Additional evidence of effectiveness and success.
Note: UC Berkeley graduate student Frank Worrell prepared the final evaluation report for the first half of the PRISM project. In regard to use of activity-based science and related variables, the Worrell report shows results of teacher surveys on pre- and post-questionnaires, indicating, on a 1-5 Likert scale (with 5 most favorable) significant increases from pre-questionnaire to one year later (page 8, Worrell report). Variables included: use of activity based science (increased from 4.2 to 4.9); stress on problem solving (from 4.1 to 4.3); teaches conceptual understanding (from 3.5 to 4.0); and teaches application of concepts (from 3.7 to 4.2).
Jacqueline Barber, Impact on Teacher Educators
of 1-week participation in K-3 Math/Science Summer Institute. (web published
on TEECH listserv)
River Cutters/AAAS Project 2061 analysis: In collaboration with Project 2061 of the AAAS, the GEMS unit River Cutters was carefully evaluated, with key issues pinpointed. It was then completely revised, in close coordination with Project 2061, to more effectively align its content and pedagogical support with main learning goals. The revised guide now addresses and in the words of Joellen Roseman of Project 2061 provides "much more instructional support" for several primary benchmarks (and their corresponding fundamental concepts in the NSES). These are: Benchmark 1B (6-8) #2 on controlled experimentation and issues of variables; Benchmark 4C (68) #2 and #5, on changes in the Earths surface, including "The earths surface is shaped in part by the motion of water and wind over very long times " and on erosion prevention; and Benchmarks 11B (68) #1 and #3, on models, their usefulness and limitations. There are other important "precursor benchmarks," for earlier grades, which if not addressed can prevent students from attaining the primary benchmarks, especially in this case the 35 benchmark which states, "Waves, wind, water, and ice shape and reshape the earths land surface by eroding rock and soil in some areas and depositing them in other areas sometimes in seasonal layers." This precursor benchmark is strongly addressed in the unit. In addition, based on the feedback of Project 2061, and the awareness that the vast scale of geological time is a difficult idea for students to grasp, the revised guide added and tested an entirely new activity, to provide greater instructional support for that aspect of Benchmark 4C which refers to "very long times." With this revision, the unit is judged to have been considerably improved by Project 2061 consultants and many teachers familiar with the unit. An article in progress by Project 2061 Curriculum Director Joellen Roseman and Former GEMS Curriculum Specialist Cary Sneider will confirm this improvement and document the process. The process was helpful and its essential elements are being applied to other units. Cary Sneider summarized the critique and revision process for the national science education community at a presentation entitled "Revising River Cutters: A GEMS Response," presented at a colloquium entitled "Using National Science Education Standards to Evaluate, Select, and Adapt Instructional Materials," conducted by the Center for Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Education of the National Research Council, Washington, D.C. November 15, 1996.
The School Community Mathematics Project (SCMP) 1990-1994, funded by the California Post secondary Education Commission (CPEC), Eisenhower Mathematics and Science Education State Grant Program: SCMP worked with the seven elementary schools of the Pittsburg Unified School District in Pittsburg, California to enhance mathematics teaching and improve the math curriculum taught in the district. Half of the units selected as the core curriculum were from the GEMS series or from activities that were later published as GEMS units. An important goal of the project was to utilize materials that addressed state and national science and mathematics standards. District K-5 teachers received eight full-day inservices on these units per year, seven on-site model lessons in their classroom, and instructional materials, and participation in education conferences, field trips, reunions, school-wide science/math nights and assembly programs. The evaluation component included attitude surveys, feedback forms, comment cards, classroom visits, student work (including mathematics journals), and teacher observations of student learning. The progress report and summary of evaluation data reflect significant improvement in teacher instructional practices, classroom math curriculum and student understanding of key concepts. Teachers also noted an improvement in attitudes toward science and mathematics. One principal noted an improvement of student math scores from the CTBS (California Test of Basic Skills). The success of the math project led to a similar 4-year science program, sponsored by Dow Chemical. A number of GEMS guides were selected for use in Grades K5. Assessments were developed for each unit; training and materials were provided for grade level leaders. Evaluation for SCMP was conducted by Dr. Jan M. Goodman.
Erätuuli, M. and Sneider, C: "The Experiences of Visitors in a Physics Discovery Room." Science Education 784 (4) (1990): 481-493.
Resources for Teaching Elementary School
Science, National Science Resources Center (NSRC), National Academy
Press, Washington, 1996. Numerous GEMS units are recommended and described.
