Bringing investigation and design to the undergraduate science classroom to prepare future teachers

Anne Egger
Central Washington University

Need: Introductory undergraduate science classrooms are complex systems. Students bring their cultures, backgrounds, and previous science learning experiences; instructors bring their knowledge, beliefs, and experiences in science and in teaching. For the substantial proportion of students who become K-12 teachers, that introductory course may be their only science experience as an adult learner. How future teachers learn science is of critical importance to how they teach science, but few college science classes reflect the vision of the 2012 Framework for K-12 Science Education, in which “students actively engage in scientific and engineering practices in order to deepen their understanding” (p. 217).

Guiding Question: The vision of the Teaching with Investigation and Design in Science (TIDeS) project is that future teachers will learn science as undergraduates the way they are expected to teach science in the K–12 classroom: engaging all students in science investigation and engineering design in a discourse-filled, context-rich, inclusive learning process. TIDeS seeks to catalyze transformation of introductory science courses by supporting faculty in the development and implementation of rigorously tested curricular materials that meet the project’s guiding principles:
• Students will engage in scientific investigation and engineering design to deepen their understanding of core ideas;
• Faculty and the curricular materials they use will cultivate an equitable learning environment where all students have equal access to learning and feel valued and supported in their learning;
• Students will engage in addressing questions and solving problems that are relevant to their lives; and
• Students will engage in authentic and meaningful scenarios that make use of real data and models and reflect the actual practice of science and engineering.

The project has two broad research questions: (1) How do the beliefs and practices of instructors change with developing and implementing new curricular materials? (2) What is the impact of the use of these new materials on students? To address these questions, we use a suite of research probes (interviews, observation protocols, student surveys, and rubrics) that are aligned with the guiding principles and provide a holistic picture of what teaching with investigation and design in introductory college-level science courses looks like, how it differs from an active learning classroom, and how it can support the preparation of future teachers.

Outcomes: Fifteen faculty from institutions across the country are currently engaged in developing materials. The research team has interviewed each one, conducted classroom observations, and administered student surveys in instructors’ courses to document current beliefs and practices. These initial data suggest that our instructors have the mindset and beliefs to implement more equitable and inclusive teaching focused on investigation and design, but are not yet doing so in a way that meets our guiding principles. The results also allow us to identify areas of need for professional development.

Broader Impacts: Our preliminary research results are encouraging, and imply that transformative change is possible in introductory science courses, which has the potential to impact many thousands of students and future K-12 teachers.


Anne Egger, Central Washington University, Ellensburg, WA; Devarati Bhattacharya, Central Washington University, Ellensburg, WA; Leighanna Hinojosa, Central Washington University, Ellensburg, WA