K-12 Educators Needs Assessment - Preliminary Results


Teachers in field

In 2010, our ACT administered an on-line needs assessment survey to educators in Washington, Oregon and California. The survey was designed  to examine the opportunities and challenges for implementing ocean literacy and other coastal and ocean-related topics in K-12 classrooms.  It was distributed very broadly to educators in the three states through a variety of mechanisms, including school district email systems and listservs. 544 educators responded to the survey.

The Lawrence Hall of Science Center for Research Evaluation and Assessment (http://www.lawrencehallofscience.org/services_and_expertise/research_group)

conducted 26 follow-up interviews, and analyzed the surveys and interviews.


The final report can be found at:

2009-2010 Needs Assessment Survey Evaluation Report, by Joo Chung, B. A. and Kristin Nagy-Catz, Ph.D.

Selected findings:
  • Teachers whose schools were located in coastal communities were no more likely to teach ocean, coastal and watershed topics than inland teachers.
  • Teachers whose schools were in Program Improvement status under No Child Left Behind were just as likely to teach ocean, coastal and watershed (O/C/W) topics as those whose schools did not have this status.
  • Respondents who currently teach O/C/W topics were also generally more likely to teach other related science topics such as global climate change and deforestation.
  • There were several differences between the three states in terms of teachers’ preferences. One difference had to do with the types of activities used to teach O/C/W topics. Oregon teachers more frequently sited “field experiments” in their response than did teachers from the other states. California teachers used “beach cleanups” more frequently. Washington teachers were more likely to use an “aquarium/science center.”
  • The biggest barrier indicated by teachers already teaching ocean, coastal and watershed topics was lack of instructional time, followed by lack of materials. These barriers were also a factor for teachers not already teaching ocean, coastal and watershed topics. However, the biggest barrier sited by non-O/C/W teachers was state content standards. 
  • LHS researchers offered a hypothetical mechanism with regard to what differentiated O/C/W and non-O/C/W instructors. They identified three categories of instructors:
    • Active Interest – These teachers are highly motivated to teach ocean science, in spite of perceived barriers and impediments such as lack of time and funding. This instructor is adaptive in teaching the subject.
    • Passive Interest –Teachers in this category are willing to teach ocean science, but only if perceived impediments are addressed or they are highly encouraged by administrators. Passively interested teachers will perceive the barriers as the “reason” for their lack of interest, whereas actively interested instructors will perceive barriers as impediments to instruction, but not to their interest.
    • No interest – These teachers will only address ocean science in their classrooms if mandated by the school, district, or state – or through some other significant external pressure.
Next steps:

Because the survey was voluntary (there was a drawing for a prize package as an incentive), it is likely that our respondents self-selected and are, as a group, more interested in coastal and ocean topics than a random sample of teachers would be. Our ACT plans to conduct a follow-up survey using random sampling techniques.  We hope the results of the two surveys will provide the basis for our ACT and others to develop the most appropriate strategies, tools, resources, and professional development opportunities that will advance ocean literacy in grades K-12 and best meet teachers’ needs. In addition to guiding ACT efforts, the needs assessment work will be useful to the ocean literacy community as a whole. There is a network of organizations and individuals that has worked diligently to develop the ocean literacy principles, and that is taking steps to promote the teaching of these principles in schools. However, to date, no one has conducted a needs assessment effort on the scale that the ACT is undertaking. The results and findings from this research will be disseminated to others working on this issue to help inform and guide their efforts as well.