Resources for Teaching Middle School Science,
National Science Resources Center (NSRC), National Academy Press, Washington,
1998. Many GEMS units are recommended and keyed to NSES standards
Cary Sneider, with Jacqueline Barber and
Lincoln Bergman, The Architecture of Reform, GEMS and National Standards,
GEMS Handbook, Lawrence Hall of Science, 1997.
GEMS Sites and Centers: Other Evidence of Success: We have also gathered a great deal of information from the growth of our nationwide network of GEMS sites and centers. Over the past 10 years, GEMS has developed a strong network of over 15,000 educators nationwide who regularly use GEMS materials to meet the goals of their mathematics and science programs. Close to 1,500 of these educators are more highly trained GEMS Associates who not only use GEMS with students but primarily serve as teacher-educators and present professional development workshops, courses, and institutes to colleagues in district, county, state, and national settings. Many GEMS Associates work collaboratively through the more than 35 GEMS Centers/Sites across the country (see the descriptions of current GEMS Centers and Sites in enclosed recent issues of the GEMS Network News). These Associates have the important job of linking GEMS training to curriculum, student learning, and professional development needs of their area. In the process of articulating GEMS units to address local, state, and national standards and guidelines, these Associates are providing us with invaluable information on the educational effectiveness and success of the GEMS program. The following examples showcase the efforts of a few of many GEMS Associates at these sites and centers who use GEMS instructional materials and professional development approaches to help meet the needs of all students and teachers in their region:
Program Costs, Impact, and Implementation
GEMS guides are inexpensive, certainly one of the key
factors in their accessibility to the individual teacher or school.
They range in price from under $10 to several that are in the $30 range,
with the average retail price approximately $15. Guides are distributed
by Lawrence Hall of Science, through many science and math educational
distributors, bookstores, catalogs, teacher supply stores, and other
outlets. GEMS Leaders and Associates receive discounts, as do many distributors,
including the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) and
a national book trade distributor. For the first 14 years of the program,
teachers and districts have gathered their own materials, although a
number of school districts and GEMS Network Sites or Centers have made
materials kits for GEMS units and established lending libraries for
these kits. More than 50 official GEMS Kits, produced in partnership
with Sargent-Welch, are currently available. Prices for these kits are
kept as reasonable as possible, with less complex kits under $75 and
most kits ranging in price from $150 to $300. Costs for GEMS professional
development workshops and institutes vary, depending on length and other
factors. Grant-supported awareness workshops have often been offered
free or for a nominal fee. The 3-day GEMS Leaders or GEMS Associates
Workshops have been offered for under $400 per person, and both include
a large number of GEMS guides and handbooks as part of the fee.
GEMS units and curriculum sequences are used annually in many thousands of classrooms in public and private schools, by a wide spectrum of teachers, ranging from those starting out to those extremely experienced with inquiry-based curricula. GEMS is also used in a wide variety of professional development experiences, by many University professors in methods courses and when assisting their local school districts, by scientists in partnership programs with schools, by corporate and foundation education personnel in establishing regional alliances for improvement of science and math education, and by leading presenters at regional and national math and science conferences, such as NSTA and NCTM. A network of GEMS Leaders and Associates helps implement the program nationwide. These range from the Los Angeles Unified School District to Vero Beach, Florida; from an extensive network in Texas to Vancouver, Washington, from St. Louis and Kansas City, Missouri to Bemidji, Minnesota and Port Huron, Michigan. Many sites are evolving areas of expertise; all offer professional development and regional support for teachers implementing reform in math and science education. GEMS staff and Site and Center Directors are also piloting real-time meetings on the Tapped-In Multi-User Virtual Environmental (MUVE) for educational exchange recently launched by the Stanford Research Institute and other groups. General GEMS information is provided there, as well as on the rapidly developing LHS website. GEMS is used in many diverse regions, and has been used successfully with students of differing racial and cultural backgrounds, girls and young women, and other groups historically underrepresented in math and science, with Navajo and other Native American students, English language learners of many nationalities, students facing learning or physical challenges, gifted students, etc. GEMS student sheets have been translated into Spanish. GEMS has also been used in after-school programs, at childcare centers, community centers, and at family events. Internationally, GEMS is used in Canada, Mexico (notably in Chiapas), other Central, South American and Caribbean nations, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Turkey, Spain, Finland, Denmark, and many other countries. Japanese language versions of GEMS Teacher's Guides will soon be available.
