It should be noted that this project was reduced from the whole State of Tennessee to those Tennessee Board of Regent’s Schools in the “Eastern Corridor.” Therefore, some items appearing in this section are no longer in the scope of this project.
Tennessee Board of Regents-Teacher Preparation Partnership
Goals and Objectives:
In February 2004, the TBR hosted a meeting to discuss the development of this proposal. TBR had been working toward improved articulation and matching of curriculum in similarly titled and numbered courses since 2001. Two of the areas in which there was a problem with commonalities were education and mathematics. Representatives from all thirteen community colleges and six universities participated in the February discussion. The general outcome of that meeting was approval of grant proposal preparation under the NSF/ATE/LSTP guidelines. Ultimately, 11 of the community colleges and five of the universities decided they could easily be a part of such a plan because the benefits to the system and to the future of the teaching profession in Tennessee would be tremendous.
Each participating school currently has a representative who reports information about the progress of this plan to an administrative official. There were no preconceived notions concerning the establishment of procedures and processes should this grant proposal be funded. Current representatives understand that as the state-wide plan develops, their roles may change considerably, or they could come to have no significant role at all. The accompanying letters of support from the schools and from other organizations indicate that a number of groups in and associated with the State of Tennessee find this project to have significant bearing on the preparation of future teachers within the state, especially in the areas of math, science, and technology in the K-6 classroom. As one participant put it, perhaps with some facetiousness, “What a unique idea, if we upgraded K-6 teaching in these areas on the front-end, we wouldn’t be playing catch up all the time.” With this type of support as a backdrop, the Tennessee Board of Regents Teacher Preparation Collaborative proposes the following:
I. Improve the mathematics, science, and technology preparation of future teachers through a statewide collaboration and systemic change.
This will occur through the development of a curriculum aligned with state and national recommendations and standards as well as current research findings in the field. It is recognized within the TBR system that while some courses in the K-6 teacher education curriculum match each other quite well, some vary in differing degrees and some are completely lacking. This project will establish the following core of courses, related to math, science and an introduction to the education profession. In the first area these courses will be Math 1410-The Number System, and Math 1420-Geometry and Statistics. Most TBR math departments already follow this pattern.
In science, there is some differentiation. Nationally, two models are noted. One is the four three-hour course plan now used by PSTCC and TTU, with concepts courses in the area of biology, chemistry, physics and earth science. The other is the three four-hour course format used effectively in other partnerships, including the well recognized one between Green River Community College and Central Washington University. Both formats are already used at a few TBR schools. Discussions indicate that while work must be done in terms of standardizing content, both formats generate twelve hours of hands on, inquiry based, technology infused science that will transfer across the system.
In a similar manner a “new” Introduction to Teaching and Technology course will evolve. Certainly many of the principles within this course are already present in a variety of courses throughout the TBR system. However, this course will focus on three areas: the student learning about the profession, the participation in an early field experience, and learning to prepare an electronic portfolio.
Disciplinary task forces, composed of TBR math, science and education faculty, led by local and nationally recognized representatives will analyze the national and state standards, review research, and recommendations and determine the curriculum and format of the math, science and introduction to education and technology courses. Each TBR school will have one faculty representative for the math courses; a maximum of 4 faculty representatives for the science courses and one faculty representative for the Introduction to Teaching and Technology course. From within this group one person will oversee the project on each campus. The representatives from the respective areas will initially meet in a state sponsored meeting at TBR Headquarters to discuss their approach to curriculum and course development. Clearly, all schools will not be at the same level of development for any given course, but course materials for consideration will have been shared among all representatives. These would include items from a number of sources. Specific attention will be paid to information generated by the PTK/NSF Project, Preparing Tomorrow’s Science and Mathematics Teachers: The Community College Response.
