Expanding Access to NPASS Professional Development
Student engagement and learning in science is greatly increased when their teachers or youth leaders receive ongoing professional development [PD] and support to lead research based curriculum projects that support state and national learning standards
That’s why NPASS has delivered over 800 afterschool science workshops and Train-the-Trainer [ToT] Institutes over the last four years for youth workers and afterschool specialist based well over 1000 afterschool agencies and program sites in nine states. As a result, tens of thousands of students have participated in well-led Design-It and Explore It science and engineering projects at their afterschool sites. The afterschool field now has a growing cadre of confident and skillful program leaders and specialists who are ready to make hands-on, minds-on science widely available to students attending afterschool programming in under served communities.
NPASS PD trains afterschool program staff to lead interesting engineering challenges and science phenomenon that are grounded in state and national learning standards. NPASS PD and programming stands out among afterschool science programs in several important ways.
1. Each project builds in challenge and complexity over several weeks (usually 4 – 6) and students participate in up to six such projects over the course of one school year. This repetition of distinct but similarly structured projects, if led by well-trained program staff, fosters increased student engagement, curiosity, problem solving skill, collaboration, critical thinking skills and persistence. This is highly rewarding for the students, but very hard work for the teachers.
2. Which is why NPASS youth workers and teachers receive long-term training and support. NPASS spends the time and builds the relationships to help the front line program staff become skilled at setting the context for the project; troubleshooting technical problems and helping students work through frustration and other roadblocks; facilitating discussions about evidence, patterns, meaning and connections to the real world; and fostering patience, discipline and collaboration among the student learners.
3. NPASS training and program quality is managed by a licensed NPASS partner that has years of experience promoting high quality afterschool programming in that state.
NPASS PD Works on a 3-Tier Model
The NPASS PD model is a face-to face and relational approach that requires dedication and commitment over time. The benefit of this approach, reported by the Trainers themselves and by the afterschool workers they train, is that it is direct, curriculum specific, ongoing, iterative and above all that it is personally rewarding and enjoyable for the trainers, trainees and students.
Tier 1: NPASS State Licensee Holder
In each NPASS state, one agency with wide responsibility for afterschool program quality across that state was chosen to lead and promote NPASS programming and PD within that state during period of NSF funding (2009 – 2012.) Many of those state agencies continue to deliver NPASS as the designated NPASS License holder beyond the NSF funding period. A list of the NPASS2 state partners can be found at http://npass2.edc.org/about-npass2
EDC is working to expand the reach of the program by continuing to collaborate with the original nine partners and by seeking partnerships with similar organizations in new states.
Tier 2: State-based NPASS Train-the-Trainer [ToT] Institutes
In each NPASS state, a committed cadre NPASS Science Trainers attend 6 days/year of Train-the-Trainer [ToT] Institutes to prepare each of them to lead half-day NPASS Afterschool Science workshops (6 per year) for afterschool staff and administrators in their city or county.
NPASS Science Trainers are recruited for their prior skill and knowledge of Youth Development, and their prior understanding of PD and technical support in the afterschool domain. Very few are science specialists. Experience has vindicated this recruiting priority, as over 100 specialists in nine states are now certified to lead NPASS project-based science workshops within their states going forward, based on their past record of implementation and fidelity to the NPASS model and best practices.
The first 40+ NPASS ToT Institutes were led by NPASS Master Trainers Charlie Hutchison (EDC, NPASS Principal Investigator) and Tim Porter (Boston Children’s Museum, NPASS co-Principal Investigator.) Going forward, a team of new NPASS Master Trainers is being prepared at special Master Trainer Institutes [MTI] in several NPASS states to take over the leadership of future NPASS ToT’s. Their mission is to increase access to NPASS PD and programming while preserving the essential pedagogical and structural elements of the program at future Institutes, Afterschool Science Workshops and afterschool programming. Detailed descriptions of these practices and elements can be found at ……
Tier 3: NPASS 3-Hour Afterschool Science Workshops
Each NPASS Science Trainer leads at least one half-day (3 hours) Afterschool Science Workshop on each of the six Explore-It or Design-It topics learned at the NPASS ToT Institutes. Trainers recruit a committed group of youth workers and administrative staff from 5 – 10 afterschool agencies or sites to attend these workshops, which are held at a central location roughly once per month through the school year.
Within each of these 3-hour workshops, a Trainer's principle task is to prepare the youth workers to lead one multi-session science or engineering project with their students over the coming weeks. Over the course of successive workshops, the Trainer's additional goal is to create a community of learners among the afterschool staff that supports each one in becoming a confident, skillful and creative afterschool science project leader.
The Nature of NPASS PD
NPASS participants [Science Trainers, Afterschool staff, students,] learn in safe communities of learners and they learn by doing. NPASS Science Trainers and afterschool staff learn the craft of training and teaching by doing exactly what the students will do – and then (just like the students) by reflecting on what works and what doesn’t; what should stay the same and what needs to be changed. And, as appropriate to the age or confidence of the learner, they learn to spot the general rules or principles that can be deduced from the specifics of the experiences at hand.
The Professional Development Tools linked below are recommended for those who use NPASS2 Curriculum projects from EDC’s Design It! or Explore It! product lines, or for those who train others to do so. These resources are designed to supplement learning that takes place in face-to face training or in direct practice: they do not constitute a "training program” in and of themselves. The best way to get good at leading afterschool science programs and trainings is to attend trainings oneself, work with a community of learners and a trusted mentor and then lead workshops and programming over and over with youth workers or kids.