Due to the nature of the program, which is independently presented nationwide by many thousands of individual teachers each year, we do not have specific percentages of ethnic, racial, or gender participation. Based on our own testing histories, distribution of more than one million teachers guides, workshop records, and reports from GEMS Leaders/Associates, we know that a minimum of 600,000 teachers and 8 million students have experienced GEMS, and that this includes highly diverse urban and rural populations and much linguistic diversity. The local and national testing processes include a wide multiplicity of students, teachers, and regions. Specific GEMS units have been used very successfully in classes for developmentally disabled or other special needs students, gifted programs, National Council of La Raza after-school education programs, at community center, PTA, and Parents Day gatherings, in many less advantaged inner-city schools, as part of a rural distance learning project with interactive TV throughout the Northwest, in home schooling programsin almost every venue imaginable. The highly accessible and flexible nature of the GEMS materials has contributed to their effective and rapidly expanding use nationally and internationally.
All GEMS units and the handbook series pay careful attention to describing the conditions and resources involved in presenting the activity in the classroom and/or implementing GEMS on a school or district level. On a unit level, there are detailed instructions in the "What You Need" and "Getting Ready" sections to fully advise teachers of easy-to-obtain materials and preparation steps needed in order to present the activities. The GEMS Teachers Handbook and GEMS Leaders Handbook include general advice on the transition to and presentation of activity-based science and more specific ideas for professional development initiatives, while the Architecture of Reform provides a basic outline of how one might undertake curriculum planning and evolve a "local plan" for the implementation of science education reform (pages 5765). At the most basic level, presentation of a GEMS unit requires a teachers guide and acquisition of the needed materials. The GEMS Kit Builders Handbook provides full materials lists for GEMS Teacher's Guides, and has been helpful to those teachers, districts, and sites that build and maintain kits. Other users can take advantage of the more costly but time efficient purchase of kits.
The educational effects of the GEMS program are definitely beneficial for students and teachers when costs in time and money are considered. As a supplementary program, GEMS is often used in a time-efficient manner by teachers, combining relatively succinct GEMS units with textbooks or other programs. All activity-based programs require some materials gathering and advanced preparation. Some GEMS units are more preparation-intensive than others, but these, including many of the chemistry units as well as the very involving Mystery Festival, have high benefits in student interest, motivation, and learning. Preparation checklists are often provided to help teachers organize the tasks. The tradeoffs involved are carefully explained to the teacher and numerous tips are provided to streamline preparation, gain assistance from student teams, parents, or aides, and obtain donations from the community. Several GEMS handbooks, especially the "1001 Ideas" section of the GEMS Leaders Handbook (pages 3376) contain suggestions and helpful hints for teachers to save time and expense and yet present activity-based science in highly effective and efficient ways.
Under the heading "science is for all students" the NSES strongly advocate that all students should be able to experience and benefit from excellent science education. The Architecture of Reform handbook seconds this important part of the "common vision." GEMS has been grounded in this goal since its inception, in regard to multicultural and gender equity issues, and also due to a commitment to activities that can be presented by all teachers, including those without specialized math and science background, while utilizing accessible and economical materials. The respectful and non-condescending tone of the guides is often cited as one reason for the appeal to teachers. In the text, editorial care is taken to promote respect for diverse cultures and avoid the use of sexist or any other prejudicial language. A number of examples of guides that reflect cultural diversity are noted earlier. On Sandy Shores and several recently released units (Only One Ocean and Ocean Currents) adapt activity structures designed to assist students who are English language learners in both acquiring language and learning science. GEMS student data sheets have been translated into Spanish to allow more effective presentation of activities in settings where such translations are needed. The photographs in GEMS units, cover designs, literature connections, resources, and poems are selected with attention to representing the wide spectrum of students and teachers. The cover of Height-O-Meters, for example, shows a young woman student in a wheelchair taking active part in an outdoor measuring activity. Stories in Stone features selections from Chilean poet Pablo Neruda while River Cutters includes a famous poem by African-American poet Langston Hughes. The vast majority of GEMS guides include photographs depicting a high proportion of girls/young women taking active roles, and there is high representation of African-American, Latin, Asian, and other non-white students. GEMS has also consulted with others as needed on issues of cultural sensitivity. This was of particular importance to the non-stereotypical portrayal of Native Americans in the Investigating Artifacts guide. In issues of curriculum construction and pedagogy, GEMS has been guided by the understanding that cooperative learning, manifested in all GEMS units, and activity-based learning in general, can be facilitators of equity and equality of access.
