February 1999

Increasing STEMTEC's Impact

How do you make grant funded innovations extend in space and time? That is, how do you have an impact beyond the original participants, and after the external funding has ended? These are important questions for STEMTEC, the eight-college, seven-school district collaborative dedicated to producing more, better prepared, and more diverse math and science teachers.

STEMTEC is currently in the second year of its five-year National Science Foundation funding. One major goal is making the courses taken by prospective teachers more effective and better models by emphasizing student-active learning. Another goal is developing recruiting and support mechanisms for prospective teachers and for teachers new to the classroom.

About 105 college faculty members have participated in two-week summer or six-day academic year workshops on student active learning. That is an impressive number, but it actually represents only a fraction of the science and math faculty in the collaborative.

However, we are beginning to see significant efforts to build on this base of faculty committed to improving science and math teaching. For example, at Holyoke Community College, STEMTEC participants have offered workshops on professional development days. At Smith, a group of faculty meets at lunch every Friday and shares experiences. At Greenfield Community College, the science departments have reorganized to better serve students. At UMass, about 40 STEMEC faculty and Lilly Fellows met in December to plan ways to get more faculty involved. Also, about 35 faculty from UMass and other colleges attended a day-long workshop in January on "Facilitating Active Learning: Concrete Ways to Foster Student Participation." This was presented by Mathematics Professor Sandra Rhoades from Keene State College.

These are some of the ways we are reaching faculty who are not directly involved in STEMTEC. Hopefully we are achieving a critical mass that will expand and sustain these teaching innovations for the long haul.

Programs to attract and support prospective math and science teachers are also developing. The scholarship program funded by NSF is in full operation; 51 students were given awards in January. At the three community colleges (Greenfield, Holyoke, Springfield Technical), pre science/math teaching options have been developed. After several years of discussion and planning, Amherst College has arranged for its students to be able to take teacher preparation courses at Mount Holyoke. Hampshire College is making students more aware of the existing arrangements with Mount Holyoke. At UMass, STEMTEC is working with the career center and the academic advisors to inform students about the opportunities in teaching and the steps needed to be certified. Our goal is to make the faculty and the students aware of teaching as an attractive career option.

We have begun to look at ways of improving science and mathematics teacher preparation beyond our collaborative. In November, science, math, and education faculty members from 18 public and private colleges in Massachusetts met to share their ideas and concerns. It was the first time that most of the participants had met each other, and they were very interested in discussing the similarities and differences in their programs. A planning group is designing a workshop that will be held July 18-23 at UMass Amherst. Approximately 8 to 10 colleges will send teams of 4-5 faculty to the workshop. A similar workshop will be held again the following summer. The workshops should help these colleges to design and implement their own programs for improving their science and math courses.


Created June 2000
Author: STEMTEC Webmaster