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TEA Researcher Evaluation 1997/1998
TEA Researcher Evaluation 1997/1998

1. Why did you choose to include a TEA?
A1. We were asked to do it, and felt we should give it a try.

A2. I am a strong believer in investing time and effort into education of our youth, and have parcticipated in many programs designed to benefit students and the education process. I heard about this program and thought it was a good cause.

A3. I liked the idea of exposing high school teachers and students to research in the field. The project required lots of hands, something that the student and teacher provided.

A4. I have a long standing interest in secondary education ever since I was a high school teacher about 25 years ago! I have even a greater interest in science literacy for the adult US population, a problem that begins in grade school.

A5. We believe that research institutions have a responsibility to not only conduct scientific investigations but also to share results and experiences with the community. Including teachers in research projects seems one component of the equation for scientific literacy; the teachers are conduits for getting scientific information into the classroom.

A6. We were asked. Extra labor is always useful in field research and we are always tempted by the idea of "converting" new people to enjoying polar research and appreciating all the strange and interesting things that occur there.

2. How would you describe the educational and research responsibilities of the TEA while a member of your team?
A1. There were no "educational" responsibilities. We were told to provide the TEA with a real independent research experience..........We worked with the TEA to come up with a project in which they had some interest, and gave them the option of choosing to do something totally independent or to take on a component of ongoing work.

A2. The teacher had a chance to parcticipate in research by making measurements. The TEA was taught the techniques (while with me at my home institution), knew what the measurements were used for, knew what the field responsibilities would be, and successfully made the measurements in the field (and learned that field work is not as straightforward as a canned science lesson in school!). I think that the TEA was pretty clear on the research responsibilities and carried them out successfully. The TEA fulfilled the educational responsibility in the field by making daily journal entries and being extremely diligent about getting them e-mailed to NSF once our field camp acquired e-mail capability. The teacher is using the experience in the classroom teaching, and we plan to try to find a way to extend the experience in generating teaching materials that can be used by others.

A3. I never realized that the teacher had any educational or research responsibilities. After being matched up with the teacher, I put them in contact with our K-12 outreach coordinator. Together they came up with a plan.

A4. The TEA was an integral member of my research team. During their visit to my laboratory the summer before deployment, I took great effort to implant them fully into our science mission and to introduce them to all students and staff in my laboratory. They also left the State with a stack of selected papers on the topics under investigation.

A5. The TEA was a member of the research team with regular research responsibilities. These responsibilities were identical to those of any research team member (standing watch, monitoring equipment, collecting samples, editing data, plotting positions, communicating with other team members). Our group had many students who were new to the field area, so there was much learning in groups, which probably made the learning model relatively comfortable. The TEA parcticipated in scientific discussions - all of which were informal, and often off-the-cuff. The TEA was expected to understand the research objectives and have a context for new findings - or ask questions that would increase the TEA's understanding. The other educational responsibilities included maintaining a daily electronic journal with images and answering questions sent electronically by students. All of this information was posted on the Internet. The TEA often invested 2-3 hours each day in the journals and questions; this was after a long, 12 hour shift.

A6. The TEA was expected to have read the materials that we sent and to be aware when we discussed the project. How deep and understanding of some of the finer details and intricacies was up to them, but a good understanding was required. It was necessary for them to be made an integral part of the research team. In the field they were collecting data that was accepted as being just like that collected by any members of the team. They probed the active-layer, downloaded temperature data loggers, and did data entry. They helped haul material and made sure that equipment was prepared and packed. We did reserve logistics to be dealt with mainly by one of the grad assistants but often with one of the TEA parcticipants helping. Also, we seldom ever left the TEA on their own without someone close by in case of a problem or a question.

3a. Who were the research members primarily involved with the TEA?
A1. A PI and research assistant supervised the training session. In the field, a research assistant in charge of the fieldwork, helped coordinate the work.

A2. The PI had primary interaction both at the lab and in the field. The TEA also interacted with a technician and my field assistant, but for limited periods of time.

