Our Work

SMTI’s Promising Practices

SMTI undertook a pilot to identify promising practices in science and mathematics teacher preparation programs in the summer and fall of 2011. We invited the 25-institutions in The Leadership Collaborative to submit nominations of elements of their programs for consideration as “promising practices”. The Collaborative was an NSF-funded RETA, serving as a demonstration project for promoting and sustaining institutional change for advancing the priority of science and math teacher preparation.

We recognize that there is no commonly accepted definition or agreed-upon set of metrics to apply to the term “promising practice” in teacher preparation. So for our purposes, we operationally defined a promising practice as a unique effort or a notable extension of an existing practice for which data exist to support a positive impact on one or more of the core purposes of SMTI: to increase the quantity, quality and diversity of science and mathematics teachers.

The nominated promising practices were required to directly address one section of the Teacher Education Program Assessment (TEPA) — a tool designed to identify policies and practices within institutions that support the recruitment, preparation, induction and development of science and mathematics teachers.

Seven institutions responded to the pilot, several submitting more than one practice, to give us a total of 13 nominations to review. Each of the nominations was critiqued by three reviewers with extensive knowledge of the research base and practice of science-mathematics teacher preparation. An essential criteria for acceptance as a “promising practice” was submission of evidence supporting the impact on the quantity, quality and/or diversity of teacher candidates. Depending on the practice the desired impact might have been:

  1. Improved academic and “soft” qualities of candidates enrolling in programs;
  2. Increased retention of program graduates as beginning teachers;
  3. Evaluations of the success of program graduates as teachers; or
  4. Demonstrated institutional leadership and cross-college collaboration strongly embedded in policy and practice.

The review process resulted in designation of five of the 13 submissions as promising practices.

Promising Practices

  • Colorado Learning Assistant (CO LA) at the University of Colorado at Boulder
  • Modeling Instruction: Content & Pedagogy at Florida International University
  • Science Teacher Induction Network (TIN) at the University of Minnesota
  • Scope and Sequence Matrix for the UKanTeach Program Courses at the University of Kansas
  • UKanTeach at the University of Kansas

Abstracts of Promising Practices

Colorado Learning Assistant (CO LA) at the University of Colorado at Boulder

The Colorado Learning Assistant (CO LA) model recruits students from STEM majors to become teachers and prepares them to teach within their content area with the involvement of STEM faculty through the transformation of undergraduate STEM courses. An important effect of the program is the vast improvement of undergraduate STEM education. Research on the Colorado LA Model has shown that CU Boulder has nearly tripled the number of K12 STEM teachers prepared, that there are significant differences between the practices of K12 teachers who have had the LA experience and those who did not, and has more than doubled the learning outcomes in LA-supported undergraduate courses. The effectiveness of the LA program can be attributed to many things, including, (1) selection effects—some of the most talented STEM majors are selected to serve as LAs, making up the pool from which K12 teachers are recruited, (2) initial teaching experiences involve peers—LAs work directly with peers and this provides a context for becoming empathetic toward learners and for developing sophisticated views of the learning process rather than deficit models of students and didactic models of teaching, and (3) pedagogical instruction is situated in practice—all LAs experience a STEM education pedagogy course that is integrated with their first LA teaching experience, this provides opportunities for LAs to develop pedagogical content knowledge.

For three consecutive years, the CU Boulder has run a National Workshop to help faculty implement the CO LA program at their universities. Over 120 STEM faculty members from some 50 different institutions have attended. A website, a handbook, videos, and related materials for use by institutions interested in emulating the program are available at http://laprogram.colorado.edu The program is now 90% funded by the University of Colorado STEM Departments, the School of Education, and primarily, the Provost. CU Boulder along with colleagues from around the nation are currently in the process developing a National LA Alliance. Included in this work will be the development of research-based, research-validated materials in chemistry and biology for use in LA supported courses in addition to a national research campaign intended to replicate the research findings produced at CU Boulder at other universities that have been implementing the CO LA program.

For more information, contact:
Laurie Langdon, Co-Director, LA program

Valerie Otero, Co-Director, LA Program

Olivia Holzman, LA Program Management and Administration

Stephen Butler, LA Program Web Management and Administration

To learn more, visit: http://laprogram.colorado.edu/

Modeling Instruction: Content & Pedagogy at Florida International University

The first university course in the preparation of physics teachers is the introductory physics course. The introductory course may be viewed as the first sanctioned exposure to physics. During this initial exposure, students learn what content is valued by the discipline as well as the expected ways that this content is conveyed. Student experience in these introductory courses is therefore critically important for the recruitment and preparation of physics teachers. Florida International University has implemented Modeling Instruction in several sections of the introductory physics sequence, which has had the effect of improving pre-service teacher recruitment and preparation while simultaneously improving overall student learning retention and attitudes. Modeling Instruction is a transformed learning environment for introductory physics and is a promising practice for the recruitment and preparation of physics teachers.

