Local teachers learn research-based teaching practices

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By Stuart Cassidy

TELL CITY - Class was back in session for about 15 Tell City-Troy Township teachers at William Tell Elementary July 28-30, but they weren't there to educate, they themselves were students. They were taking part in a five-day Indiana science initiative pilot program designed to give teachers skills needed to provide hands-on training in the classroom.

Using funds from a $1.5 million Eli Lilly grant, the program is part of a collaborative effort from state educators, science-oriented businesses and state government. Spearheaded by the state department of education, Indiana Science Technology Engineering Mathematics Resource Network, Eli Lilly and BioCrossroads, are being trained through professional-development workshops teachers how to effectively use a research-developed science programs.

The initiative represents a reform in science education, which promotes alternative teaching methods and development of a research-focused curriculum. It helps enhance teacher skill sets and provides tools that complement ever-increasing revisions in science standards.

"There's an urgent need for broad improvement in science and math education in our grade schools and high schools so that young Americans have an opportunity to participate in the high-tech economy of the future,” said John C. Lechleiter, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Eli Lilly and Co. "Those of us in the private sector must take an active role to ensure our teachers and students have the support they need. We at Lilly will do our part, and I encourage my business colleagues to become more involved as well in this effort that is so vital to our future."

Teachers who use the methods in the classroom teach more effective ways of using scientific knowledge and critical thinking to help students innovate, discover, answer questions and make decisions based on observation and evidence. Using teaching techniques that focus toward student research and class labs is expected to translate into better test scores and should extend into the workforce in the long term with enhanced job performance.

Program instructor Jeff Trone said the idea is to get students to do science instead of reading about it in a textbook through inquiry-based learning. "It's not just going to increase scores in math and science, but across the board,” he said.

But the end goal is not to better test scores. By instituting the practices in the the schools, officials hope to offer better teaching tools to students so they can be more intuitive and gain lifelong learning skills.

"There has been so much research that has been done on it that proves this is the best way to do things for kids,” said William Tell Elementary Principal Sara Maas. "It's going to help kids be able to better solve problems in all areas because its going to teach them a thought process. It's not just going to teach them science, it's going to teach them a way to work through things ... it's really teaching strong thinking skills.