A3. Prior to sending the teacher to the field, the TEA came to the lab for a few days so that I could provide them with the basics of how the equipment works and what was happening in the field. While in the field, the teacher worked with a Co-PI and graduate student in the construction. The teacher worked independently on the projects that were agreed on with the K-12 coordinator.

A4. See #2 above. I was chief scientist on the cruise so some of the responsibility of day to day oversight was handed to a senior Ph.D. student. The team, my student, and I worked together to design the experiments, the student and TEA worked to get the work done and to analyze the data.

A5. The PI and a graduate students served as research mentors during the summer session and during the expedition. Other members of the research team interacted closely with the TEA throughout the research experience.

A6. The PI primarily did the project overview and then graduate students did the introduction to the equipment and procedures. After we gathered at the university for our orientation week, we traveled up to the field together, and the preparation time and the whole feeling of preparing and then going really added to the group dynamics. The graduate student and (?) worked primarily wit the TEAs in the field, but there was a fairly large (say 10 member) group of researchers with which we coordinated activities for different levels of experience were present most of the time. Being able to interact with a larger community of researchers would be a benefit to all of the TEA parcticipants, as it helps them to see more of the projects and fields that are out there being worked on. One of the biggest goals of the program is experience ad exposure, and as many opportunities as arise should be taken to learn about other studies.

3b. Was the research team acquainted with the objectives and responsibilities of the TEA?
A1. Yes, the research team parcticipated in the training and explaining sessions at the lab prior to the field season. However, after the TEA arrived at the field site there seemed to be some confusion on the part of the TEA on the extent of their parcticipation. Despite what the research team thought was a very clear statement that the TEA would operate as part of a team, the TEA seemed to think that they had no responsibilities to anyone other than themselves. In fact, the TEA expected others to help them with their research - as if we were there specifically to support their experience - but not to help others. This was troubling to the researchers.

A5. The PI and graduate student were closely acquainted with the objectives and responsibilities of the TEA (TEA Program); other members of the research team came up to speed early in the expedition.

4. In what ways did the research mentor and the TEA interact?
A1. The mentor and the TEA interacted primarily when the TEA was on site at the lab. After the session at the lab the TEA was supposed to develop a short research proposal and communicate that to the mentor. Despite repeated requests for this document, it did not arrive until days before the TEA was to depart for the field station. It seemed as though once the TEA left the orientation program, the TEA spent very little effort in trying to remain in communication with the mentor. Due to constraints on the TEA schedule, the mentor and the TEA did not overlap at the field site. Because of this, the mentor was especially emphatic in explaining what was expected by way of a research proposal prior to the field experience. Once at the field site, the TEA put very little effort into communicating with the mentor and did not even respond to e-mails sent by the mentor. In addition, the TEA has made no attempt to contact the mentor since the end of the field season, nor has the TEA provided any written or oral communications about their experience to anyone in the program.

A2. The TEA and I had direct interaction, and I think we both enjoyed it. I outlined what was to be done, taught the TEA how to do it, we discussed any issues the TEA brought up, and the TEA carried out their part of the work (while I carried out other corresponding measurements) in the field. Some days the TEA would work for periods up to half day without questions, other days the TEA had more questions. We always had all meals together.

A3. See answer to (3).

A4. We interacted at many levels, corresponded before and after the field work and are still in close contact.

A5. The TEA and research-mentors interacted at a variety of levels - all of which were informal, sometimes one-on-one and other times in larger group discussions. During the summer session the mentors went over the big picture of the research and then provided background reading and a summary project for the TEA to work on to get a feel for what had been done previously. During the expedition, the mentors tried to be available for questions and dialogs when needed, read the journals, and encouraged the TEA to be involved in all aspects of the expedition. Communication is on-going, as plans for classroom activities develop and as the research project continues.

A6. There was direct communication between them, especially during the first overview sessions, and then sporadically throughout the entire experience. Informal, one-on-one conversation was available most of the time. In our case, there may have been too much work with just the liaison when perhaps other grad students or even other researchers who could have offered views and insights could have been involved. - I think this is a big part of what is needed for this program to be successful.

