STEMTEC UPDATE  AUGUST 1998

A UNIQUE PARTNERSHIP

STEMTEC – the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Teacher Education Collaborative – has just completed its second series of summer workshops. They are designed to help achieve NSF’s goals of producing more, better-prepared, and more diverse science and math teachers. The workshops bring together faculty from the Five Colleges – Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke, Smith, and UMass – and from Greenfield, Holyoke, and Springfield Technical Community Colleges, plus faculty from the Amherst, Franklin County, Hadley, Holyoke, Northampton, South Hadley, and Springfield schools.

 These workshops are intended primarily to help college faculty to modify their science, math, and engineering courses by adopting student-active approaches to their teaching. The goal is to provide better models for future teachers, as well as to improve the learning of all the students in the courses. Sessions address, for example, cooperative learning, problem and project-based learning, assessment and evaluation techniques, and the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks. These are topics that the school faculty have been working on for years. However, for most of the college people, these are largely unfamiliar areas.

The STEMTEC workshops differ from the typical school-college collaboration, where the focus is on the delivery of content, mainly by the college faculty. Here the emphasis is on pedagogy, and the school faculty are the experts. They have experience with formal and informal groups, projects, performance-based assessment, portfolios, teaching math with manipulatives, etc. Again and again we had college faculty turning to their school colleagues for their advice and ideas on how to make these methods work in a classroom. Just about everyone found this interaction a very strong feature of the workshops.

Using school faculty as pedagogy experts seemed natural to us because of our earlier experience with Partnership projects. However, it turns out that this model is unusual if not unique; none of the other 16 or so similar collaboratives has tried it.

Another interesting feature has been the interaction of the college and community college participants. Some of the college faculty had never met a community college professor nor visited a community college campus. The opportunity to interact with these colleagues provided insight into the strengths and contributions of the community colleges.

Participants at all levels reported a better understanding of the problems that are common and those that are different. For example, college and school people define “large class” in a very different way!

The collaboration also makes it possible for students to explore teaching. Last year, college students brought science and math units to area K12 classrooms. Mount Holyoke math majors worked with STCC algebra students. UMass physics majors joined with Amherst Regional students in creating web pages. These experiences encourage college students to think about science or math teaching as a career option. Similar high school – elementary school connections in Greenfield and Springfield help to motivate young people to consider studying science and math in college and to become teachers.