Iowa Project WET Follow-up Research on Preservice Workshop Participants - Part II

Can past preservice workshop participants identify Project WET as an interdisciplinary program? This is the evaluation question investigated by Iowa Project WET in 2008-2009. The Project WET Curriculum & Activity Guide is an interdisciplinary resource with 92 science based activities for science, social studies, mathematics, language arts, and many other subject areas. Survey results from a follow-up study conducted in 2007 indicated that more past preservice participants who go on to teach science implement Project WET activities at the routine & refinement and integration levels* during their 1st-3rd year of teaching than their non-science teaching counter parts. The results also indicated that a portion of the non-science teaching past participants had not attempted to implement Project WET activities in their classrooms because they view it as a science only resource.

Reversing this misconception seemed like an easy way to ensure that Project WET activities are implemented in more classrooms. The Iowa Project WET preservice workshop model was changed to include resources and a discussion of the interdisciplinary nature of Project WET. This year’s evaluation efforts were designed to see if participants who have taken the Project WET workshop since the changes can identify Project WET as an interdisciplinary resource.

Participants from Fall, Spring and Summer 2008 (124 total) were sent an email request to complete a survey about their experiences with Project WET before and after the workshop. Thirty-four participants responded to the survey. The demographics of the survey respondents were consistent with the demographics of the population. As a part of the survey, participants were asked to identify all of the subject areas in which they could integrate an activity from Project WET.

Results and Discussion—One respondent identified science as the only subject they could integrate Project WET into. Three other respondents identified only two subjects (science and math, science and art, science and social studies). All of the other respondents selected at least three subjects which was defined as having a successful understanding of the interdisciplinary nature of Project WET (see chart below). The changes made to the Iowa Project WET workshop seem to be working with regard to participants understanding WET as an interdisciplinary resource. 

Chart 2 compares the percent of respondents who identified each subject as appropriate for integration of Project WET activities. All of the respondents identified science. Language arts and Talented & Gifted were selected by 79% of respondents each followed by Mathematics with 74%. Social Studies and Special Education were both identified by 68% of respondents. It should be noted that there was much variation in the responses, suggesting that the participants combined their experiences from their workshop and their own prior knowledge and ideas about the Project WET Guide and the subject areas to determine which subjects 'fit'. 

The respondents to this survey were all still in school and in preservice education programs. Another question on the survey asked if they had used Project WET since taking their workshop. More respondents had already used a Project WET activity with a group of students (during a field experience, with a non-formal group of students, in a parent’s classroom) than respondents from past surveys, suggesting that these respondents will be more prepared to integrate Project WET into their 1st-3rd year classrooms.

REAP-CEP, the Resource Enhancement And Protection—Conservation Education Program sponsored workshops for 345 preservice educators in 2008-2009. REAP-CEP has awarded the Academy $25,151 to support workshops for 360 preservice educators and Iowa Wetlands workshops for 50 Elementary & Middle School teachers in 2009-2010. The Iowa Academy of Science has sponsored Project WET since 1999.

*Iowa Project WET Defines “use” using the Concerns-Based Adoption Model, an adaptation of the Halls Levels of Use of an Innovation (Hord, S. M., Rutherford, W. L., Huling-Austin, L. Hall, G.E. (1987).

Project WET in Iowa is sponsored by the Iowa Academy of Science. Financal support for the Iowa Project WET Workshops and other events is/has been provided by REAP-CEP, the University of Northern Iowa, EETAP, Nestle Waters, Ducks Unlimited, Native Waters and individual donations/workshop registration fees. This research project was funded by REAP-CEP and the Iowa Academy of Science and conducted by Iowa Project WET Coordinator, Marcy Seavey.