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Preparing Tomorrow's Leaders in Mathematics and Science Education
The Maryland Collaborative for Teacher Preparation is an innovative, interdisciplinary
undergraduate program to prepare future teachers of grades 4-8 who are confident in
teaching mathematics and science and can provide exciting and challenging learning
environments for all students. The program has sought to:
- introduce future teachers
to standards-based models of mathematics and science instruction;
- provide courses
and field experiences that integrate mathematics and science;
- provide internships
that involve genuine research activities;
- develop the participants' ability to use
computers as standard tools for research and problem solving, as well as for
imaginative classroom instruction (through training on how to incorporate calculators,
microcomputer-based laboratories, and the Internet into their instructional practices);
- prepare prospective teachers to deal effectively with the diversity of students in
public schools today; and 6) provide graduates with placement assistance and sustained
support during the critical first years of their teaching careers.
Building a Collaborative
In the first year of the initiative (1993-94), project
staff recruited 85 mathematics and science faculty members from 10 collaborating
colleges and universities. The faculty became familiar with the project's goals through
professional development activities; designed new mathematics and science courses that
incorporated hands-on, cooperative learning activities; and developed teams within each
institution. They also participated in sessions to raise awareness about diversity and
equity issues. Technology has been emphasized throughout the program in course
development and, through the project's listserv and Web site, as a central mode of
During its second year (1994-95), 20 new MCTP courses were offered and the first
group of pre-service teachers were recruited. The project recruits freshmen and
sophomores at collaborating institutions who are interested in becoming elementary or
middle school teachers. The project also enlisted a cadre of community college faculty
to provide insights into how to recruit students who transfer into the University
System of Maryland. This is especially important, as a high percentage of Maryland's
teachers begin their college education in community colleges.
By the start of the third year (1995-96), the Collaborative had reached a new, more
multifaceted level of operation. A clarity of mission and sense of camaraderie were
evident among the participants. In addition to ongoing work on recruiting and
developing courses, key program activities were under way, including
mentor teacher workshops,
and teacher education research.
At the beginning of the fourth year (1996-97), faculty members formed working groups
to tackle remaining needs such as the development of culminating "capstone" courses,
an induction program for graduates, and a faculty professional development plan.
Now in its fourth year of this 5-year grant, MCTP has instilled
fundamental changes in 89 mathematics and science courses offered at 10 Maryland
colleges and universities. Across the state, 120 faculty members have shifted to a more
hands-on, interactive, student-centered approach to teaching mathematics and science.
In contrast to the traditional lecture format, these faculty members employ cooperative
learning strategies and create environments in which students explore mathematics and
science questions and discover the answers themselves. Although MCTP's central goal has
been to improve the science and mathematics education of future teachers of grades 4-8,
its reach extends to all students who take courses taught by these "reformed"
instructors--which amounts to approximately 4,000 students per semester.
In the summer of 1995, 11 students took part in a pilot program
of full-time research internships in the "real world" of science and mathematics. The
internship sites included local museums, informal science centers, and zoos, as well as
research laboratories and federal agencies. A quote from one student, who was an MCTP
intern at NASA, helps to show the kinds of transformations these students undergo as a
result of the internship experiences:
"I learned that research is not cut and dried . . . there's a lot of trial and error
involved. I also learned a lot this summer about my own learning. It involves so much
more than reading what someone else has found to be true. It involves making
connections, experiencing, doing, trying, and sometimes making mistakes. It's very
important when teaching that I remember this--that my students can be involved in what
they're learning and that will be meaningful for them."
Based on the success of the pilot year, 24 additional interns were supported in the
summer of 1996 and 18 more in 1997.
Another important component of the MCTP program is the preparation of
teachers who will serve as mentors to MCTP graduates in their first years of teaching.
During the past three summers, some 64 upper-elementary and middle school teachers have
been prepared to be mentors. They participated in two-week, intensive workshops to
enhance their knowledge and skills in areas such as coaching and mentoring pre-service
teachers, using technology in the classroom, and integrating science and mathematics in
About 40 MCTP students are expected to graduate in the spring of 1998;
many of these are among the first to complete a full, 4-year program of MCTP courses as
well as summer research internships. (Already, 16 students with fewer than four years
of MCTP experiences have graduated.) In the coming year, the project will focus a great
deal on the creation of an induction program for the new MCTP teachers, as well as on
faculty professional development.
Evaluation of the program is done by a combination of internal evaluators
and the project's own research group. The formative evaluation of the MCTP activities
is carried out by the staff of CoreTechs, a private consulting firm run by the former
director of the Center for Educational Research and Development at the University of
Maryland, Baltimore County. A recent CoreTechs survey of 33 faculty members shows a
marked shift in how frequently they used certain teaching strategies after joining
MCTP. For example, compared to the use of these strategies prior to MCTP, there was a
two- to ten-fold jump in the number of faculty members who regularly used cooperative
learning groups, hands-on learning activities, constructivist methods, alternative
assessments by students and peers, learner-centered approaches, project-oriented
learning, technology in the classroom, and other "reform" strategies.
From the perspectives of faculty and students, the MCTP Research Group continually
documents the unique elements of the program, particularly the instruction methods that
model active, interdisciplinary teaching. Data collection strategies include regular
surveys of students in MCTP classes; audio-taped and videotaped interviews of MCTP
faculty and students; observations of selected MCTP classes; and collection of course
materials. Thus far, areas of research have focused on the following topics:
Below are a few research findings at a glance:
- The attitudes and beliefs of students in MCTP classes about the nature and teaching of
mathematics and science;
- How mathematicians and scientists view each others' disciplines and how this impacts
their classroom efforts to make connections between them; and
- How faculty attempt to model exemplary teaching practices and how their students
perceive those efforts.
- Compared with other teacher candidates, MCTP students hold more positive attitudes
towards mathematics and science as well as more positive beliefs about the nature and
teaching of mathematics and science.
- MCTP mathematics content faculty tend to refer to science as a discipline similar to
mathematics in that it requires a sustained, focused study, while MCTP mathematics
methods faculty tend to view science as a context for doing mathematics.
- MCTP science content faculty tend to view science as a body of knowledge, while MCTP
science methods faculty view it as both a body of knowledge and a process.
- MCTP teacher candidates benefit from regular opportunities for discussions about
reform-based pedagogy while taking mathematics and science content classes. These can
be conducted in those classes or in concurrent seminars.
The project has developed an award-winning World Wide Web site (http://www.wam.umd.edu/~toh/MCTP.html)
that provides a project summary, essays on constructivism and education,
types of technologies and software used by the project, and a list of project courses,
and much more. In addition, the project is producing a collection of case reports in
which mathematics and science faculty members recount the challenges and successes of
changing the way they teach. It also maintains a resource library that serves as a
catalog of reference materials, including books, reports, reprints of journal articles,
laboratory manuals and equipment, computer software, and videotapes. The materials are
available for loan to project participants and colleagues at the collaborating
Originally produced for submission to
"The Guide to Math & Science Reform--
An Interactive Resource for the Education Community" (CD-ROM)
Fall 1996 project report
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