Date of Award


Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)




Kirk Maasch

Second Committee Member

MaryAnn McGarry

Third Committee Member

Michael C. Wittmann


In the fall of 2002 the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Maine piloted an innovative course developed as a core offering for the new Master of Science in Teaching program. A team of four instructors comprised of two Earth Sciences faculty and two science educators developed the course and implemented it with nine students- six in-service teachers and three pre-service teachers. The course addressed multiple needs of secondary teachers through the integration of instruction in curriculum design, pedagogy, assessment, and classroom-level educational research, and earth systems science content. The components of instruction taught in the course included: the use of backward planning for determining and prioritizing an instructional unit's learning outcomes; the construction of performance and other assessments matched to learning outcome priorities; the construction and use of inquiry-based learning activities; and the development of classroom level educational research skills for the assessment of instructional effectiveness. These instructional topics were taught in the context of 11 earth systems science (ESS) topics, selected for their centrality to the discipline and applicability to secondary science curricula according to national and state education standards. The course met once each week for three hours during the fall 2002 semester. The first hour each week was used for review and enrichment in one of the ESS topics. During the second hour, the ESS topic was the context for a workshop dealing with one of the identified instructional topics. The third hour each week was used to create materials or practice skills associated with instructing or assessing that ESS topic in secondary classrooms. Data concerning student knowledge, attitudes, and instructional practices were collected during the course using a prerequisite knowledge assessment, pre- and post- instruction assessments, and surveys, all of which were created specifically for the course. Analyses of quantitative and qualitative data indicate that the course strengthened the participants' understanding of the targeted earth systems science concepts and that they understood, could apply, and implement the instructional concepts in the course. The course was valuable to the participants and instructors and is a model that may be transferable to other disciplines that are considering the development of courses for secondary teachers.