HANDS-ON ACTIVITY SCIENCE PROGRAM (HASP)
This project is a collaborative effort of the Institute for Science Education of the University of Alabama in Huntsville and five school districts - Athens, Decatur, Fort Payne, Morgan County and Scottsboro. These six organizations plus other school districts are joined in a partnership named HASP. Executive level issues of the partnership are the purview of a council of district superintendents and the UAH ISE director. Operating level coordination is facilitated through monthly meetings of a council of district and UAH co-directors. Evaluating progress, exchanging curriculum information, selecting materials distribution schedules, and planning professional development are common concerns of this council. District co-project directors communicate with principals, lead teachers and their district council.
HASP curriculum is a set of four nationally developed and tested modules for each classroom. During transition to an activity-inquiry curriculum, one module is introduced each year and complete curriculum change requires four years. Kits of classroom instruction materials are distributed through a materials resource center where space and overhead costs are provided by the university and operating costs are paid for by the partner school districts. The first year of the LSC grant was 1995-96, but the reform had started earlier and now curriculum change has been completed in all districts.
The first goal and objectives for this five-year project are:
- Convert to an activity-inquiry science program in grades K-6
- Implement an activity-inquiry curriculum
- Use appropriate inquiry-based teaching strategies
- Guide instruction with authentic assessment methods
All teachers receive a minimum of 20 hours of professional development per year which includes two full days of in-service workshops plus various types of follow-up activities. The curriculum transition has been made and professional development directed at immediate needs for this change has been achieved. Teachers who are new to the partnership take part in the annual professional development and in addition receive an immediate, but shortened (one day instead of two per module) version of the workshops for using the module-based curriculum. Teachers who are hired after the summer program is offered for new hires do not receive professional development for introduction to modules. The need for future professional development plans to accommodate to an increasing number of new teachers is recognized
In considering the second objective, we now have a much richer understanding of the term "appropriate" than when the grant request was written. Teachers are using basic elements of inquiry-based teaching strategies and professional development currently is reaching beyond this level and targeting teacher needs that have been identified through our evaluation. Findings from the HRI teacher questionnaires generally were corroborated by findings of the project evaluator. However, specificity of the questions in the questionnaire helped us to identify individual components of inquiry-based teaching and focus professional development upon these. The areas identified with a need for increased classroom usage included reasoning ability, conceptual understanding, designing and implementing investigations, designing objects under constraints, recording and analyzing data, assessment using portfolios, assessment using performance tasks, use of math, writing reflections, and writing reports.
Four strands (science inquiry, assessment, use of computers, and integration of math and language arts into science) of professional development in a variety of formats (study groups, action research, peer coaching and workshops).were offered to teachers during 1997-98. Progress was made on these areas of concern, but further attention is needed. Co-directors concluded that professional development for 1998-99 and 1999-2000 should be designed by teams of teachers and scientists and that a single core program should be provided to all teachers. The focus was deeper understanding of science by teachers and better ability to assess student understanding.
In addressing our assessment objective, teachers have been introduced to observational checklists, concept maps, pre-post drawings, student journals, questioning strategies, performance based assessments, portfolios and using data from standardized tests. Maryellen Harmon has worked with teacher-leaders to adopt/develop, pilot and refine performance-based assessments for each module. During 1998-99 all teachers were introduced to a performance assessment for one module which was tried in the classroom and the results discussed during follow-up sessions. Use of this assessment will continue in 1999-2000 and a second performance assessment will be introduced through our professional development program. Early discussions regarding targets for professional development in post-grant years suggest that the focus will be assessments.
The second goal and its three objectives for the grant request are:
- All five districts will support a "Materials Resources Center" that develops a capacity to:
- Provide kits of materials for all modules as needed in the classrooms
- Facilitate professional development of teachers and principals
- Assist in curriculum planning
This goal and its objectives have been reached through formation of a continuing partnership including the university and school districts. Funding for purchasing and refurbishing kits of materials has been provided by school districts since the inception of the grant. Financial support for second and third objectives came from the grant and the districts. Superintendents have now committed to funding positions for the Associate Director for HASP and a teacher-in-residence solely through their resources. Three districts which are not in the grant (Madison County, Madison City and Jackson County) will participate in funding this post-grant professional development.
The districts are committed to carrying the reform into grades seven and eight. Selected middle and high school teachers participated in the summer three-day workshops to build greater understanding in science and will participate with TIRs in leading school-year sessions. It is anticipated that this participation will familiarize them with HASP and help generate support for reform at higher grade levels. An NSF planning grant has facilitated action by the university with all nine partner districts to carry the reform effort into the middle school level.