Cal Poly Pomona NOVA Report


The NOVA program has allowed us to create the first course in the undergraduate science program at Cal Poly Pomona to use an approach truly in tune with the national science reform efforts. Our new Chemical Sciences course is constructivist, and uses hands-on, learner-centered activities so that students experience science, and therefore more deeply learn important chemical and earth-system principles.

National Science Education Standards

Our Nova team consisted of two mentor teachers, two Cal Poly Pomona graduates who are now fourth year teachers, two Cal Poly Students of Education, the two full time Cal Poly Faculty who lead Chemical Sciences course, and the chair of the Teacher Education Program. The NOVA team (appendix #1) met twice a month over a period of four months in designing and planning this course.

Our Chemical Sciences course is based on the fundamental belief that the most effective learning occurs through inquiry based, learner-centered, and constructivist investigations. The NOVA team developed the learning experiences that provide students with a solid base of knowledge and understanding. Those experiences are also models of teaching and learning from which our students may draw upon when they assume their roles as facilitators in the K-8 science classroom. Through this course our prospective K-8 teachers are not only competent in content, but are also comfortable with teaching science.

We believe that this NOVA project provides the state, and the nation, with a model of professional development for teachers in science that is based on the national standards. The course has been taught by both tenured faculty at Cal Poly Pomona who teach the course, and is accepted as the new Chemical Sciences course.

Our project began with three important goals:

1. To increase the chemical knowledge base of pre-service teachers, using hands-on, learner-centered, inquiry based, reflective pedagogies.

2. To provide experiences that enable the students to become life long learners of science. According to the National Research Council, "...the acquisition of the skills for continuous learning should be an explicit component of all learning experiences..."

3. To provide undergraduates with experiences in elementary schools by having them conduct activities as part of an after school science club for children. There is agreement that school experiences with children make better teachers.

(*These are the combined quotes of two or more students.)


The Cal Poly Pomona NOVA team is excited about this new course. The teachers think the science clubs and the people papers are a tremendous addition to the course. An outside evaluator, the director of the Claremont Graduate University Teaching Program, was so pleased with our course design and results that she sent a team from her university to a NOVA workshop hoping to bring such enhancements to courses there.

Our new course design and assessment results have already been shared at the California State University System’s Conference on Teaching and Learning, and has been highlighted in the California State University System’s 1998 yearly report.

We intend to present our course at American Chemical Society meetings in 1999, and at the 2000 National Science Teachers Association National meeting.

The people papers will be put on our Cal Poly NOVA web site.

This project has provided students with enhanced learning opportunities both in content and pedagogy.