Most secondary school teachers are unfamiliar with the field of materials science. In both content and structure, the Materials World Modules (MWM) differs substantially from most traditional science textbooks. Because of these key differences, MWM provides teacher orientation workshops to new module users at MWM "hub sites," explaining how to effectively use and integrate the modules into their curricula.
During these workshops, teachers:
- become familiar with the history and philosophy of MWM
- gain firsthand experience with module activities and design challenges
- discuss practical and theoretical issues regarding the implementation of MWM
- establish a network of MWM resources in their area and at Northwestern University
MWM hub sites are established in areas where there is a concentration of 15 to 20 teachers interested in MWM developments. Ideally, a target hub site is centrally located and easily accessible within a 50-mile (or one-hour one-way) travel radius of each teacher. The hubs create a structure for the long-term dissemination and sustenance of MWM module implementation. Each hub site provides face-to-face occasions for discussion and for the trading of "classroom secrets," which foster a close community of users in the integration and application of MWM modules.
Feedback from teachers who have used the modules across the country has confirmed the importance of this training. Each workshop provides an overview of the pedagogical concepts undergirding the module design and an opportunity to explore hands-on activities in the modules. The goal of the workshop is to provide teachers first-hand experience with the planning and practice of the MWM activities. The hands-on experience allows teachers to experiment with the scientific and technological techniques used in the module activities. The training ensures that teachers are thoroughly familiar with the activities that their students will be doing in class. Thus, teachers have the opportunity to anticipate student responses and also receive advice from seasoned teachers. Tips on how best to use the activities, time savers, student misconceptions, best student design ideas, working across disciplines, and networking with other teachers are some of the "shop talk" featured in these workshops.
Hosting a Workshop or Hub Site Meeting
MWM provides training services such as hub meetings or workshops upon request from interested teachers or institutions. Often the sponsoring host already has a cadre of teachers from their department or neighboring districts. The number of modules, length of training, and number of teachers in attendance vary from site to site. Meeting topics include introduction of new modules, new activities, variations of suggested module activities, guest speakers from industry or the research community, feedback from field tests, MWM dissemination strategies, teacher recruitment, reflective practice discussions, demonstration of iterative design, question creation, classroom video clips, and others.
MWM continually works with schools or institutions to obtain funding for sponsoring these training sessions. MWM has been successful in helping a number of schools obtain grants from local corporations to subsidize these professional development workshops. Please contact the MWM office for further information about hosting a workshop or hub site at your school.