5. In general, what does a mentor need to know/understand to create a positive field experience for the TEA?
A1. A mentor needs to have: a prior commitment to using very scarce field research time and resources working with a TEA. A willingness to sacrifice limited logistical support in order to give the TEA a meaningful experience that the mentor might suspect will not substantially change or improve the classroom experience for students. An acceptance that one entire field season is likely to produce less scientifically than might otherwise be the case.

A2. The mentor needs to be clear about what is expected of the teacher. I highly recommend that the mentor "peel off" a little project (that is needed as part of the total research they are doing) for the teacher so the teacher gets a taste of what it's like to carry out research. This worked well for us this year. The mentor also needs to appreciate that the teacher may have never been in a physically-challenging situation such as living and working in remote polar regions. I initially had two projectss. The TEA's knees got sore walking across the topography, so we reduced the scope of work.

A3. It would be helpful to know what the teachers responsibilities were in advance rather that negotiating them ourselves. We were pretty much clue-less. I was just organizing two extra workers for our project without too much thought on what they needed to get out of the experience. Probably not the best way to do things.

A4. It helps to have been in a high school classroom in the previous decade or to have worked closely with students of that age. High school teachers are not the same as our usual academic colleagues. They have a sufficiently different mission and there could be a mismatch at times, not an intellectual mismatch but a mission mismatch.

A5. A mentor needs to know the level of understanding of the science of the TEA and needs to build from there - providing information, but allowing the TEA to be responsible for their own knowledge. The mentor needs to be aware that the TEA will probably not be confident in the research experience - with equipment, data, interpretation, etc. The comfort level needs to be built naturally. The mentor needs to be aware that the TEA does have responsibilities to communicate with students and teachers - and that this takes time. A mentor needs to recognize that the TEA is a professional from another field - and has very interesting and insightful ideas about teaching, education, and research. It serves the mentor well to listen, also.

A6. The mentor needs to understand the objectives of both the TEA program and the personal objectives of the parcticipant. The mentor also needs to be able to make sure that the parcticipant understands what the research is about, and what their part is in it. There needs to be support available to the TEA until they are fully comfortable with their work, and even then enough contact to make sure that things are going smoothly and that everyone is happy. The only way that it will be a positive field experience is for the TEA to feel as part of the project and to have some fun. The poles are not places that are experienced often and the special unique features of the place should be enjoyed and experienced when the opportunities arise. For most parcticipants this will be their only trip, and so if that means making an effort one evening to see animals or the ocean, etc., then why not?

6. What additional information can the TEA program provide the mentor to be better prepared to interact with the TEA?
A1. The TEA program could directly communicate with the researchers to explain goals and objectives. We were never contacted directly by anyone who was able to elucidate these ideas. In addition, we never received any follow-up information from the TEA or NSF after the field experience ended. So we have absolutely no clue as to whether, or in what ways, we could be better prepared.

The TEA program should work with the researchers early on in the process. We were not asked to parcticipate in this program until just before the field season. This made it difficult to adjust things to accommodate this new expectation.

In addition, the program should involve the researchers in the selection of the TEAs. Not all people have the kind of approach to life and research to work well under these conditions. We work hard to select a research team that will work well together. The criteria we use include aspects of a person that go well beyond their grade point average or the number of students they might reach. It was clear to the mentor, after talking with the TEA on the phone and then spending a week in the orientation section, that this TEA was not going to work well in the field environment. The TEA did not work out, and this has caused many at the field site to question whether this program can work at all.

A2. If the mentor does a good job of laying the groundwork and teaching the teacher the necessary skills while still at the home institution, then the field work will smoothly and will still allow the mentor time (in the field) to accomplish their scientific field objectives.

A3. Any information would be better than none. We had none.

A4. This is a very individual mission and the teacher-scientist pair need to be selected with great care. It helps to have someone who knows both partners, like Jane Dionne in my case. She facilitated the match and made things happen. It might be useful to have the scientists be able to review a group of applications and put their "bids" in for one or another TEA.

