89th American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting

Monday, 12 January 2009
Assessment of the Needs for Training Teachers in the American Red Cross Masters of Disaster Curriculum
Hall 5 (Phoenix Convention Center)
Alan E. Stewart, University of Georgia, Athens, GA ; and D. L. Walters
Executive Summary: The investigators surveyed 691 Georgia school teachers in the fall of 2007. The teachers estimated that 57% of their students were not adequately prepared for handling severe or extreme weather conditions. Fifty-one percent of teachers, a majority of which taught science, believed it was very important to train students about weather safety concepts. Teachers were somewhat dissatisfied with the resources for teaching students about weather and weather safety. Only seven percent of Georgia teachers were aware of the American Red Cross' Masters of Disaster (MoD) curriculum for teaching about weather and natural hazard safety. Three quarters of the surveyed sample wanted to learn more about the MoD curriculum and 23% (157 teachers) were interested in attending a summer workshop to learn more about the MoD curriculum.

Procedure: In the fall of 2007 the principal investigator conducted an online survey of 691 teachers in Georgia (78% women, 22% men) to determine: 1. their perceptions of the proportion of students who were prepared for weather and other natural disasters, 2. the extent to which they thought it was important to teach students about weather and weather-related safety, 3. their satisfaction with currently-available curricular materials for teaching students about natural hazard safety, 4. their awareness and past use of the Masters of Disaster curriculum, and 5. their interests in attending the proposed workshop that would train them in the MoD curriculum and enable them to share the curriculum with their colleagues. All teachers, regardless of primary subject(s) taught, were asked to complete the survey so that we could determine the attitudes and practices of a broad sample of teachers. Such a broad sample could allow for an assessment of how science educators differ in their approaches in teaching students about weather and natural hazard safety.

Sample: The responding teachers reported a mean of 13.7 years (Median = 12 years; Standard Deviation = 9.1 years) of experience as a teacher. There were 491 teachers who taught in grades K-8. A majority of the respondents taught science (51% of 691), followed by language arts (42%), history (38%), reading (36%), and health (20%). Note that because the respondents may teach in multiple areas that the percentages do not sum to 100%).

Teacher Perceptions of Student Preparedness: On average, the teachers reported that approximately 43% (Median = 40%, Standard Deviation = 32%) of their students were adequately prepared to respond to severe or extreme weather events. The converse of this result is that 57% of students are not adequately prepared. Compared to other respondents, those who taught science provided significantly lower estimates of student preparedness for severe weather (Mean = 39.0%) than teachers who taught other subjects (Mean = 47%), t (689) = 3.385, p < .0001.

In using a 1 (not important at all) to 5 (maximally important) rating scale, teachers reported that it was very important (Mean = 3.83, Standard Deviation = .73) to them to teach their students about weather safety. Science teachers tended to report the highest values of the importance of such teaching (Mean = 3.93).

Current Practices in Teaching Weather Safety: Teachers reported spending a mean of 9.5 hours per year teaching their students about weather and climate concepts in general, of which a mean of 4.3 hours was devoted to weather safety education. Approximately 40% of the respondents thought it was important to teach students about the weather related hazards to their area while 51% of the teachers indicated that it was important not only to cover locally-occurring hazards but all weather and natural hazard sources. Compared to teachers in other subjects, science teachers spent significantly more time (Mean = 13.6 hours) on general weather topics during the year, t (689) = 7.99, p <.0001 and also in teaching students about weather safety (Mean = 5.39 hours per year), t = (689) = 3.36, p = .001. Teachers were asked to use a five-point rating scale (1 = very dissatisfied to 5 = very satisfied) to evaluate their satisfaction with weather-related teaching resources. Overall, teachers were somewhat dissatisfied to neutral regarding their satisfaction with teaching resources on weather and climate in general (Mean = 2.93, Standard deviation = .84) and with teaching resources regarding weather safety (Mean = 2.74, Standard deviation = .81). Science teachers were significantly more dissatisfied with resources for teaching students about weather safety (Mean = 2.65) compared to teachers of other academic subjects (Mean = 2.82), t (682) = 2.71, p = .007.

Teacher Awareness of the Masters of Disaster Curriculum: Despite its availability since 2001, only 46 (7%) of the 691 Georgia teachers were aware that the Masters of Disaster curriculum existed; over half of those who were aware of MoD were science teachers. Of the teachers who knew that the MoD curriculum existed, a majority of them indicated they had no or only slight familiarity with the curriculum. Consequently it is not surprising that only 2% of the teachers have ever taught one or more lessons from the MoD curriculum within the past academic year.

Teacher Interest in Learning about the Masters of Disaster Curriculum: Approximately 72% of the survey respondents were interested in learning how they could obtain a copy of the MoD curriculum materials. Further, 157 (23%) of 691 Georgia teachers were interested in attending the proposed workshop on the Masters of Disaster curriculum and also in disseminating and promoting the curriculum with their fellow teachers. Of the 157 teachers, 74 comprised science educators in K-8 grades.

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