- extensive classroom observation by teachers and researchers of Prekindergarten children’s ability to learn science processes and content,
- delivery of intensive professional development and mentoring support for Pre-K teachers to learn science, and
- development of qualitative and quantitative assessment strategies.
Building Baseline Objectives for Children’s Knowledge and Skills in Science (BLOCKS), was a National Science Foundation (NSF) funded study conducted by the University of Texas Center for STEM Education between 2008 and 2014, with Dr. Jim Barufaldi as PI and Mary Hobbs as Co-PI. Teacher participants were Austin area prekindergarten teachers who worked with the university team as teacher researchers. The project involved extensive classroom observation of young children’s ability to learn science processes and content. Throughout the project the 24 prekindergarten teachers-as-researchers received intensive professional development and mentoring support similar to that afforded by the Texas Regional Collaboratives (TRC) to K-12 science and mathematics teachers.
The project offered a unique opportunity to investigate the boundary between Pre-K and K-2 science and build a foundation for subsequent knowledge and skills acquisition, asking and answering the question: “What can we expect children entering kindergarten to know and be able to do in science?” Classroom data collection was completed in 2012 and results have since been reported at numerous state and national conferences including those conducted by the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), the American Educational Research Association (AERA), the National Association for Research in Science Teaching (NARST), ASCD, and at CAST and the National Head Start Conference, among others.
Outcomes of the project include a collection of articles written by the teacher-researchers as reflections on their work, a set of assessments used as part of the data collection process, videos of professional development sessions, and an iPad app for home use by children.
NAEYC published an article about the collaborative work with teachers as researchers in the journal, Voices of Practitioners, which is available online in PDF format.