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History of COSMOS (Community of Scholars: Methods Observation System) Rubric 

    As part of the support provided by this grant, the participants have attended professional development conferences on effective science and mathematics teaching.  Summer workshops have offered training in reformed techniques, which are now being incorporated by the team, into their science and mathematics classes.  Bimonthly team meetings have provided a forum in which new methods, and the challenges of successfully incorporating them, are freely discussed. 

    In an effort to learn from one another, and draw upon the individual areas of expertise within the team, the faculty members have embarked on a series of classroom visits.  Initially, colleagues are paired by lottery to share one another’s best practices.  Then, reciprocal class visits are scheduled, along with pre and post conferences.  During the original conference, the instructor identifies the goals for the day’s lesson.  The visiting colleague then observes the class and focuses attention on a series of items that have been identified by the team as being indicative of effective, reformed methods.  After the visiting colleague has attended the class, the two colleagues again meet and review their shared experience.  Some of the participants have included being video taped, as a way to augment the reflection on the lesson.

    An initial round of visits during the Spring of 2002 was part of an introductory effort to open the doors of one’s classroom and to share best practices with a trusted colleague.   The second round of visits, in the Fall of 2002, added somewhat more structure to the effort by including an observation rubric for use by the visiting colleague. This latter series served as a pilot attempt to observe and record the effective use of reformed pedagogies in the target classes.  Through continued discussion during team meetings, the faculty identified the outcomes and indicators that they believe serve as benchmarks that effective, reformed teaching and improved learning is taking place in the classroom. 

    To assist in their observations of their colleague’s best practices, the team has designed their own rubric, COSMOS (Community of Scholars: Methods Observation System).  The instrument was designed to provide a guide to make the classroom visit a more meaningful experience for both participants and to guide and support the incorporation of innovative teaching and learning strategies.  The items included on the rubric were selected to address the team’s goals.


    The NASA/UNCF Project faculty decided to record observation on a limited number of indicators of reformed teaching.  This enables the visiting colleague to fully experience the classroom lesson, while at the same time, to consider the effectiveness of the pedagogies, which are being utilized.

    The rubric is divided into three sections.  The first concentrates on pedagogic methods characteristic of a reformed classroom.  Typical of such methods is item number one, “active engagement of students”.  The second section addresses specific applications that are valued objectives by this team of science and mathematics faculty.  For example, item number nine in the rubric, “infused space science concepts” goes to the heart of the curricular changes being advanced by this project.  The incorporation of space science concepts is a method by which the faculty is attempting to use high interest examples to illustrate and explain topics included in their courses, and to make strong interdisciplinary connections.  The third section of the rubric deals with the learning environment and looks at aspects of the lesson that will have applications to other learning situations.  Starting this section is item number twelve, “developed tools for learning”.

    As of this writing, no data have been collected from the use of the rubric.  As the project continues, data will be collected, reviewed, and reported as part of the team’s formative assessment efforts.

Click here for a copy of the COSMOS Rubric.

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Infusing Space Science Into a Science Core Curriculum Through a Community of Scholars

Text of this page © 2002 The NASA/UNCF Project, Northeastern Illinois University.   Last updated March 3, 2004.