Survey of Newly Trained Teachers Provides Insight on Training

Every year we ask newly trained teachers how well they were prepared for the experience of hatching fish. After they have completed their first cycle of hatching fish, we send an online survey asking them to evaluate (or grade) our efforts at preparing them. Here are the results of this years evaluation.

Method: An online survey ( was sent to first year teachers following the completion of their first year in the program. The responses and analysis follow.

Abstract: We are doing something right. The workshops are effective and many of the materials we share with teachers are very useful in the classroom. There is still room for improvement and some opportunity to make educationally helpful adjustments to our workshops.

Forty-two out of the 111 new teachers responded to the survey, a healthy 38%, which is over 10X the average response to national polls or surveys. The results are representative of the entire group within 3-4 %.

How useful was the workshop?

  • Very:           68%
  • Pretty:         19%
  • Somewhat: 12%
  • A little:         0
  • Not at all:   0

Analysis: The great news here is that all the responses are in the top three categories. My concern is with the teachers who said the workshop was only somewhat useful. The challenge for us is to make the workshop even more useful, based on the responses to the following questions.

How useful was each part of the workshop?

Responses below reflect the responses to the “very useful” top choice.

  • Meeting with the club sponsor:  71%
    • Project Wild Aquatic activities:  67%
    • Biologist presentation:                 61%
    • Tank setup demonstration:         60%
    • How to fill out and handle 772:  56%
    • Wild About Trout CD:                  54%
    • Networking with teachers:          43%

Analysis: These results are validating and show that most of the workshop activities are on target. The fact that less than half felt that meeting with other teachers was useful can indicate several things: a) it was late in the day and they may have been on overload by then; b) we didn’t give them specific enough instructions, such as focusing on the NGSS or Core Curriculum; or c) teachers don’t find talking to each other at this early point in the program that useful.

How useful were the posters, booklets and handouts?

Responses reflect those who said the resource was excellent.

  • Set of 3 trout posters:               88%
  • Trout life stages poster:           83%
  • Macro-invertebrate poster: 76%
  • Teacher Resource Manual:   73%
  • Egg development poster:       68%
  • Return to the Redd:                 50%
  • Wild About Trout CD:             48%
  • What Flows Where poster:   39%
  • Salmon Source CD:                   22%
  • Trout & Salmon Go to K:           5%

Analysis: The responses to this question are informative. Teachers loved all the posters Ed Huff created, and they were up in virtually every classroom. We need to revise the Teacher Resource Manual so more than 73% find it useful; it is heartening that it was rated 73% the first year, but this should be the main resource for all teachers. The CDs weren’t rated highly by over half the teachers, which may reflect the lack of ability to use them easily or the lack of the equipment to do so in many classrooms. Even the lowest rated items were still useful to 39% and 22% of teachers, so it’s a toss-up whether we should skip them or continue to provide them to the teachers who find them useful. The lowest rated item, the booklet for kindergarten, simply reflects that 5% of the teachers teach that grade level.

SSince the workshop, how many times have you …

Many times     A couple of times

  • used Project Wild Activities?:                         33%                     43%
  • used Wild About Trout CD?:                           26%                     33%
  • encouraged another teacher to sign up?:      22%                     39%
  • visited the CAEP website?:                              20%                     39%
  • had sponsor talk to students?:                        17%                     20%
  • visited TIC on Facebook?:                                10%                     24%       One time
  • visited lake or stream in addition to release? 0%                     10%           26%

Analysis: These figures are amazing. 76% of teachers used two or more PWA activities. 59% used the Wild About Trout CD at least 2 times. And 61% of teachers encouraged another teacher to sign up—an incredible vote of approval of the TIC program. 37% of teachers asked their sponsor to speak with the class two or more times, a big vote of confidence in the value of active sponsor participation. And an amazing 36% visited a lake or stream in addition to the one visited on release day; this is highly unusual because so many classes are limited to one fieldtrip per year. It demonstrates that students are being exposed to more outdoor educational experiences than the program requires, an important statement by the teachers on the value of environmental stewardship, place-based and hands-on learning.

