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Project Abstract: 

 

Conference on STEM Teacher Preparation at Liberal Arts Institutions

 

The Consortium for Excellence in Teacher Preparation (CETE; see http://www.princeton.edu/~tprep/cete/index.htm), a coalition of liberal arts colleges and universities from the northeast with small but high quality teacher preparation programs, proposes to sponsor a three day conference on STEM Teacher Preparation at Liberal Arts Institutions to be held at Bryn Mawr College on May 30 – June 1, 2012.  The primary focus of the conference will be on ways to increase the number of STEM graduates from liberal arts institutions who go into teaching, but will also examine a wider range of issues.

The United States is making a concerted effort to strengthen science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education and having a high quality teacher workforce is a key focus of these efforts. The conference will address the issue: Maximizing the Contribution of Liberal Arts Institutions to Strengthening the STEM Teacher Preparation Pipeline. Liberal arts institutions prepare a relatively small number of STEM teachers, but the teachers they do prepare have strong content knowledge, tend to take on leadership roles in their schools and thereby have the potential to make a disproportionately large impact on the schools in which they teach.

 

Intellectual Merit. The conference will examine best practices that bring more highly quality math and science majors from liberal arts institutions into the teaching profession and then support them to succeed in this challenging work.

 

Broader Impact: By building a network focused on STEM teacher preparation among liberal arts institutions, the conference has the potential to significantly strengthen the contribution of these institutions to the national effort to produce more high quality math and science teachers.

 

 

Conference on STEM Teacher Preparation at Liberal Arts Institutions

 

The Consortium for Excellence in Teacher Preparation (CETE), a coalition of liberal arts colleges and universities from the northeast with small but high quality teacher preparation programs, proposes to sponsor a three day conference on STEM Teacher Preparation at Liberal Arts Institutions to be held at Bryn Mawr College on May 30 – June 1, 2012 (or July 30 – August 1, 2012).  The primary focus of the conference will be on ways to increase the number of STEM graduates from liberal arts institutions who go into teaching, but we will also be examining a wider range of issues.

The United States is making a concerted effort to strengthen science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education and having a high quality teacher workforce is a key focus of these efforts [1]. The conference will address the issue: Maximizing the Contribution of Liberal Arts Institutions to Strengthening the STEM Teacher Preparation Pipeline. Liberal arts institutions prepare a relatively small number of STEM teachers, but the teachers they do prepare have strong content knowledge and the potential to make a disproportionately large impact on the schools in which they teach.

 

Over the past several years, through the NSF Noyce Teacher Scholarship program and through the latest Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) solicitation, which includes science education as one of its focus areas, there has been growing awareness and interest in STEM teacher preparation among faculty at liberal arts institutions. The conference will build on this growing interest by bringing together math, science and education faculty from liberal arts institutions who are involved in STEM teacher preparation to share their experiences and to learn about best practices with the goal of strengthening collaboration and partnership between:

 

  • STEM and education faculty within individual institutions
  • STEM and education faculty across institutions
  • STEM pre-service and in-service teachers across institutions.

 

Some of the key challenges in STEM teacher preparation at liberal arts institutions include how to:

 

  • recruit more STEM majors into teaching?
  • provide high quality math and science teacher education experiences in a liberal arts institution which has limited resources devoted to STEM teacher preparation?
  • support liberal arts STEM teacher graduates as they move into the teaching profession?
  • provide ongoing opportunities for professional growth for these teachers at they progress through their teaching careers?

 

 

 

Outcomes: By addressing these topics participants at the conference will:

 

  • Become part of a network of educators at liberal arts institutions who share expertise on STEM teacher preparation.
  • Identify areas of need arising
    • in their own STEM teacher preparation programs.
    • across liberal arts programs generally.
  • Become aware of new strategies to recruit STEM majors into education, where recruitment is interpreted broadly to also include curricular and programmatic initiatives.
  • Develop institutional action plans for strengthening their STEM teacher preparation program.
  • Develop a network-wide action plan that addresses systemic areas of need across liberal arts programs by using the joint resources of the network. 
  • Gain increased understanding of the national STEM education reform debate and of issues involved in STEM teacher preparation, both from the STEM discipline and from the education perspectives.

 

One challenge facing STEM teacher preparation programs at liberal arts institutions is that because of their small size, these program are not able to offer courses focused exclusively on math or science education. Participants at the conference will examine this issue with a goal of developing collaborative solutions. For example, one possibility might be a joint summer program for pre-service and prospective pre-service teachers from liberal arts institutions that focus on issues of STEM education. Another idea would be to develop a joint video library that documents promising teacher practices in STEM.

 

CETE members have experience in such collaborative ventures.  For example Brandeis University and Smith College both host inter-session programs on urban education that are open to undergraduates from other CETE institutions. CETE is now running a two year program on Teacher Leadership for Urban Schools for CETE graduates at the post-induction phase of teaching (years 3-11). Since a number of CETE institutions are located in rural areas, and many rural school districts meet the Noyce criteria of “high need”, we will also examine and look for collaborative solutions to issues of STEM teaching in rural areas. 

 

To support the development of partnerships that cross the traditional education – discipline divide, participating institutions will send teams to the conference having both disciplinary and education faculty. At a minimum, a team will include two faculty members: one from mathematics or the sciences and one from education. Teams are encouraged to include a third faculty member so as to provide representation from both mathematics and science and also to include a STEM in-service or pre-service teacher who either graduated from the institution’s program or is presently enrolled in it.

 

This conference will target CETE schools and liberal arts institutions that are part of the NSF Noyce Teacher Scholarship program. An informal network among Noyce liberal arts institutions has been building over the past several years at the Noyce annual conference. In July 2011, a contingent of these institutions shared their experiences at a breakfast meeting organized by Victor Donnay of Bryn Mawr College.   

 

We anticipate holding a second conference in summer 2013 aimed at a larger pool of liberal arts institutions. This group could include institutions participating in the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) grant program on science education as well as institutions that have not yet made focused efforts on STEM teacher preparation. The outcomes from the 2012 conference will inform the design of the follow up conference.

 

The development of the 2012 conference will be guided by an organizing committee  consisting of representatives from CETE institutions (Barnard, Bowdoin, Bryn Mawr, Mount Holyoke, University of Pennsylvania, Swarthmore  and Vassar) and from Noyce institutions.

Initial planning occurred at the CETE annual conference (Barnard, October 2011) and via a December conference call. Organizers will continue planning via conference calls and will also hold an in-person planning session in March 2012.

 

CETE has offered to provide initial funding for the conference of $5000. We are requesting additional funding from the National Science Foundation.

 

 

References:

 

1. Prepare and Inspire: K-12 Education in STEM for America’s Future, President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, September 2010.  

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