For more information, contact:
Eric Brewe, Assistant Professor of Science Education
Florida International University

To learn more, visit: http://casgroup.fiu.edu/fiuperg/index.php

Science Teacher Induction Network (TIN) at the University of Minnesota

The Science Teacher Induction Network (TIN) is an on-line mentoring program for licensure completers from the University of Minnesota in secondary science and mathematics. TIN incorporates reflective journals, topical discussion threads and professional development inquiries that provide a space for first and second year teachers to continue to develop their pedagogical content knowledge and conversation with mentors and peers to promote reform-based classroom practices. Developers of online mentoring programs have used lesson plans, discussion posts, and journal entries as a proxy for direct observations of classroom practice. Recent developments in video annotation methods and tools make the use of video for examining and improving reflective practices increasingly viable within online environments. Through the strategic development and use of video annotation tools within TIN, our beginning teachers’ reflections on their classroom teaching are linked directly to evidence through video as documentation. The integration of VideoAnt into TIN represents a promising practice that promotes the development of reflective practitioners and provides a free and user-friendly on-line platform for sharing and providing feedback on classroom teaching.

For more information, contact:
Gillian Roehrig
Co-Director STEM Education Center Associate Professor, Dept. of Curriculum and Instruction, University of Minnesota
Email: roehr013@umn.edu

To learn more, visit: http://www.cehd.umn.edu/stem/

Scope and Sequence Matrix for the UKanTeach Program Courses at the University of Kansas

Introduction: There are ten formal courses which comprise the UKanTeach teacher preparation program. The faculty involved in teaching these courses wanted to ensure that the goals, objectives and topics included in the full program were building in a logical and effective manner for our students. We also wanted to ensure that our students were not being subjected to needless redundancy in content or in the materials used throughout these ten classes.

Methods: From September 2010 through May 2011, all of the UKanTeach master teachers, and all the instructors from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences or the School of Education who partner with the master teachers in teaching the ten courses, met for two hours every other week to discuss the content within each of our courses and the materials used to work with that content. We recorded and tracked all the information unearthed during these hours of collaboration.

Results: A formal scope and sequence for all ten courses was created. We refer to this valuable document as the “Matrix”. It provides a readily accessible visual record of the content included, how that content develops throughout the ten courses, and information about the materials used to make that content meaningful for students. This is a dynamic document that can and will be continuously updated to incorporate any changes as they are made.

Discussion: We discovered that while most of our vision for a seamless progression of content was in place, there were some instances where this could be strengthened and there were some instances where we were duplicating the use of specific materials. We found a huge benefit from formally studying the objectives and goals for each of the individual courses and thus gaining an appreciation and understanding of the program as a whole.

For more information, contact:
Steven B. Case, Director Center for Science Education and Co-director UKanTeach Program

To learn more, visit: http://ukanteach.ku.edu/

UKanTeach at the University of Kansas

Recruitment of future STEM teachers begins with heavy recruitment of math and science majors mainly through classroom visits by UKanTeach advisors and faculty and also through orientation events and information fairs. Future UKanTeach students are also drawn from a nearby community college, with which UKanTeach has an articulated agreement. These recruitment efforts have paid off in increased and growing enrollment.

Students entering and continuing in UKanTeach are of high academic caliber, with test scores and GPAs above the college and university average. Program graduates typically score in the upper echelon on the Kansas Praxis tests and teacher portfolio.

Students are retained and supported in the program through a highly-effective tracking regimen and mentoring process. Tracking is enhanced using the newly-developed software Scheduler. Mentoring by UKanTeach faculty and staff is made more effective by having weekly scheduled discussions about students of concern.

UKanTeach is a successful replication of the UTeach model, developed at UT-Austin. UKanTeach leaders provided sufficient evidence that replication of and innovation on an effective model of science and mathematics teacher preparation is possible and even desirable for some institutions. UKanTeach is meeting the real need for new math and science educators who are well-prepared to replace the greying STEM teacher workforce, almost one-quarter of which are eligible to retire within the next five years. [Note: UTeach was not submitted as a nominated practice to consider in this pilot process.]

For more information, contact:
Steven B. Case, Director Center for Science Education and Co-director UKanTeach Program


To learn more, visit: http://ukanteach.ku.edu/

Featured Project & Initiative

The Data Literacy Institute – a partnership between APLU and the Association for Institutional Research with funding from Ascendium – brings together cross-departmental teams from 11 Powered by Publics institutions from Cluster 14 to engage in training that enhance their use of data to improve equitable student outcomes. In May 2022, Powered by Publics held […]

Featured Publication

2022 APLU Annual Report