The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) emphasize how human activities affect the Earth and how Earth processes impact humans, placing the concept of sustainability within the Earth and Space Sciences. We ask: how prepared are future teachers to address sustainability and systems thinking as encoded in the NGSS? And how can geoscientists support them? Most future teachers receive their Earth Science preparation in a single introductory geoscience course, but the content and delivery methods of these courses are not well matched to the NGSS knowledge and skills they will teach. We implemented a nationwide survey in undergraduate courses that addressed sustainability to some extent in order to assess career interests, behaviors, and motivations. Matched pre- and postdata (n = 1,125) respondents were divided into three groups: those very likely (22%), those somewhat likely (22%), and those not likely (56%) to become teachers. The very likely group resembles the current STEM teacher workforce in gender but is more diverse than the current workforce and the population currently enrolled in teacher preparation programs. The very likely group has higher rates of sustainable behaviors, is motivated by family and friends more than other groups, and is more likely to envision using their knowledge about sustainability in their careers. However, their understanding of key concepts, such as systems thinking, is limited. We suggest that curricular materials that address sustainability through concepts in introductory geoscience courses, such as those presented here, provide a means of reaching this group and better preparing future teachers to teach the NGSS.
Sustainability, the Next Generation Science Standards, and the Education of Future Teachers
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Journal of Geoscience Education