The National Science Foundation has awarded a five-year, $2.4 million grant to the Science Education Department (SED) of the
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. The grant will fund the department’s Misconception Oriented Standards-based Assessment Resource for Teachers (MOSART) project.
As part of SED’s continuing effort to improve science education throughout the country, the MOSART project aims to determine the best ways of instructing both teachers and students. The goal of the project is to improve teachers’ professional development by designing methods for testing their understanding of science topics that they will be covering in their classrooms.
“We will look at a question that has concerned a lot of people: What is the contribution of a teacher’s scientific knowledge to the gains their students undergo? We will try to measure the influence of professional development courses on teacher knowledge and, more importantly, on the conceptual gains of those teachers’ students,” says Philip Sadler, the principal investigator for MOSART and director of SED.
The MOSART team will develop tests to assess the degree to which teachers possess the knowledge and understanding required by national standards. Those same test questions will prove useful to students as well.
“Many people think that if students pass tests like the Massachusetts MCAS, they can handle college,” explains Sadler. “However, about half of the students who pass the tests end up needing remedial classes. We will construct new kinds of tests that allow students to test themselves and see if they’re ready for college science courses.”