While there is an abundance of information related to the types of specific courses to be constructed and perhaps even more related to course content, this portion of project development will not totally produce the perfect teacher education environment. The second challenge will be selection of TBR faculty who can bring this plan to fruition. The management team of PI, Kelley and Co-PI’s Hector, Phelps and Witherspoon have had first hand experience with appropriate curriculum and presenters. The development of the PSTCC/TTU curriculum in the three areas listed above proceeded smoothly. All courses are now in place at both schools and faculty communicate freely. Kelley and Hector have served as department chair, while Phelps and Witherspoon have integrated the necessary math and science courses as well as presenters into their university’s education programs. Kelley, Phelps and Witherspoon work with Appalachia Educational Laboratory, while Hector has held many math workshops in her school’s service area. Extensive work in these settings gives the management team insight into recruiting and maintaining participants in the teaching of math and science content.
Early in 2005, the management team will begin working to identify faculty who should be associated with this project. Faculty at the TBR schools understand implementation of this plan is grant dependent, but buy-in, planning and preparation must come early.
After faculty selection and while course and curriculum development occurs, school representatives will be afforded two professional development opportunities. First, within the state, formal workshops will be held for each of the six groups of participating faculty on a yearly basis. In the first year, these will be staggered so that math, biology and introduction to education planning meetings are initiated in Fall 2005 and chemistry, physics, and earth science in Spring 2006. Subsequently, a three-day summer /two-day spring semester format will be used. Throughout the project and beyond, participating faculty will be linked by Two Way Audio Video (TWAV) and list-serve.
The workshops will be modeled after previous successful summer institutes for training faculty such as those by the Mathematical Association of America’s, “Preparing Mathematicians to Educate Teachers” and the Center for Proficiency in Teaching Mathematics institute, “Developing Teacher’s Mathematical Knowledge for Teaching.” The workshops will be conducted by outside presenters who can provide the best information on course specific materials to prospective K-6 teachers. For example, Steve Kinholt (mathematics, Green River Community College) and Bruce Palmquist (physical science, Central Washington University) have had great success with their NSF sponsored Project Teach program in the State of Washington.
By the third year of the project a certain degree of integration between math and science will be occurring. Dr. Stuart Moskowitz, a Teachers Teaching with Technology instructor, and Dr. Holly Hirst of the Shodor Foundation, have both offered assistance in helping faculty learn effective methods for integrating handheld and computer technologies into math and science teacher education.
The second part of professional development comes through travel monies provided by the grant and participating schools. These monies will be used to support faculty travel to an annual national conference related to this project, such as the National Association of Community College Teacher Education Programs, the PTK Best Practices Conference, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, the National Science Teachers Associations, or the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education. Faculty and schools will be encouraged to develop independent relationships in related organizations, when they discover something advantageous. As an example PSTCC has become involved in the Education Program portion of the SuperComputing 200X project through National Computation Science Institute (NCSI) and the Shodor Educational Foundation. This resulted in PSTCC hosting a NCSI summer workshop entitled “Look Up” in May, 2004.
Additionally, this project will infuse technology into the planned courses. The development of electronic portfolios and the use of math programs such as Geometer Sketch Pad and Fathom will result in increased computer skills. Calculator Based Laboratory experimentation spans all of the math and science courses. PDA’s can also be introduced. The use of an aquarium-like ground water model system can be coupled with a computer simulation of the same system, thus blending different levels of technology. Digital cameras can capture a variety of teaching/learning situations with the products used for classroom demonstrations, or built into the electronic portfolio.
II. Improve articulation and advising in the field of teacher education among all institutions involved in this project by offering and requiring the same mathematics, science, and educational technology courses at each institution.
As courses are developed throughout the system, TBR will be working to insure transfer and enhance articulation. It should not be forgotten; this is the type of situation TBR has been working on since 2001. This project is now the vehicle of education reform across the state.
