University joins plan to reform STEM education

By Paula Friedrich, Daily Staff Reporter
Published February 12, 2014

Two University School of Education projects, TeachingWorks and LessonSketch, have been invited to take part in 100kin10, an initiative to help educate 100,000 science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) teachers in 10 years.

Deborah Ball, dean of the School of Education, said TeachingWorks was invited to offer an elementary math lab program at the University in the summer. Students who are struggling in math attend a camp to focus on improving their skillset in that area, while administrators who train teachers watch and also learn.

“They spend two weeks watching the children learning and then in the afternoons being in workshops and doing things that enable them to go back to their settings and do much better work with teachers,” Ball said.

LessonSketch, a collaboration between Education Profs. Patricio Herbst and Vu Minh Chieu and a professor at the University of Maryland, is a program that helps teachers model possible classroom scenarios. Through 100kin10, LessonSketch has been invited to help teacher educators who already use the program create “representations,” Ball said.

“They’re things you can watch where you see examples of really good teaching,” she said. “And those representations that these people will build will be distributed to people all over the country. So it’s like a project to get people who are really good at working with teachers to build materials that can be used by other teacher educators.”

The two programs are part of almost 200 other projects that make up 100Kin10. Ball said the “big workforce investment” is aimed not only at training new teachers, but also those who have been in the classroom for years.

Many teachers are facing changes in content they’re instructed to teach, as well as the strategies used to bring it across to students. Engineering concepts are being introduced as early as elementary school and math problems are increasingly being taught as complex puzzles to be solved and debated over the course of days.

Ball added that these changes also affect new teachers coming into the classroom for the first time.

“The other issue is that there are new teachers that have to be prepared to teach this content,” Ball said. “When they were growing up as kids their only experience in school actually was different from what they’re going to be expected to do as new teachers.”

100kin10 also aims to increase diversity in STEM fields, Ball added.

“It’s kind of like a workforce solution about teachers in order to change the nature of who the people are in our society who are actually interested in going into these fields,” she said.

The Carnegie Foundation of New York and Opportunity Equation put together a variety of types of organizations to make 100kin10 possible, Ball said.

“It’s kind of a matching process between an organization that can contribute to building up really great math and science teaching together with a funder who can put money towards this.”