Education - Page 7 - Teachers, from page 1

- Page 7
Teachers, from page 1
“We found that transfer students had a wide variety of mathematical skills that did not necessarily prepare them for work in quantitative biology,” says William LaCourse, Ph.D., and dean of natural and mathematical sciences. “We also found a faculty misalignment around what was taught within the school.”

Many students choose to study biology thinking that there is less mathematics involved than other sciences, but such is not the case. To align what the students are learning with what they need to learn, the grant will get instructors collaborating together as they work through a series of four core modules: introduction to cell and molecular biology, evolution, genetics and cell biology.

“In the summer, the biology faculty, in collaboration with math faculty, will work on quantitative reasoning and linear relationships,” says Laura Ott, director of the science education research unit. “The key thing is using a spiral approach so that what students learn at the beginning will form a foundation to build on in later coursework.”

The faculty working through these modules will be fromUMBCas well as the community college partners on an equal status. “We are getting teachers in the same room for discussion so that they understand each other,” says LaCourse. “The faculty will work on the modules, see if they have gaps and work to get rid of them.” The faculty participating will be recognized with a certificate in learning and teaching.

“The first institute is scheduled for late May or early June,” says Ott.“The different schools will be bringing what each institution does now.”All the schools have top notch laboratories. “We aim to reduce the performance gaps,” says LaCourse, due to the way the courses are taught.“They shouldn’t be held against you. We are working for the best for the students.”

Also working for the best for the students Teachers, from page 1 is the new doctor of education in school system leadership program at the University of Maryland. “We recruit throughout the school systems or they come to us,” says Margaret McLaughlin, Ph.D., professor and associate dean for research and innovations and partnerships. “It’s a very powerful program.”

The idea is to get administrators from the same school system together to better understand a problem, learn how to think about it and find solutions. With a minimum of 15 participants in each cohort, they come together to work on real world problems in their school system. This compressed course takes 36 months to complete and is comprised of a Friday night and Saturday meetings and some online content.

“They say these are the best discussions they have ever had,” says McLaughlin. “Having a place where they can come together and talk about a problem from different points of view is invaluable.” Because of the large size of the school systems it is difficult for one person to know what another person does, or how they could be of help.

For example, in one instance there was a lack of access to curriculum for kids in alternative schools within a district. A man at the table who was head of technology spoke up and said he could fix that easily. If they had not been in the same room for this discussion, the problem might have remained or taken much longer to be solved.

Naming the problem is the first step. The instructors for the course do a lot of mentoring on how to think about the problem, how not to waste time and resources. They help students change the way they think about things. Students take the ‘So what?’ question, explore it and wonderful things begin to happen. There is a capstone project and when students are working on their dissertations, they can help each other.

The curriculum has continued to evolve since the first cohort started in 2012. The faculty continue to look at the program from different views and be aware of current issues.The goal to develop leadership skills and practical problem solving experience remains. •

In the same room

Getting educators in the same room to share their problems and discuss solutions is the theme running through these programs.

Salisbury University prepares teachers for elementary, middle and high school levels. As part of the National Association for Professional Development Schools, they follow the guidelines set down by the association. This includes, among other essentials, a commitment to preparation of future educators, ongoing professional development, and work together by college/ university faculty and P-12 faculty across institutional settings.

The University of Maryland, Baltimore County has received an Improving Undergraduate Science Education grant from the National Science Foundation to focus on teaching and learning in biology. Along with their community college partners the purpose of the grant is to study the biology curriculum and how it is taught to level the playing field for transfer students. This will be accomplished by getting biology faculty in the same room to discuss how it is taught.

A special committee at the University of Maryland evaluated proposed and recommended changes and what deeply impeded change in practice throughout school systems. They realized a professional practice degree was needed by school administrators in the field. Getting them in the same room so they could discuss and work on real world problems was the goal. The doctor of education in school system leadership program was the result. •