In the 2012 Fall semester, two Emory chemistry graduate students from Prof. Davies’ laboratory, Kathryn Chepiga and Felicia Fullilove, were awarded National Science Foundation Graduate Teaching Fellowships in K-12 Education (NSF GK-12) through Emory University’s PRISM (Problems and Research to Integrate Science and Mathematics) program which is directed by Dr. Patricia Marsteller and Jordan Rose of the Center for Science Education. During this program, Kathryn and Felicia each partnered with a local high-school teacher to develop and implement compelling, inquiry-based science lessons to infuse pre-college students with a compelling need to know about the science behind real-world problems. The fellowship began with a two-week Summer Institute in which the teacher/graduate student team learned about problem-based learning (PBL) and investigative case-based learning (ICBL) pedagogies which are student-centered teaching techniques that give more responsibility for learning to the students who work to investigate problems and cases in small groups using a combination of teamwork and self-directed learning.

After learning these pedagogical tools, Kathryn and Felicia utilized them in developing original problems and cases, and also adapting existing PRISM materials for use in the high-school classroom. Once the training was complete and the lessons written, Kathryn and Felicia traveled to the classrooms of Ms. Rebecca Brown of Druid Hills High School and Dr. Steven Moody of North Springs High School respectively to implement the cases to high school chemistry classes of various levels with hopes of providing the high-school students with problem-solving skills based on asking appropriate questions, uncovering answers through investigation, and sharing knowledge with peers.

Ms. Brown and Dr. Moody served as both mentors and collaborators to Kathryn and Felicia in curriculum planning, classroom management, lesson planning, and assessment of student learning while the graduate fellows provided content expertise and served as an enthusiastic role model of a young chemist to the high-school chemistry students. Their participation in PRISM has allowed Kathryn and Felicia to become better scientists and more confident in their teaching, communication, and research dissemination skills.

The PRISM fellowship develops people as well as curriculum. In addition to the professional development that comes along with fostering scientific literacy public school students, directors Dr. Marsteller and Jordan Rose provided additional professional development opportunities for the graduate student fellows bi-weekly covering topics such as developing a teaching statement, finding a postdoc, applying for a job, what goes into a letter of recommendation, and the dos and don’ts interviewing.

This semester, Kathryn and Felicia served as key components in the bridge between K-12 schools and Emory University. From PRISM, Kathryn and Felicia gained significant practice in the development and implementation of problem-based learning lessons. The materials they developed during the fellowship are published on CASES Online and shared with educators around the world.

Author: Kathryn Chepiga

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