Impact on the Preparation of Middle-School Teachers and Elementary Science/Math Specialists

Massachusetts certification requirements for a middle school science teacher include either a major in a specific science or a set of introductory courses plus more advanced courses in two or more departments. The latter interdisciplinary model fits the contemporary middle school curricula which touch on all the sciences in a single course and integrate science with other subjects in a team teaching environment.

UMass has an existing Science Major intended to provide this background, but few students elect it because the requirements are more numerous than for conventional departmental majors. As a byproduct of the work on this proposal, a committee has proposed reducing the requirements, and positive action is likely this fall. When that happens, we anticipate a large increase in enrollment among students who decide not to pursue professional careers in science, mathematics, and engineering. Every year large numbers of students drop out of these fields and switch to nonscience majors. An appealing Science Major will attract some of these students to middle school teaching. This major will also be an attractive option for students who begin or restart their college education at the community colleges.

Depending on the department and college, prospective middle school teachers will take either the introductory courses discussed in Section 6 or the courses for science and math majors discussed in the next section. STEMTEC will develop educational technology and interdisciplinary research courses that are similar to those for elementary teachers but reflect the stronger content background of this group. These courses will also serve many majors in the individual sciences or mathematics.

In Massachusetts, prospective elementary teachers may no longer major in education; they must have a content area bachelor's degree. Currently most of these students major in English, history, or a social science and few major in science or math. The Science Major would be an excellent choice for future elementary teachers, especially the future science or mathematics specialists or coordinators.

Although similar Science Major programs are not offered at the other colleges, students have the flexibility of proposing an interdisciplinary major, and the Science Major can be used as a model for prospective middle-school teachers for all members of the collaborative.

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Created June 2000
Author: STEMTEC Webmaster