TBR-TPP NSF Effective Annual Report—Year 1—2005-2006

Executive Summary


    This project addresses teacher education among the Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR) System schools in the Eastern portion of Tennessee.  The need for educating effective mathematics and science teachers and the creation of coursework common to all TBR two- and four-year schools led TBR to host a February 2004 meeting.  All TBR institutions were represented and expressed strong interest in improving collaboration.


    Originally this project encompassed all nineteen TBR colleges and universities. However, NSF budget cuts and subsequent project cuts resulted in seven community colleges and two four-year universities from the TBR system participating. Those schools are as follows: Northeast State CC, East Tennessee State University, Walters State CC, Roane State CC, Tennessee Technological University, Motlow State CC, Chattanooga State Technical CC, Cleveland State CC, Pellissippi State Technical CC.


    Funding for this proposal provides a mechanism for schools involved to develop and teach math, science, and Introduction to Teaching and Technology courses in formats that greatly enhance the pre-service teachers’ abilities work with their future students. The three-hour per week lecture on a topic is gone. The interactive, inquiry based, hands-on approach to math and science courses is a must. It is only by college/university faculty modeling such techniques that the pre-service teachers become comfortable with the same approach. Through the professional development activities of this project the college/university faculty responsible for teaching the pre-service teachers are making this paradigm shift. This task was not taken lightly. Guiding college/university faculty into this type of foreign territory brings to mind the famous quote, “Leading faculty is like herding cats.”


    In March 2006, TBR mandated the establishment of the Associate of Science in Teaching Degree for the community colleges, and charged the community colleges with providing fourteen specific items from the Tennessee Professional Teaching Matrix. While the degree augments this project in a number of ways, it also established a third math course to be offered by the community colleges. This has led to significant discussion among the math participants concerning the nature of this course. Two-year TBR schools must provide the full complement of AST courses as outlined by TBR by Fall Semester 2007. Most “Matrix” items are in the technology category, leading to discussions concerning facilities and equipment needed to meet these requirements. Community colleges must show how they are going to meet the requirements of this matrix by July 1, 2006. Although not originally in this project plan, these two items directly affect this project and thus were addressed, particularly during the May workshop.


    To initiate and continue a professional development plan for the faculty of participating schools who teach the pre-service teachers, February and May workshops were conducted. There was about a 20% shift in new attendees/old attendees between the two workshops. Consequently a number of people arriving in May were just getting on track.


    The February workshop consisted primarily of getting faculty familiar with the development of the TBR Associate of Science in Teaching Degree, and the state licensure and math and science standards for grades K-6. The majority of the faculty had never heard of these standards. All faculty worked in groups based on field of study, and had guided discussions related to how they perceived plans developing at their respective schools.


    The May workshop provided interactive modeling sessions with faculty working in groups with specific course content but within a K-6 context. Faculty were introduced to the CD, Tennessee’s Next Generation Tools for Teaching Standards-Based Science.  (See Richard Audet at this link)  The science faculty had the opportunity to work individually with this item, as will be described in detail later. A number of opportunities were provided for faculty discussions. Because all schools were at different starting points for the project, science faculty teams also rotated for discussions related to their school’s respective plan for the courses involved. Because three math courses were already in place, those faculty looked at what changes could be made beginning in the Fall to so that they all more closely matched the licensure standards. Dr. Witherspoon illustrated each of the K-6 TN Teacher Licensure Standards in Mathematics by having faculty engage in hands on activities related to TN Curriculum Content Standards such as geometry, measurement, algebra, etc.  She modeled a wide variety of activities she has developed for pre-service teachers through many years of experience with that group in her content and methods courses


    By the end of the May workshop several things had been accomplished. First, an extensive session for the faculty involved in the Introduction to Teaching and Technology course had been conducted. Faculty involved in this area generally agreed on education topics to be covered, and required the presence of an early field experience for the pre-service teachers. Consequently their session focused on a number of approaches to teaching and/or with technology (e.g. presentation programs, electronic portfolios). Second, the science groups, through the CD, had established how to construct a K-6 science lesson plan (which only two participants had ever done), and recognized that as an important feature for their pre-service teachers. Thirdly, most of the math faculty attending had never heard of the Licensure Standards and some will be teaching the pre-service content courses for the first time in Fall 2006. Consequently they very avidly participated in the activities and went away with printed and electronic copies to be used in the Fall. Additionally university and community college faculty were able to understand the transferability of revamped and newly created courses on the front end for courses to be implemented either in 2006 or 2007.  School teams went away with plans to meet regularly beginning in the fall in order to ensure that new and revamped courses are implemented at individual schools with internal coordination.


    Finally, all faculty (57 participants) came to understand that it was not the content of courses that needed to be dramatically altered, but rather it was the context of their teaching particular sets of material. Discussions in this area were augmented by many interactive presentations working with math and science principles Along with this understanding, each school produced a time table indicating when they would implement each of the math, and science courses required by the AST degree.