There is ample evidence of the widespread distribution of GEMS and its active and continued use by many thousands of teachers, with more reached each month as leadership and awareness workshops are held nationwide, testing for new units proceeds, more sites and centers are launched, as GEMS Kits become available, and as teachers hear about a new or classic unit and contact GEMS. The scale of GEMS implementation in many different settings suggests significant impact, scope, and importance. These units are solidly grounded in inquiry-based pedagogy and provide teachers with creative, accessible, innovative, and highly practical knowledge of effective teaching and learning. In addition to all the elements of scientific (and mathematical) content, learning, standards, and assessment described in this submission, there is a strong emphasis on teamwork and cooperative learning. GEMS units also extend into many other disciplines, including writing and literature, art, and diverse cultures, and as such contribute to the formation of the "whole student" while helping students understand the connections and underlying conceptual frameworks of many branches of human knowledge. Research studies indicate that specific GEMS units increase student understanding of key content and process skills. Specific evidence of positive differences in student learning will be considered in later sections of this submission. Information derived from teacher and student feedback during testing, unsolicited teacher anecdotes and letters, student work sent in during testing or gathered for assessment, evaluation studies of programs that used GEMS units, and classroom pilot testing of our assessment tasksall testify to a positive impact on student attitudes toward science and math. In addition, the implementation of a variety of flexible GEMS curriculum sequences through GEMS regional sites, as well as numerous other school districts, provides not only a strong indication of scope and importance, but a promising framework for the development of independent research studies to demonstrate the effectiveness of GEMS units. As we enter an era of increasing emphasis on the achievement of national standards and as curricula are increasingly evaluated for their effectiveness, it is our intention to undertake such studies, in a variety of forms. Within this context, information gained from such studies will be carefully applied to the development of new units and the revision of existing ones.
The rapid expansion of the GEMS Network, and the training of more than 15,000 GEMS Leaders and close to 1,500 GEMS Associates suggests that the GEMS program is an extremely fertile field for the spread of effective inquiry-based teaching practices and current approaches to professional development. GEMS staff keep themselves apprised of current professional development approaches and have incorporated these ideas into advanced Associates and Associates II workshops. As The Architecture of Reform points out, the "one shot" workshop model is not adequate and more sustained models are required (pages 63-64). Instructional materials can play a critical role in teacher changeGEMS units are "teachers guides," and they provide step-by-step instructions, pedagogical explanations, logistical suggestions, frameworks to elicit and guide discussions, ways to analyze data and findings, background information, and assessmentsall to enable all teachers to present effective inquiry-based math and science. As such, GEMS units can and do serve as exemplars in methods and preservice courses, helping prepare new teachers and transform practices of more traditional teachers. GEMS units are often presented independently at national and regional conferences, as part of district educational presentations, and at teacher-education events of all kinds. In addition, the GEMS Handbook Series serves as an accessible resource for teachers. For example, the GEMS Teachers Handbook and GEMS Leaders Handbook include summaries of the inquiry-based, guided-discovery approach, along with emphasis on questioning strategies, collaborative work, the learning cycle, and issues associated with transition from a more traditional approach to an activity-based curriculum. The literature handbook (Once Upon A GEMS Guide) connects science and literature, reaching additional teachers. Many handbooks include information that relates to inquiry-based science in general, not only to GEMS. In fact, GEMS units have also served, in many regions, as a successful and accessible catalyst for teachers to work towards gaining confidence in presentation of other well-known inquiry-based programs of a more comprehensive nature (such as FOSS, Insights, or STC). This is a useful function, given the uneven nature of reform from state to state and region to region. All this suggests that GEMS makes significant contributions to teachers knowledge of effective teaching and learning. GEMS is also actively involved in a series of parent education programs, some of which are aimed at improving teacher relationships with parents and the community, thus also contributing to more effective teaching and learning. The handbook Parent Partners: Workshops to Foster SchoolHome/Family Partnerships supports this goal.
GEMS is designed to improve learning for all studentsto
reach the widest and most diverse section of students (and teachers)
possible. We have much information from trial-test teachers, letters,
and other comment as to the ability of GEMS to meet special needs of
students with learning or physical challenges, as well as under-served
and underrepresented groups. We are moved by stories such as one in
the "Galaxy Classroom" evaluation, where the activities moved
a student who had never before spoken in class to make his first comments.
The engaging, science-as-questioning, investigating-more-deeply quality
of GEMS also means that special learning needs of students whose interests
and talents go beyond core math or science education, including gifted
students and students engaged in home schooling or independent study,
are well served by GEMS units. A deep commitment to all students is
represented in the language and presentation of GEMS, as is a genuine
sense of discovery and investigationqualities with appeal to a
wide range and multiplicity of teachers and students. There is always
room for improvement and, as we work alongside many other excellent
programs, all of us have much to learn. We hope the GEMS program will
make its own modest contribution to the many future transformations
and innovations in science education that loom as we move through the