Rice to offer online courses for K-12 science teachers

This fall Rice University will offer the first course aimed specifically at K-12 science teachers through the online education provider Coursera. That course is part of a series of five online courses for the professional development of elementary, middle and high school teachers in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.

The four-week courses will be developed by Rice’s Center for Digital Learning and Scholarship (RDLS) with materials from STEMScopes, the center’s online comprehensive science curriculum that is used by more than a million students in Texas. Training on new national science standards that were announced in April by the National Research Council will also be provided.

“Lessons from the wildly popular science curriculum for STEMScopes will be incorporated into these new courses that are being developed specifically for science teachers,” said Rice Provost George McLendon. “Rice University is proud to be among the first to offer such online professional development on Coursera for K-12 teachers who want to improve their effectiveness in the classroom and their leadership as science teachers.”

The first four classes in the series will focus on an approach called “inquiry science learning” and hands-on activities for classroom use. They will be taught by members of the RDLS staff: Reid Whitaker, executive director and professor in the practice of digital learning; Lara Arch, associate director for elementary curriculum; Chris “C.J.” Thompson, associate director for secondary professional development; and Lisa Webber, associate director for school relations.

The fifth course will address the National Research Council’s scientific and engineering practices for K-12 science education and will be taught by Terry Tally, program director for the Southwest Regional Texas-STEM Center at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston.

For each course completed successfully, participants can earn a certificate for 16 hours of continuing-education credit.

The new courses, including links for registration, are listed below.

* Science Leadership – helps teachers expand their influence outside the classroom to promote scientific literacy throughout their school and into the community. Starts Sept. 9.

* Techniques for Success – helps teachers master techniques and strategies that create a learning environment that will empower students and enhance mastery of science content and skills. Starts Nov. 4.

* Science Content Survey – explores teachers’ and students’ misconceptions about science and engineering. Starts Jan. 27.

* Student-Centered Inquiry – helps teachers change the nature of their classrooms to promote student engagement and proficiency in inquiry science. Starts Apr. 7.

* Using the Next-Generation Science Standards for Students’ Deeper Understanding – helps teachers understand how and why scientific and engineering design practices should be integrated into investigations. Starts May 4.

Rice joined Coursera in July 2012. Enrollment in Rice’s first massive open online course — an eight-week computer programming class in Python — topped 80,000. That class was rated the best online course in the nation.

Rice also offers courses on edX, another online education provider.

Earlier this year Rice announced 12 new courses that will be offered on Coursera or edX during the 2013-14 academic year. Rice does not currently charge a fee for the online courses, but students may have to pay a fee for classroom materials or for a certificate of completion.

About B.J. Almond

B.J. Almond is senior director of news and media relations in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.