III. Develop Student Support System.
a. Each participating institution will have either a designated resource room or materials available in the library to support students while they are in the content courses as well as when they are gaining experience in the classroom. These areas contain out-of-class sources of information, and give the teacher education cohort a specific place to gather, get to know each other, and share knowledge, ideas, and experiences. Some of the most valuable learning occurs when teaching something to someone else. Resources will include manipulatives, journals, science instructional materials, texts, and activity books.
b. Each institution will either initiate or strengthen a chapter of a future teachers organization. The Tennessee Education Association (TEA, affiliated with the National Education Association) supports the collegiate chapters known as Student Tennessee Education Associations (STEA). STEA chapters focus on four areas. First they support students pursuing the profession in the freshman and sophomore years, by providing information and interaction with junior/senior level students, as well as meeting with in-service teachers. Second, in the junior and senior years, programs and information are provided as students approach their “real” job. Thirdly, the state-wide STEA coordinates two conferences per year. STEA also provides a mechanism for purchasing reasonable liability insurance before classroom participation. Finally, STEA promotes the Future Teachers Conferences which is item c. below.
c. Although state-wide STEA events are held each year, this portion of the project will further promote interaction among two and four-year schools by sponsoring annual Future Teachers Conferences on both the local and regional level. The latter should promote two-year and four-year school partnerships.
d. Each institution will offer a Praxis I Success Workshop. These workshops will be provided free to the students and will include an overview of the test format, test taking tips and strategies, as well as content review.
e. An early field experience will be included in the educational technology course to help students determine their level of commitment to the teaching profession.
IV. Improve the capacity and training of a diverse teaching pool in Tennessee.
Because the institutions involved in this project are located in urban, rural, and suburban settings, a diverse student population will be affected. By creating a clearer pathway and seamless transition in the teacher education program, all students can follow this path. Urban area colleges and universities reflect higher African-American populations ranging from Chattanooga, 17% (served by Chattanooga State Technical Community College), Nashville 24% and 76% (served by Nashville State Technical Community College and Tennessee State University) to Memphis 55% and 31%(served by Southwest Community College and the University of Memphis) (THEC 2002-2003). The rural group is indicated by 72% of the school districts having 400 or fewer students (SREB 2001).
In working with these populations, two things must be addressed. First students need to be prepared for the math and science courses which will be developed and taught in these teacher education programs. Next, students moving through these programs should be prompted to remain Tennessee teachers, located in the vicinity of their course work. Preparedness for college work is enhanced by the TBR mandated Developmental Studies Program. Since 1984 all TBR schools have provided developmental course work in the areas of math, English, reading and study skills for entering students who are underprepared for college work. The ACT exam is used for placement. This specific mechanism is of particular interest, because Tennessee high school students typically have test scores below the national average on the ACT. Consequently, students who truly lack foundation information and skills are placed in the developmental program, and thus would receive training in the basics before entering the courses developed in this project. PSTCC’s long term tracking of students in the developmental program indicates that the students who persist and obtain the associates degree do as well as students who bypass developmental studies via a higher ACT score.
Additionally, urban areas have undertaken projects to promote the pursuit of higher education and work in K-12 education by African-American students. For example Knoxville, Project GRAD (Graduation Really Achieves Dreams) serves as a pathway for middle and high school students starting at PSTCC and continuing through program completion occurring at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. Memphis City Schools have mentors following the University of California-Santa Cruz model to decrease teacher turnover. In the rural areas, promotion of teaching in the specific geographic region of training is approached differently. With the success of the PSTCC/TTU project, TTU has begun to offer the junior and senior years of their education program on the campuses of three other community colleges. Within this context, some of the strongest local teaching ties develop. First, a number of students (especially older students) unable to leave their local setting and travel to a four year university, can now complete their entire program without moving. Many of these students have always wanted to be teachers and are skilled in working with children, but for various reasons, they were delayed in starting down this pathway. As one PSTCC secretarial support person stated, “So what if it takes me six years. I’ll have my education degree and be able to do what I have always wanted to do; teach second grade.” Other four-year schools are now interested in similar linkages on community college campuses.
V. Provide opportunities for both in-service and pre-service teachers to gain content credit hours to meet NCLB requirements.
In Tennessee, teachers desiring to teach middle school must have 24 credit hours in the content field they plan to teach. The courses in this project will help teachers gain an understanding and confidence in math and science, as well as experience innovative pedagogy. As the pre-service teachers take these math and science courses thus increasing their understanding and confidence in these fields, they will be encouraged both extrinsically and intrinsically to take more math and/or science courses. Eventually, they may graduate as highly qualified middle school teachers in one of these fields.