The Energy: A Multidisciplinary Approach for Teachers (EMAT) project designed, developed, and studied a six-unit, facilitated, online professional development (PD) course. The primary goal of the project was to enhance science teacher knowledge and classroom practice to ultimately improve student science learning. The target audience is high school science teachers who serve students underrepresented in the sciences.

The full course, including 34 classroom videos, 30 science content animations, and 20 interactive learning experiences, is freely available at

A second goal of the project was to study EMAT to learn how well it supports science teaching and learning. In spite of the rapid expansion of online PD, the development of knowledge about effective PD has been less rapid (Dede et al., 2006). In particular, there has been a dearth of evidence linking PD of any kind to student learning. Most PD research historically is evaluative in nature and fails to attend to longitudinal effects of the PD. We collected data on science teachers and their students to help us understand EMAT and its effects on teachers and students and to provide the science education research field with more information and data about a specific PD model. In our research, we learned the following:

A basic understanding of energy concepts is essential to thoughtful civic participation on issues of foremost national interest. In spite of the importance of energy concepts, many teachers and students lack deep understanding of these essential ideas. Learning about energy and its related issues is especially critical today. The EMAT online course focuses on energy-related concepts. Energy concepts are situated within contexts of the production and use of energy, beginning with coal as a bedrock of our energy-generation capacity and proceeding with investigating energy generation from alternative sources, including nuclear, geothermal, wind, solar, and biofuels. The United States used about 106 exajoules of energy in 2008, yet less than 7% came from renewable sources (US Energy Information Administration, 2008). Energy use in the developing world is growing and is inextricably linked to economic development and the reduction of poverty. Some experts predict that the world’s energy use could grow by 50% by the year 2030 (NAS, 2008). There is a growing national call for action to develop alternative energy solutions to help secure US economic vitality and security and to help mitigate climate change (NAS, 2008). EMAT is leveraging this growing sense of urgency to increase teachers’ motivation to learn and successfully teach about energy. EMAT promotes understanding of energy—crucial understanding for a scientifically literate citizenry.

Last Modified: 06/30/2017
Modified by: Susan M Kowalski