A5. Any/all information would be appreciated. We had no formal guidance as to what the TEA needed or expected, or what we should expect. We received only the completed TEA application and were asked to verify if the TEA seemed appropriate (yes, very).

A6. Any communication at all would be an improvement, as we received nothing. There must be communications as to the goals of the program, the involvement and responsibilities of the TEA, the PI, and perhaps even the liaison as well. Also, some communications as to what the TEA is expected to do by the end of the summer. An idea of how much ongoing interaction is needed, and what the experience is really supposed to be all about.

7a. Was the TEA well-prepared for the field experience?
A1. No. The TEAs should be required to pass a physical fitness test so that they will understand what is being required of them. Most people have no experience working in remote field sites, under very primitive conditions, for 6-7 days/week, and 14-18 hours/day. Many people are not physically fit enough, nor mentally willing, to handle the rugged terrain of the field. The TEA was asked to begin exercising before the field season (and promised to do so), but had not done anything by the time they reached the field site. Because of this, they were not able to walk to some of the field sites, nor were they willing to go when the weather was slightly inclement (as it often is), even to collect their own data. In addition, the habits of daily life one takes for granted at home (for example, napping in the afternoon and talking on the phone whenever one wants) are both impossible to accommodate and damaging to the field effort in remote research sites. Despite having these things explained ahead of time, the TEA still found the limited communications irritating, and shared this irritation quite freely with others at the field station. In addition, the TEA apparently had no time to read the preparatory scientific material they were given at the orientation session. This was very frustrating because it was impossible to have a meaningful conversation with them about the science because they hadn't read anything.

A2. The TEA did all the TEA could have done to get ready to go, and I think they were well prepared by the program. My only comment would be on physical fitness. There apparently was no physical fitness component of the screening process, and it turned out that physically, the TEA is more suited to the classroom than to working outdoors at a field camp, but the they did not complain anddid a good job. I would suggest to the TEA program that they consider looking at the physical challenges of the field work and consider the physical condition of the candidates. For lots of people who do rather sedentary stuff in McMurdo maybe this would not come into play, but field work at a remote site might be best suited to "outdoor types". However, I would clarify that a person's ATTITUDE is the single strongest indicator of potential success - it is more important than physical fitness. The TEA had a great attitude.

A3. We had little expectations of the teacher during our project. The TEA vastly surpassed what we required of them and what provided of their own initiative.

A4. Yes, but not before the summer visit.

A5. Yes. On many levels. The TEA had a positive attitude, was self-motivated, not self-focused, mature, curious, courteous, enthusiastic, and always willing to do more than their share. These qualities are critical to be a contributing member of a research team - and anyone having these building blocks will be welcome additions to a research team. Following the summer training the TEA had met most of the team and knew the nuts and bolts of the project - the TEA's knowledge of the projects may have been rudimentary at the onset, but through discussions and their own pursuit of knowledge, the TEA quickly came up to speed on the content side.

A6. Yes, the TEA was well prepared. They were flexible and cheerful and always ready to help and parcticipate. They did expect us to have more of an idea as to what was going on that we did about what they were supposed to get out of the program. Earlier communication with the researcher would allow more preparation.

7b. How can the TEA be better prepared to interact with the research team?
A1. By understanding before going that they are part of a team, that science involves a lot of hard, tedious measurements, that there is no room for whining, and that if they finish their work they are expected to pitch in and help others finish. This includes selecting TEAs who are pre-disposed to accept working as part of a team and who are fit enough to do the required work.

7c. How can the TEA program better prepare the TEA?
A1. Someone from the TEA program should come to the field site and try doing what they are asking the researchers and the TEAs to do. That might help you figure it out.

8. Did the experience meet your expectations? How did the TEA impact your research?
A1. To the extent that we had concerns about the program, yes, it met our expectations. The TEA program had a negative effect on our research because the individuals who were at the field site to do science had to work twice as hard to get their work done.

A2. I am pleased to have had this opportunity and happy with the experience. TEA had a positive impact on my research in that it allowed me to get more field work done than I could have without having the teacher along. We got more good results to publish.

A3. See answer (7).

