AN INTRODUCTION TO STEMTEC AND PATHWAYS TO CHANGE

 

CHARLENE D’AVANZO

School of Natural Sciences, Hampshire College, Amherst, MA 01002

cdavanzo@hampshire.edu

RICHARD F. YURETICH

Department of Geosciences, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA 01003

yuretich@geo.umass.edu  

 

STEMTEC is the Massachusetts Collaborative for Excellence in Teacher Preparation. The first step in preparing future teachers is to have them experience effective teaching in college science and mathematics courses. STEMTEC summer institutes familiarized 150 faculty members with a variety of teaching strategies recommended in the National Science Teaching Standards. These faculty incorporated the techniques into one or more of their courses during subsequent academic years, and many of them reported on their progress during a research conference, Pathways to Change, which STEMTEC sponsored in the summer of 2000.  Fourteen papers, based on these conference reports, are included in this volume.

 

STEMTEC: A Brief Overview

 

STEMTEC (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, Teacher Enhancement Collaborative) is the Massachusetts Collaborative for Excellence in Teacher Preparation, funded by the National Science Foundation in 1997. During a seven-year period starting in 1992 the Division of Undergraduate Education (DUE) established 20 CETP sites around the nation with the purpose of drawing more and better qualified undergraduates into K-12 science and mathematics teaching.  Although each CETP program has this common goal, the sites differ in emphasis and approach.  

 

STEMTEC initiated a comprehensive effort to improve the quality of teaching by science and mathematics faculty as a stimulus for undergraduates to consider careers in K-12 teaching.  We reasoned that students would become more interested in these subjects, and also in teaching, if their own college professors were aware of good pedagogical practices, especially those recommended by the National Science Teaching Standards [1]. Numerous studies published between 1986 and 1997 show that good students are leaving science, mathematics and engineering majors because of poor teaching, especially in introductory courses [2] [3]. Teaching techniques in these courses typically emphasize memorization, coverage, and competition, whereas the recommendations for effective teaching and learning call for greater emphasis on the process of science, inquiry, and cooperative learning [1] [4] [5] [6].  Many college professors were unaware of these recommendations, or of the research upon which they are based.

 

As a group, university science professors are notoriously resistant to changing how and what they teach.  In our STEMTEC video How Change Happens: Breaking the Teach As You Were Taught Cycle in Science and Math Dean Linda Slakey, UMass, Amherst says ..

Acknowledgements

Our colleagues on the STEMTEC management team, Morton Sternheim, Physics, University of Massachusetts; Allan Feldman, Education, University of Massachusetts; and Sue Thrasher, Public-School Partnership Coordinator Five Colleges Inc., were instrumental in putting the course redesign into practice and bringing Pathways to Change into being. We also wish to thank the workshop facilitators who helped make our summer institutes so effective. STEMTEC is funded by the National Science Foundation, DUE-9653966.

 

Bios

Charlene D’Avanzo is Professor of Ecology at Hampshire College. She has written numerous articles and edited books about student-active teaching, and she spearheaded production of the STEMTEC video How Change Happens: Breaking the Teach As You Were Taught Cycle in Science and Math.  

Richard Yuretich is a Professor in the Geosciences Department at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.  He has helped transform the learning environment in a very large general-education oceanography course by applying the techniques mentioned in this article. Both authors are Principal Investigators of STEMTEC.

References

[1]        National Science Education Standards, National Research Council, Washington, DC, 1996

[2]        K.C. Green, “A Profile of Undergraduates in the Sciences,” American Scientist, 77 (1989) 475-480

[3]        E.M. Seymour and N.M. Hewitt, Talking About Leaving: Why Undergraduates Leave the Sciences, Westview Press, 1997

[4]        The Liberal Art of Science, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Publication 90-13S, 1990

[5]        What Works: Building Natural Science Communities – a Plan for Strengthening Undergraduate Science and Mathematics, Project Kaleidoscope, Washington, DC, 1991

[6]            Shaping the Future: New Expectations for Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology, National Science Foundation, Washington, DC, 1996

[7]        D. Cohen and J. Henle,  “The Pyramid Exam,” UME Trends, July, (1995) 2,15