Grant to Elevate Science and Math Education in Middle Schools
Professional athletes and coaches watch game films to improve their skills and strategies. Similarly, the Center for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (CEMaST) at Cal Poly Pomona plans to use video to help math and science middle school teachers up their game.
Video analysis is a major component of a $1.4 million National Science Foundation grant that the university received to provide professional development to 20 middle school math and science teachers. The goal is to develop ¿master teachers¿ who will mentor beginning teachers at their schools and will have the skills to teach at the college level.
¿This program takes all that we know about professional development for teachers and puts it all together,¿ says Nicole Wickler, associate professor in science education and the grant¿s principal investigator. ¿It¿s a combination of several strategies that we know have been successful.¿
In addition to using video to evaluate teaching styles and methods, the five-year grant, provided through the NSF¿s Noyce Master Teacher Fellows Program, will connect university faculty from the College of Science and the College of Education & Integrative Studies with teachers as they develop lesson plans and their mentoring skills. The co-investigators are: Michael Page, chemistry; Laurie Riggs, mathematics and statistics; Homeyra Sadaghiani, physics and astronomy; and Janeen Volsey, education.
Beginning this summer, teachers from the Pomona and Ontario-Montclair school districts will work with professors at Cal Poly Pomona for three weeks. They will focus on improving teaching and student understanding of abstract concepts, such as photosynthesis or cell respiration, through in-class discussions and activities that engage students and bolster their understanding of the topic. Also, teachers will work on developing and sequencing lessons as an extended storyline in which each lesson builds on the previous one, rather than teaching each day¿s lesson as an isolated activity.
Participants will be recorded on video before, during and after participation in the study. The videos will allow them to reflect on their teaching and student learning. Throughout the program, they will continue to use video for evaluation and reflection, as well as meet regularly with university faculty. As they progress through the master teacher training, they will begin sharing the skills they¿ve learned with student teachers from Cal Poly Pomona.
¿Understanding the content, reviewing student assessments, and working with new teachers ¿ it¿s very much what we at Cal Poly Pomona call the teacher-scholar model. It¿s being reflective about their teaching practice, possibly changing how they engage kids with the material next time,¿ Wickler says.
Targeting middle school math and science teachers is an intentional part of the program. The grant builds on the success of a previous NSF grant, 2003 to 2006, which focused on science lessons in fourth- and fifth-grade classrooms.
¿Middle school is an important age when students are deciding ¿Am I smart enough to go to college?¿ or ¿Can I do math or science?¿ We want these exemplary teachers working with these students,¿ Wickler says.
At the end of five-year program, the master teachers will seek National Board Certification, complete the Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment (BTSA) program or earn a second master¿s degree in a science or math field. In addition, they will take on leadership roles within their schools and districts.
(Photo: Maple Wong holds a pendulum as Amber Alkire, center, and Miriam Abaunza time the swings during physics instruction as part of the Science Impact program.)