September 1, 2002
The JASON Multimedia Science Curriculum is used differently by different teachers under different school and community circumstances. To understand better how the JASON teachers use the various JASON curriculum components (e.g., print curriculum, videos, live expedition broadcast), we conducted one large-scale survey targeting this year's 25,000 teachers who participated in the JASON Project, and a follow-up large-scale survey targeting the 1,896 JASON teachers who responded to the first survey. We received back a total of 1,133 follow-up surveys. The first survey's response rate is estimated at 8 percent, and the follow-up survey's at 60 percent. We conducted a series of analyses on the data collected from both surveys: frequencies, cross-tabulations, and correlations.
The results below provide a portrait of the teachers involved with the JASON Project. The JASON teachers' most salient characteristics are that they:
- Come from 45 U.S. states, with the highest number of participants in this study being from California, New York, Texas, and Ohio
- Are female and white
- Have Master's or undergraduate degrees
- Have participated in science workshops or coursework
- Have a lot of teaching experience (average of 15 years)
- Have access to high-speed Internet connectivity in their school
- Teach one or more grades between 4th and 7th grade or elementary and secondary school
- Serve a white student population with a range of academic placement levels and socioeconomic backgrounds
- Teach 45- and 50-minute class periods
- Are not told often what to teach in their classroom
- Have structured time to meet with colleagues
- Have their students review and revise their own work
- Have students engage in group research activities
- Assess their students using presentations, reports, or multiple-choice tests
The main findings about teachers' past and current experience with the JASON curriculum reveals that they:
- Have been in the JASON Project for either one year or between two and four years
- Receive professional development on how to use the JASON curriculum
- Are frequent users of the JASON curriculum in their classroom
- Use three to four of the curriculum components, with the print curriculum being the most used, followed by the videos, the live expedition broadcast, and Team JASON Online
- Reuse JASON print curriculum materials
- Make their decisions on which sections of the print curriculum to use by topic and standards
- Rate favorably the print curriculum format
- Make heavy use of the curriculum in January and February
- Meet most of their teaching objectives through the use of the JASON print curriculum materials
- Meet most of their assessment objectives through the use of the JASON print curriculum materials
- Use the videos to introduce the new curriculum to students, to add to the print curriculum as a teaching tool, and in conjunction with specific lessons and activities
- Rate their students' experience with Team JASON Online as good to excellent
- Find the question-and-answer format an effective way to share information with students about the curriculum topic
- Find it important that the JASON expedition be broadcast live
- Would still take part in the JASON live broadcast if it took place every two years instead of every year
- Meet their students' learning objectives: collaboration, problem-solving, research, assessment, and technology
We found the following items to be statistically significant in the ways teachers used the curriculum effectively:
- Technology, such as quality of school Internet connectivity, teacher's technology experience, and teacher's frequent use of technology
- Teaching and JASON past experience
- Students' grade levels, students' academic placement levels, team-teaching, and length of class periods
- Regularity of use during the school year
- The type of community in which the JASON schools were located: suburban, urban, and rural
- The ways JASON teachers made decisions about which parts of the print curriculum to use in their classrooms: topic, standards, classroom period, number of months dedicated to the JASON Project during the school year.
CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
The above survey results provide a broad view of the characteristics of the JASON teachers based on their personal, educational, community, teaching, JASON, and student backgrounds, and of their effective use of the different curriculum components. JASON teachers teach in the upper elementary and lower middle grades, are experienced teachers, and are comfortable with digital technologies. They use the JASON Project in their classroom a lot during a six-week period, select units from the curriculum to cover in their classroom based on topic and standards, reuse the print curriculum, and meet their assessment objectives using the JASON curriculum. Further, they value the hands-on activities, and the connection to a community of researchers.
Overall, teachers rate positively their students' experience with the JASON curriculum, and the TJO as good to excellent. They testify that it meets their students' learning objectives in the following areas: collaboration, problem-solving, research, assessment, and technology.
Within different school and community circumstances, we found the following to be statistically significant in the ways teachers made effective use of the curriculum.
- We found that teachers who have more experience with technology use the JASON curriculum more comprehensively. This is unsurprising, given the nature of JASON and its close relationship to technology. JASON professional development should focus more on technology uses in the classroom, thus making it easier for JASON teachers to use more of its components, especially the live expedition and TJO.
- We found that teachers participated in local training workshops at the school, district, and regional levels. Further, they indicated that these trainings were helpful to them in using effectively the JASON curriculum in the classroom.
- We found that the JASON curriculum was used more comprehensively at the lower grade levels. Since many JASON features address middle- and high-school age student needs, an attempt should be made to acquaint middle and high school teachers with the different JASON features, as well as find out why more middle and high school teachers do not use the JASON multimedia science curriculum
- We found that teachers who team-teach use JASON more comprehensively. The JASON Foundation for Education who is sponsor of the project should encourage and recommend teamteaching. Professional development should provide teachers with the tools for successful engagement in team-teaching.
This study suggests that the basic multimedia curriculum components do not need much improvement, but the ways those components are made available to teachers could certainly be improved to extend the reach of the project. In order to hold existing teachers and attract new ones, the JASON Project should go after those teachers not represented in this sample, and who do not satisfy some of the above conditions of effective use of the JASON multimedia curriculum. This target group might include new or young teachers, teachers serving in underserved communities, who are most likely not to satisfy some of the above conditions, male teachers, and teachers struggling with teaching science in relevant and meaningful ways for their students.