Dr. Janice Koch on IDEAS
Through a unique "engaging teachers to engage students" philosophy, the Institute for the Development of Education in Advanced Sciences (IDEAS), part of the School of Education and Allied Human Services at Hofstra University, supports science education by helping teachers to foster an everyday appreciation of science -- in the classroom and beyond.
With an emphasis on experiential learning - teaching that relates scientific principles to the world outside of school -- IDEAS seeks to promote students' success in science and a long-term commitment to stay in school.
As part of its comprehensive approach to the study and appreciation of science, IDEAS provides a cutting-edge focus on science and technology issues for the general public, local public and private school teachers and administrators, and college educators, including those in traditionally underserved minority communities.
By assembling a lively intellectual community, advanced teaching workshops, and other professional development resources, IDEAS uses Action Research to enhance teachers' ability to engage their students in the sciences. Applied to teaching, Action Research allows teachers to study their own practice in order to maximize its impact.
"You can have the best science program in the world and it's going to die if you don't have a teacher who "gets" it," explains Dr. Janice Koch, the Institute's Director. "And they have to get it in a way that makes it possible for them to work in relationship with kids and to engage them in project-based learning."
Through its comprehensive range of programs, IDEAS builds on already-existing partnerships with state- and federally-funded programs for minority teachers and students to enhance the professional development of K-12 science teachers in predominantly minority communities.
Working closely and collaboratively with local school districts, IDEAS reaches out to those teachers who are already working to expand student engagement in and appreciation of science in the daily life of the classroom.
This process is designed to engage students in a personal search for meaning by using examples and materials from daily life and giving students multiple ways to express meaning through writing, drawing, and design. Instead of just studying the technicalities of photosynthesis, for example, the process is brought to life through a living classroom garden.
By inviting motivated educators to its state-of-the-art learning center, IDEAS provides them with the opportunity to connect with Hofstra's nationally-recognized researchers in the sciences, computer science, engineering and education fields.
The Institute also provides a series of popular, interactive workshops that emphasize experiential learning and encourage children to identify what Koch calls their "own scientific selves" -- making new cross-disciplinary connections with math and other subjects.
In addition to lectures by national experts, IDEAS is also a center for research and evaluation, seeking to raise the visibility and understanding of scientific and technological advances in the public and professional education communities.
IDEAS' signature professional development workshops are designed to help participants analyze and get to the heart of a student's psychological investment in science learning. By using team exercises and hands-on materials that are directly meaningful to students' daily lives, IDEAS also encourages teachers to work together to solve a complex design challenges.
These activities enhance the conceptual understanding of math and science and provide a unique pedagogical alternative to the "drill and kill" techniques that have become increasingly influential in the face of test-based learning standards.
In addition to bringing teachers together, IDEAS also provides an in-service model to helps teachers implement intensive math and science problem solving. As part of the learning process, this model allows students to join the teacher as they engage in problem-based activities.
To keep teachers literally as well as intellectually engaged in the outside world, IDEAS also sponsors geology field trips for science teachers in New York State.
Through all of its programs, IDEAS is grounded in the principle that while rigorous science curriculum and high student expectations are essential, "engaged and engaging" teachers are equally important.
It's always about the people," says Dr. Koch. "Curriculum is a lifeless document without the teachers who make it happen. And teachers want and need practices that will raise the achievement in their classroom and, through them, create the days in which they feel that they have done work for the social good."