A4. This was a very good experience for me and for the members of my lab, especially my grad students.

A5. Yes. The TEA was an active and critical member of our team on a day-to-day basis (as a watch-stander) and in the achievement of the longer-term goals. The TEA will be working up results of a sub-project.

A6. It was a positive experience. If we had a bit more time we could have gotten even more done. Having extra people made the work that much quicker, although it did mean more planning. Also, there is a sort of obligation with the TEAs along, to make sure that they are involved and occupied, whereas with a grad student, a few unoccupied minutes are welcomed. Independence was the difference, in that there is a level of responsibility when you have extra people with you.

9. How will the research experience be translated into the TEA classroom and how will you be part of this translation?
A1. Since we have had absolutely no feedback from anyone at any level, we have no idea how the experience will be used/translated.

A2. The TEA has talked to their classes about the experience, and I know the TEA was thinking about ways it could add to class content but I'm not sure specifically what the TEA has done. I am going to visit in several weeks. At that time we will also be brainstorming to see how we can shape our accomplishments into lesson plans, etc. that can be used by many more schools.

A3. I have reviewed some classroom materials developed by the teacher. I have not been in contact with him since.

A4. This is still under discussion but I am hopeful that tangible "lessons" will evolve from this "experiment."

A5. The PI visited the classroom before the expedition to speak with the students about the upcoming research and the TEAs role. Our research was translated into the classrooms by the Internet component of the program already - a valuable piece of interactivity. Follow-up will include activity development, in which the researchers will act as content consultants, with the TEA preparing the materials that result from the field experiences.

A6. The webpage was a big portion of what we did. Also, we tried to aid in the preparation of overheads and visuals to help with presentations. Ongoing work is currently on the opportunities that this program provides to the permafrost community to get awareness of the issues and realities of living and dealing with it to a larger audience. Certainly information is a big issue, and universities are in an excellent position to provide that to teachers who otherwise don't have the time or access to journals and other researchers.

10. In what ways can the continued involvement of researchers, beyond the field experience, be encouraged?
A1. -

A2. We need guidance on what kinds of funding opportunities exist for creating teaching materials out of our field experience. (I looked at the GLOBE program, but it is not clear to me if that program welcomes "lesson plan" type contributions, looks more like data gathering). I'm not aware of other opportunities. If there are other programs, it might be nice to have a one-page info sheet on what the programs are and what types of proposals are encouraged.

A3. We had a pretty cut and dry project that needed to be done. Presumably a more open ended project would encourage continued involvement.

A4. It would help if the teacher-PI pairing was regional...i.e., a Nevada PI with a Nevada teacher. This would facilitate interaction and visits to the classroom to interact with the students - the subject of our mutual concerns.

A5. Until the system / reward structure changes, it is going to be difficult for researchers to partition their time with a significant "educational outreach" component. Provide opportunities for researchers to be involved in ways that also help them - such as the TEA program. The learning goes both ways. Developing opportunities where researchers can parcticipate in a pre-defined framework may help as well (e-mail to students on focused topics, parcticipation in CU-SeeMe where content is already familiar to the students, etc.).

A6. Specific goals would help. From the TEA, the parcticipant and the researcher. In the future, perhaps researchers would apply in the same way that the parcticipants do, although this way does seem to work, that might find those who would be the most enthusiastic about the program. There are just so many directions the program can take, that just allowing enthusiastic people to work together could lead to all kinds of ideas.

Other Suggestions.
Last thoughts. We had some difficulties with the money supplied by NSF. Mostly this stemmed from our arranging the travel and per diem for both the student and teacher. The University would not give a cash advance to the student and teacher because they were not employees. The University then gave me a hard time when I asked for reimbursement for having paid for the student and teachers travel and per-diem. In some ways I feel that it would be easier if some of the money went directly to the student and teacher and they took care of their own travel and per diem. Just a thought.

OPP or the TEA Program needs to communicate about the TEA goals with the PI.

Written communication needs to increase to the TEAs and the PIs.

6 of 8 PI's responded; Compiled by S. Shipp 05/98

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