How do we produce more and better-prepared science and math teachers? STEMTEC – the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Teacher Education Collaborative is an National Science Foundation funded project in Massachusetts that is providing an answer. Reformed content courses model good teaching practices while maintaining interest in science and math and reducing attrition. A “student program” includes scholarships, teaching experiences, seminars, a pre-education program, and new or revised majors and certification options.
STEMTEC is one of about thirty Collaboratives for Excellence in Teacher Preparation (CETPs) funded by NSF. It began in 1997 as an eight college collaborative in western Massachusetts. This included the members of the Five College consortium (Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke, and Smith Colleges, plus the University of Massachusetts Amherst) and three nearby community colleges (Greenfield, Holyoke, and Springfield Technical). It also including the neighboring school systems of Amherst, Franklin County, Hadley, Holyoke, Northampton, South Hadley, and Springfield. Subsequently colleges statewide were invited to participate, so that faculty from twenty-one institutions participated in our course improvement workshops.
STEMTEC is atypical among CETPs in that UMass, its lead institution, is a research university, not a campus that emphasizes teacher preparation. This reflects the fact that Massachusetts does not have university campuses with such a focus; rather, teacher preparation is spread over more than fifty colleges and universities. However, UMass and its Five College partners do play a key role in preparing secondary math and science teachers, and represent one of the two largest sources of these teachers in the state. Their strong undergraduate science and math programs produce teachers with outstanding content backgrounds.
Future elementary teachers typically select their profession early in their college careers, so it is straightforward to direct them to suitable math and science courses. However, prospective secondary science and math teachers generally decide to teach close to graduation or later. Reaching them in their content courses requires reforming as many science and math courses as possible. Note that in Massachusetts students cannot major in education; they all need an arts and sciences major, and future secondary teachers major in their academic discipline. Because of the demands of their majors, science and math majors usually enter certification programs after completing their bachelor’s degrees even if they have decided earlier on a teaching career.
STEMTEC offered workshops and follow-up activities on reform pedagogy for 175 college science, math, and education faculty. In addition, sixty carefully selected K12 teachers participated in these workshops as partners with expertise in pedagogy. Curriculum teams in biology, chemistry, geosciences, mathematics, and physics included college and school faculty in their discussions of improving the college courses. STEMTEC courses incorporate groupwork (cooperative learning), inquiry based teaching (project based and problem based learning), alternative assessment, and educational technology. Many courses offer teaching experiences: students work with peers or pre-college students. These experiences encourage students to think about teaching careers as well as helping them to understand the material.
The student program has several components:
funded scholarships. These scholars participate in a variety of activities
designed to provide support and encouragement. We are seeking private funding to
continue these awards after cooperative agreement is ended.
Teaching experiences. These are included as a requirement or an option in some
STEMTEC courses as well as in less formal settings arranged by our Student
Services staff. Our evaluation shows that such experiences are invaluable in
stimulating interest in teaching careers.
on teaching and learning. Taught on several campuses, they also offer teaching
program. This program includes STEMTEC courses, a seminar on teaching and
learning, an education or psychology course, teaching experiences, and a
portfolio. Future elementary teachers gain extra strength in science and math,
and future secondary teachers get a chance to explore teaching plus credentials
that will assist in applying to certification programs.
New and revised majors and certification options. The community colleges have
introduced science and math teaching transfer tracks. New teacher education
options have being developed at Amherst, Mount Holyoke and Hampshire Colleges.
At UMass, a June to December “Summer/fall” certification programs includes
the usual course work and student teaching in a shorter time span. An
interdisciplinary science major has been adapted for middle school science
teachers, and teacher-friendly majors have been created in several departments.
information about STEMTEC can be found on the project web site, www.stemtec.org