Blended Learning for Science Pre-Service Teachers

Create a truly integrated and blended learning experience for your students with a customized interactive online textbook leveraging the NSTA Learning Center (NSTA LC).

What if you could select from existing interactive teacher-focused web modules, simulations of science phenomena, lesson activities, pedagogical e-chapters focused on areas such as formative assessment and how to teach difficult science concepts, and video podcasts, assembled from existing collections you can append to create an engaging and coherent suite of content–all embedded within an integrated moderated community for social learning discourse where teacher participation and sharing is moderated and tracked via an innovative point and badge system tied to individual student profiles to engage and enhance learning? What if you could document your students’ learning via pre/post assessments tightly coupled to standards-based core disciplinary concepts in the physical, life, and Earth and space sciences, and if desired, include a PDF report from a digital student portfolio of reflections and artifacts regarding the same?

Now you can with the NSTA LC (

Note: Users of the NSTA Learning Center do not have to be members of the NSTA to create an account and use the resources.

With the NSTA Learning Center (NSTA LC) as your online textbook, your students will be able to:
• Create a library of digital resources to use and share
• Participate in online communities’ rich discussions
• Build a profile with sample posts, reviews, collections, activity points, and badges as recognition of their work

As the professor, you will be able to:
• Track your students’ activities via the instructor’s dashboard
• Customize your class landing page with your own text and university banner
• Join in discussion with other professors who are using the NSTA LC as their online textbook

NSTA and the NSTA LC:
The mission of the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) is to promote excellence and innovation in science teaching and learning. The NSTA LC supports blended learning experiences for science educators and those who teach them. Launched in 2008, the NSTA LC is designed to enhance and support educators’ long-term professional growth by providing them with a suite of tools, resources, and opportunities based on their unique learning needs and preferences within a professional learning community. The portal has over 185,000 active users engaged in self-directed web modules, live web seminars, and online communities. Teachers also connect and discuss pedagogical strategies as they review, create, and share collections of digital resources. To date, users have added more than 1.7 million resources to their personal libraries. They also have uploaded over 74,000 personal resources and created more than 28,000 collections. The Learning Center’s web-accessible activity reports, coupled with badges, points, and local leader boards may assist professors in affirming the online learning efforts of their students.

While research supporting the efficacy of blended learning that leverages online components to extend onsite efforts is documented through a recent meta-analysis sponsored by the US Department of Education (2010), and strategies and models related to the same abound (Bonk, Olson, Wisher, & Orvis, 2002; Kim, Bonk, & Oh, 2008; Owston, Sinclair, & Wideman, 2008; Owston, Wideman, Murphy, & Lupshenyuk, 2008) (Seung-Won & Doo Hun, 2007) (Smith & Kurthen, 2007) (Tang & Byrne, 2007) (Verkroost, Meijerink, Lintsen, & Veen, 2008), effectively putting blended learning into practice is challenging. Current research and anecdotal observations from Learning Center deployments reveal that professors may need assistance in planning and delivering effective blended teacher learning experiences and in incorporating strategies that help recognize what happens online when teachers are face-to-face and vice versa over an extended time period (Berger, Eylon, & Bagno, 2008). Failure to do so relegates the online component to a “bolt on” appendage with potentially minimal impact in efficacy.

The Learning Center has thousands of resources that cater to different learning preferences. When teachers identify resources of interest they add them to their library alongside their own uploaded resources. Teachers may also identify personal learning goals and communicate successful goal completions through dynamically generated PDF reports from the My Learning Plan tool. Teachers are awarded badges and certificates as they complete different tasks.

The NSTA LC also provides a tool designed to help teachers identify areas of subject matter growth. The My PD Indexer is a diagnostic tool where teachers select general areas of content and answer related questions. The PD Indexer tracks results for each diagnostic assessment and recommends specific resources based on the results. These resources may be added to the teacher’s library. The PD Indexer can be used as the pre- and post-assessment instrument to document knowledge gain after completing a blended learning experience that may include a SciPack (Byers, Koba, Sherman, Scheppke, & Bolus, 2011). Four independent third-party evaluations have found significant gains in teacher learning and self-efficacy when SciPacks are used as part of the teacher learning endeavors (

The latest NSTA LC innovation involved the first ideation of an integrated community forum coupled closely with a badge and recognition system that leverages “gamification” strategies to help build and stimulate meaningful online learning. The incentive system facilitates deeper and more meaningful engagement with the resources as teachers help curate the content that is shared. Badge requirements suggest paths for learning and are linked to teachers’ individual profiles. These strategies seek to recognize teachers’ online efforts and provide mechanisms for rewards.

University Partnerships:
NSTA has a strong history of collaboration with institutions of higher education. Via existing Learning Center efforts, we feature online courses in collaboration with several universities. Currently, dozens of professors use the NSTA LC as their online textbook in their courses for pre-service teachers.

The Workshop:
The “Blended Learning for Science Pre-Service Teachers” workshop is designed for science education professors who teach elementary or secondary science methods and/or science content courses to pre-service teachers. Participants will learn how the Learning Center can be used as their class online textbook to enhance and extend pre-service teachers’ content and pedagogical knowledge for the semester and beyond, since the students’ NSTA LC accounts and the library they build and all their online work, do not expire.
Attendees will:
• Gain exposure of various strategies regarding effective blended learning.
• Learn about the NSTA Learning Center, its tools and resources.
• Ask questions and discuss case studies from different universities using the NSTA LC.
• Work in small groups with other professors to identify ways of integrating the NSTA LC in their courses.

The workshop will consist of two parts. In the first part (~45 minutes), participants will share ways they are implementing blended learning strategies in their courses (15 minutes) and listen to an overview of the NSTA LC. Participants will ask questions of a panel of professors who are using the NSTA LC as their class e-textbook.
In the second part (~75 minutes), participants will learn about two case studies from professors who are using the Learning Center and will work in small groups, using their class syllabus, to identify ways of integrating the NSTA LC in their courses.
To judge the effectiveness of the workshop, participants will be asked to complete a survey indicating areas of interest as well as suggestions for improvement. NSTA staff will be present for the duration of the conference to answer additional questions and will collect participants’ contact information for follow-up conversations and implementation support.

Workshop Presenters:
Al Byers, Ph.D. is the associate executive director for services at NSTA. He helps set, implement, manage, and evaluate the strategic vision for NSTA’s high impact blended e-learning efforts.

Flavio Mendez is the senior director for the Learning Center at NSTA. He works directly with professors using the portal. Mendez is an ASTE member.
The following professors have experience using the NSTA LC and will be available to answer questions:
• Kate Baird, Ph.D., Indiana University-Purdue University Columbus
• Susan Blunck, Ph.D., University of Maryland, Baltimore County
• Kathy Sparrow, Ph.D., Florida International University
• William Veal, Ph.D., College of Charleston
• Carolyn Mohr, Southern Illinois University
Workshop Details:
Part I: The presenting team will provide an overview of the portal and lead a discussion about blended learning. A panel of professors will answer general questions on how they use the portal with pre-service teachers.

Part II: Professors share two case studies and then lead small group discussions to identify ways the NSTA LC may be integrated in the participants’ class syllabus.
Workshop Handouts/Online Information and Cost:
Pre-service teachers receive a 1-year student membership to NSTA with their Learning Center subscription purchase. All participants receive information about the NSTA LC. Visit: ( to learn more. There is no charge for attending this workshop. Attendance limit is determined by the size of the room. The use of computer equipment and/or internet access is not required for this workshop.