In 2004, the U.S. Secretary of Energy announced a new science education initiative to reinvigorate the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) involvement in K–12 science education (Abraham 2004). Part of this new initiative is a revitalized professional development program for educators, called the Laboratory Science Teacher Professional Development (LSTPD) program. This program has received new attention as part of President Bush’s American Competitive Initiative, and the expected budget for 2007 will allow the DOE to triple the number of teachers and more than double the number of National Laboratories involved in the LSTPD program.
The Office of Science at the DOE designed the LSTPD program with teacher input and by using current research and standards for the best practices of teacher professional development. The program’s objective is to help teachers become ambassadors for the science community to students and their parents, agents for positive change in science education, and the inspiration for the next generation of scientists, engineers, technicians, and mathematicians that support scientific research for the DOE and the United States.
Teachers, scientists, and program managers designed the LSTPD program to:
- Use the facilities and research communities of the DOE.
- Establish a long-term commitment between the DOE and the teachers involved in the program. For teachers to really believe they can use DOE resources in their teaching, they need to feel connected to the DOE scientific community and that will not happen in a short-term program.
- Be flexible. Teachers need options of differing summer program commitments—four to eight weeks—depending on, for example, their science backgrounds, family obligations, and what they expect to get from the program. Some DOE labs may be able to provide independent research experiences for high school teachers and other labs may be able to run workshops that focus on a particular research topic for middle school teachers.
- Address content knowledge that teachers will use in their classrooms.
- Allow teachers to work in a collaborative manner. Teachers should be able to share ideas about how to translate their lab experiences into ways that will impact student learning.
- Treat teachers as professionals. Teachers should be paid for work that they do to improve their teaching ability, and they should have opportunities to attend conferences and workshops that will help them stay current with the latest research in science and science education.
- Be scalable so that it can reach as many science teachers as possible.
LSTPD teachers make a three-year commitment to the program. The seven labs participating include Argonne National Lab near Chicago; Brookhaven National Lab on Long Island, New York; Lawrence Berkeley National Lab in the San Francisco Bay area; the National Renewable Energy Lab near Denver, Colorado; Oak Ridge National Lab in eastern Tennessee; the Pacific Northwest National Lab in Washington State; and the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility near Norfolk, Virginia (Figure 1). With the anticipated additional funding in 2007, the LSTPD program will grow to include up to 17 DOE National Laboratories. Teachers may participate in programs at the same lab for all three summers, or they may participate in programs at three different labs.
|Figure 1. Participating labs and programs.|
||Teachers as Investigators
||Teachers as Research Associates|
|Argonne National Lab
|Brookhaven National Lab
|Lawrence Berkeley National Lab
|National Renewable Energy Lab
|Oak Ridge National Lab
|Pacific Northwest National Lab
|Thomas Jefferson National
Each participating lab is required to design a program or programs using one or more of the following formats (Figure 1):
- Teachers as Investigators is designed for teachers looking for ways to relate research frontiers to the classroom and update their skills and knowledge of research methods, scientific instruments, laboratory technology, and how scientists operate and think. These programs are typically four weeks and may include time at the lab during the school year.
- Teachers as Research Associates is designed for teachers seeking an independent research project with a mentor scientist at a DOE National Laboratory. These programs typically run eight weeks.
DOE has incorporated the latest research and standards for teacher professional development into the
LSTPD program. The National Science Education Standards (NRC 1996) list four standards for professional development of teachers of science that serve as the foundation for the LSTPD program design (click here for connections to Standards). In addition, research from the American Institutes for Research (Birman et al. 2000) and publications from the National Institute for Science Education’s Professional Development Project (Loucks-Horsley et al. 1998) were used in the program design.
Teachers receive a stipend, in addition to funding for travel, housing, professional development, and purchasing lab equipment for their classrooms. The commitment goes far beyond time during the summer, as teachers are expected to collaborate during the school year.
This program increases the credibility of science teachers because participants will be science teachers who have actively engaged in the process of science. The ultimate goal is to enable teacher-leaders in school districts who can be agents for positive change in science education.
Todd Clark (email@example.com) is a science education advisor at the Office of Science, U.S. Department of Energy, 1000 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, DC 20585.
On the web
U.S. Department of Energy:
U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science:
Abraham, S. 2004. Remarks by the Secretary of Energy, Spencer Abraham at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center on July 8, 2004. http://energy.gov/news/1390.htm.
Birman, B., L. Desimone, A. Porter, and M. Garet. 2000. Designing professional development that works. Educational Leadership 57 (8): 28–33.
Loucks-Horsley, S., P.W. Hewson, N. Love, and K.E. Stiles. 1998. Ideas that work: Science professional development. Columbus, OH: Eisenhower National Clearinghouse for Mathematics and Science Education.
National Research Council (NRC). 1996. National science education standards. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.