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STEMTEC: Preparing future science and math teachers

A major factor in improving science and math science education is assuring that new teachers are well prepared in the relevant content and pedagogy. How do we do this? STEMTEC-the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Teacher Education Collaborative-intends to find some of the answers.

STEMTEC is a five-year, $5,000,000, project funded by the National Science Foundation (Award Number 9653966). It is managed by the STEM Education Institute at UMass and the Five College/Public School Partnership. The collaborative includes the Five Colleges-Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke, and Smith Colleges, and UMass-plus Greenfield, Holyoke, and Springfield Technical Community Colleges. It also includes the neighboring school districts in Amherst, Franklin County, Hadley, Holyoke, Northampton, South Hadley, and Springfield, as well as PALMS and Media One. The Principal Investigators are Mort Sternheim (STEM Director, Physics and Astronomy), Richard Yuretich (Geosciences), and Allan Feldman (Science Education) at UMass, Charlene D'Avanzo (Ecology) at Hampshire, and Sue Thrasher, the Five College Partnership Coordinator.

STEMTEC divides the problem into several parts. Future elementary teachers typically select their profession early in their college careers, so it is straightforward to recommend or require suitable courses. STEMTEC will assure that the participating colleges have courses which provide the necessary content while modeling the kind of student-active learning that has been successful in science and math classrooms. It will also assure that advisors provide the appropriate information.

Prospective secondary science and math teachers present a more difficult problem. They generally do not decide to teach until close to graduation or later. STEMTEC will revise many mainstream courses for science and math majors to reflect the latest research in how students learn and to incorporate modern educational technology. It will also develop opportunities for these students to have teaching experiences, working as tutors or teaching assistants on their own campuses, or with pre-college students in a variety of ways. These experiences will encourage students to think about teaching careers at an earlier time.

STEMTEC began in July with a two-week institute attended by approximately 40 college faculty who participated in workshops on student-active learning strategies and began work with others in their fields on new or revised courses. They were assisted by 14 K-12 faculty who are experts in the new pedagogic approaches. Another 14 K-12 faculty attended three days of the workshop and designed prototype teaching experiences for science and math majors. They also worked on developing ways to support new science and math teachers and to attract under-represented groups to science and math teaching. NSF provides funds for scholarships to assist the recruiting efforts.

Next summer these school and college faculty will meet again for a week, and a second cycle of new college and K-12 faculty will begin. In the following two summers, weeklong workshops will be held for State College faculty, and in the last year an international conference will be held on improving science and math teacher preparation. Extensive evaluation and dissemination efforts are included in the STEMTEC plan.

Created June 2000
Author: STEMTEC Webmaster