curriculum Reform in Science Education

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This work investigated teachers’ perceptions of research experiences in a sustainable transportation technologies (STT) project implemented by university faculty at an American university. The intent was to support teachers to transfer what they learned to classroom practice. The initiative was consistent with current reform trends in science education that have focused on the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The NGSS include an explicit discussion of sustainability as a component that should be included in the curriculum. The focus on sustainability is intended to provide a relevant context for learning science, making science more meaningful to students. The RET was designed as a six-week program with a focus on three research areas: Forest Plant Biotechnology, Bioconversion to Cellulosic Ethanol, and Combustion in Next Generation Engine. The data were derived from eighteen teachers using surveys and interviews. The teachers believed that the experience had improved their knowledge and was potentially beneficial to students. However, there was some disconnect between the professional development experiences and the curricular policies and assessment practices within school districts. The findings highlight the need for dialog on what the reform agenda means at the school district level. They also draw attention to the resources needed to support reforms.