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Web-based program helps teachers

By Dana Fair / News and Information Services

A new Web-based learning environment developed by a U-M professor is designed to help elementary school teachers improve their science and teaching skills by providing them with flexible models they can adapt to their experiences and teaching styles.

“Elementary teachers typically need to teach several subjects each day, and often have minimal coursework in science,” says Elizabeth Davis, an assistant professor in the U-M School of Education who developed the Curriculum Access System for Elementary Science (CASES). “The CASES environment helps them develop their scientific knowledge base.”

During a White House ceremony July 12, President Bush recognized Davis for her work in developing CASES. Davis received the Presidential Early Career Award in Science and Engineering (PECASE)—the highest honor the U.S. government gives to young scientists.

The CASES program will have the greatest benefit for pre-service and new elementary teachers, but the program also allows elementary students to grasp scientific concepts in ways that are easier to understand. The program helps new teachers anticipate kids’ ideas about science concepts like light, ecosystems and the water cycle.

It also allows researchers to assess the environment in which teachers are working and to design special methods for teachers.

Users of CASES provide background information when they register to use the program. Their use of CASES is logged automatically so that researchers can identify how specific features are used. The teachers are observed and interviewed.

Researchers explore four study areas: understanding how new teachers learn and teach; addressing specific CASES features and how they affect the way teachers learn; assessing how new teachers learn from other teachers; and understanding how teachers’ work and lives affect their learning.

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