Were other topics discussed with students, in addition to trout life cycle and watersheds?

  • Invasive species:     83% of teachers
  • Urban runoff:             79%
  • Releasing pets:         76%
  • Fly fishing:                 36% (probably by coaches from flyfishing clubs?)

Analysis: The vast majority of teachers included a variety of relevant and closely related topics as part of their TIC unit. This paints a broader and more complete picture for students of trout and the challenges to the health of their habitat.

How do you feel about these aspects of the workshop?

These answers reflect the “excellent” responses.

  • Expertise of trainers:               90% rated us excellent
  • Helpfulness of trainers:           86%
  • Refreshments:                             78%
  • The workshop room:                 69%
  • Ease of finding workshop site: 67%

Analysis: Since nationwide studies show that only 17% of attendees on average think any presenter anywhere did a good job, we are way ahead of the averages. It is more amazing since the presenters include CDFW employees, fisheries biologists, experienced TIC teachers, and flyfishers. It also shows that when people receive information that is immediately applicable to their lives, they value it highly. We might include a simple map of the workshop sites from now on to help teachers who don’t use GoogleMaps or other apps.

Do you have any thoughts and suggestions that would improve future workshops?

(¼ of respondents shared additional comments)

  • Schedule the workshops closer to the egg delivery date
  • I need 6 copies of Race to the Redd so all my students can play simultaneously. PS: It’s a piece of artwork. It is just beautiful.
  • More time needed on tank setup
  • Incorporate more NGSS in training
  • Please start a little later on weekends
  • Provide more time to network with grade-level teachers regarding Common Core and NGSS (This was only valued by 42% of teachers in responses to another question, and provides food for thought about retaining what a large percentage of teachers value, even if that percentage is less than 50%.)
  • More time on tank setup and managing the tank
  • Have Spanish copies of Wild About Trout available
  • More time to write up a timeline and plan with sponsor
  • More time on tanks, set-up, common problems, and raising of trout

Analysis: More time for NGSS and Core Curriculum is a common denominator on many responses throughout the survey. So is the request for more time on tank set-up and management. We should consider finding time for these at our next series of workshops. One solution: the Teachers Resource Manual might be modified to focus on a sequential progression of activities beginning with the week before egg delivery and ending with the follow-up to the trout release, with suggestions of activities to do at each stage. We could include a visual timeline to accompany the chart, so teachers can be assured that their tanks are prepared for egg delivery and that they know when to begin the lessons that accompany the unit.

Another solution would be to re-focus the workshop on the most requested activities, minimizing any others that might not be as highly valued. This will be a challenge, as the workshop is already ½ – 1 hour too long by many. But if we include the less requested activities in the Teachers’ Resource Manual, we can point them out at the workshops and they can refer to them later. If we simply can’t drop anything, we need to find a way to make each presentation briefer and/or more to the point.

We could also offer enrichment workshops for the hundreds of teachers who haven’t been exposed to the Teachers Resource Manual at a workshop yet. These could be done in the fall and still leave us time for 3-4 workshops in January and February before the eggs are delivered. This would respond to the request that workshops be offered closer to the time the eggs are delivered, to aide recall of the material, especially the tank setup. And that is another argument for rearranging the Teacher’s Resource Manual more linearly so it serves as a sequential reference during the TIC/SIC unit.

Analysis by Bob Flasher, Interpretive Science Aide, CDFW, who is also open to other interpretations of the data. Comments are appreciated at the Sponsors end-of-year wrap-up meeting on 6/6/15. We are all in this together. Or as the Reverend MLK Jr. pointed out, “We may have come over on different ships, but we are all in the same boat now.” And hopefully, that is a flyfishing boat.

About Ethan Rotman

Ethan Rotman (Bayareatic) manages and coordinates programs that hatch fish in classrooms for the San Francisco Bay Area. He also chairs the committee that manages these programs throughout the state. Ethan has worked with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife for over 20 years.
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