Pilot Trials at Texas State University

Formative testing of the prototype water resources module was conducted in three methods courses (a total of four sections) with 65 pre-service teachers during the spring 2015 semester at Texas State University. Two sections were a Mathematics methods course, one section was a Science methods course, and one section was a Geography course. A week prior to the lesson, a pre-test of geospatial thinking skills was implemented using a previously validated and reliable assessment (Huynh & Sharpe, 2013). After the lesson, the post-test was implemented. The average percentage of correctly answered questions was computed for each pre-service teacher and for each test. A dependent t-test was used to analyze the change in mean scores for the pre-service teachers, and the results were significant and positive, t(37) = 2.77, p = 0.009. The average improvement in percentage correct between the post-test and pre-test scores was 5 percentage points from 49% to 54%.

Teacher Candidates’ Geospatial Knowledge and Learning

Another research objective was to acquire baseline data of teacher and student performance in math, science and social science/geography in Texas, as precedent for a longitudinal research program that will measure the impact of GeoSTEM training on teacher candidates at Texas State University over successive years. We examined the TExES certification test data for the elementary, middle, and high school tests that examine teacher candidates’ geospatial knowledge and computed the percentage who scored 70% or higher on the first administration of the test. Of the 75 teacher candidates who took one of these tests between January 1, 2014, and May 31, 2015, only 24 (32%) passed on the first attempt. Texas is in the process of implementing new teacher licensure standards and many of the new tests will require teacher candidates to pass each section of the certification test with an 80% or higher. If the new standard were currently in place, then only 11% of the students would have passed the geography sections of the tests.

Students’ Geospatial Learning and Knowledge

We also examined the percentage of questions answered correctly on the state assessments associated with geospatial knowledge. Results for four different assessments were analyzed. In the spring of the 2014-15 school year, on the Texas Grade 8 Social Studies assessment students averaged 57% correct overall on the geography domain, with Hispanic students averaging 52%, African American students averaging 51%, and white students averaging 64% correct. On the Texas US History end-of-course exam, students averaged 66% correct overall on the geography domain, with Hispanic students averaging 62%, African American students averaging 61%, and white students averaging 72% correct.

The Texas assessments for science in Grades 5 and 8 include geography-relevant content similar to the prototype module created under this grant. Students showed similar levels of performance with students answering correctly 65% of the questions in Grade 5 and 66% in Grade 8. In Grade 5, Hispanic students averaged 62%, African American students averaged 56%, and white students average 72% correct. A similar pattern was observed in Grade 8 with students correctly answering 63%, 58%, and 73%, respectively.

Performance on the module-related content domains on the Texas assessments for math varied widely with students correctly answering 64% in Grade 5 and 51% in Grade 8. In Grade 5, Hispanic students averaged 61%, African American students averaged 53%, and white students average 70% correct. In Grade 8, Hispanic students averaged 48%, African American students averaged 45%, and white students average 57% correct. Hispanic and white student performance declined by 13 percentage points from Grade 5 to Grade 8, and African American student performance declined by 8 percentage points.

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