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MCTP Status Report, Fall 1996
1. Background and Goals of the Project
Like each of the NSF-funded teacher preparation collaboratives, the
Maryland project set out to develop and implement improved programs for
preparation of mathematics and science teachers. But the specific goals,
structure, and accomplishments of our project reflect several critical
decisions that have led us to somewhat different activities and products
than the other CETP collaboratives.
First, we chose to focus our efforts on developing and testing a new
kind of teacher preparation program for Maryland, not reform of existing
programs. We aimed to create a program for teacher candidates who would
become specialists in teaching of mathematics and science in the upper
elementary and middle school grades.
The decision to focus on creating a new teacher preparation program,
targeted on upper elementary and middle school grades, reflected our belief
that the challenge of reform in science and mathematics education is
especially critical at that level and that there is growing support for use
of content specialist teachers with interdisciplinary expertise. The
decision to work toward a statewide program development partnership
reflected our desire to build, for the first time in Maryland, productive
collaborations that would reach across traditional institutional and
Second, we chose to structure our project so that it would bring
together science, mathematics, and education faculty in a cohesive statewide
program development partnership. That partnership was to develop new kinds
of content and pedagogy courses of particular value to our target audience
of prospective teachers, but also to have that transformation of teaching
influence the science and mathematics education of other undergraduate
students as well.
Third, our project design included a significant research effort
that would analyze the experiences and growth of our faculty and students
and produce generalizable understanding of new approaches to teacher
preparation, not simply a short-term, local up-grade of existing programs.
2. Specific Program Objectives and Accomplishments
At the outset of our project, in June of 1993, we envisioned
development of a teacher preparation program with four major components:
We believe that we
have made significant on-schedule progress toward each of those
objectives. The progress can be described in two ways - with numerical
indicators of the project's scope and with qualitative indicators of program
- New kinds of content and pedagogy courses would provide strong
interdisci-plinary preparation for teaching mathematics and science and
would model instruction that reflects constructivist principles of learning.
- Science and mathematics internship opportunities would give our
prospective teachers genuine experience of research and of ways that science
learning can occur in a variety of informal educational settings.
- Field experiences in schools with exemplary science and mathematics
programs would give students practice teaching under the guidance of
specially qualified mentor teachers.
- Support for new teachers during their transition from university
study to the world of work would provide better continuity at the critical
junction of preparation and professional practice.
3. Quantitative Indicators
As mentioned above, the Maryland Collaborative set goals that are
significantly different from those of the typical CETP program. We focused
on creation of a new teacher preparation program aimed at the upper
elementary and middle grades, and we proposed building a multi-institution
collaborative development effort. Both are firsts in the State of
Maryland. We planned to take the first 12 months of the Collaborative
effort to develop a coherent and broadly shared vision of the new program,
with the first teacher candidates and courses beginning in Fall of 1994. As of the
fall of 1996, we were about 70% of the way toward our program development and
implementation goals and our first teacher candidate recruits are completing
their content preparation and approaching the professional education and
field experience components of their programs.
The results described above reflect substantial achievement of the
goals set in our original proposal and cooperative agreement. However, in
assessing the influence of MCTP activities it is also important to keep in
mind the fact that the course changes will persist beyond the life of the
NSF-funding and each teacher specialist who graduates from our program will
influence over 100 students in each year of teaching - a much greater
multiplier effect than what can be accomplished by upgrading standard
programs for elementary teachers.
- In the fall of 1996 we had over 167 students who have been formally accepted into
the MCTP program on the various participating campuses, with applications
and acceptances increasing almost daily.
Those MCTP majors join other teacher education and liberal arts
undergraduate students in specially designed science, mathematics, and
pedagogy courses and other courses transformed to reflect an MCTP
influence. In the fall 1996 semester nearly 3500 students are enrolled in
120 higher education faculty and nearly 90 K-12 teachers have been
involved in design of content and pedagogy courses, internships, and field
experiences under special mentors.
- Among officially admitted MCTP students, 19% are African-American
and another 4% are from other ethnic groups that are traditionally
underrepresented in mathematics and science teaching. Both figures are very
close to the targets in our initial proposal.
Among non-MCTP students participating in the courses influenced by
our Collaborative, data from Spring 1996 show that 28% were African-American
and 13% other minority groups.
- The NSF Teaching Scholars funding has been a critical aid in
attracting students to our demanding new teacher preparation program.
We've used the funds to make 69 awards to outstanding students. Of the 69
awards, 16% have been to African-American students and 3% to students from
other traditionally underrepresented minority groups. The average GPA for
our teaching scholars has been over 3.5 on a 4.0 scale.
- Based on academic standing of current MCTP students, we anticipate
60 graduates in Spring of 1997 and somewhat greater numbers in each
succeeding year. The accompanying bar graph reflects one of the conditions
that have caused us to modify our original recruiting plans - our realization
that first year students are only one of several significant sources for our
program. Internal and community college transfer students have proven a
very important source of MCTP students.
- Various sources of support have
augmented NSF funding to make development and implementation of our plans
possible. Two items are especially significant. The $198,000 University of
Maryland system redeployment grant has supported our very successful
internship program. The substantial increase in institutional cost-sharing
during year 4 indicates the growing commitment of our participating campuses
to support of the faculty development and programmatic thrusts of our project.
In the remaining months of project work we have three main
goals - expanding the number of college and university faculty who are part
of the MCTP course team, extending the influence of MCTP course ideas to
students who are not necessarily preparing to teach, and building bridges to
help our graduates with the induction to teaching process.
4. Products and Qualitative Indicators
The raw numbers of students, faculty, and courses give only a
superficial picture of the influence that NSF Collaborative funding is
having on teacher preparation in the participating Maryland institutions.
To understand the impact of our first three and a half years of work you
have to look at the products in qualitative terms as well.
Students - The number one goal of our Collaborative is producing a
new kind of science and mathematics teacher through innovative courses,
internships, and field experiences. We are attracting exceptional students
to our emerging program, and they show great promise of becoming exceptional
When recent reports of the Third International Mathematics and
Science Study noted that successful countries tend to teach in ways that
have been recommended by reform proposals in this country, one of our MCTP
students noted that point and suggested, "We've got to spread the MCTP way
of teaching in this country."
Over 30 MCTP students have experienced our research and informal
science education internships, and all have commented on the transforming
effect of those experiences on their understanding of science. Through
participation on research teams at sites like NASA, the University of
Maryland Medical School, and the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory,
our prospective teachers have learned that scientific work is something
quite different from the orderly process taught in typical school science
courses. They have made genuine contributions to their research
partnerships, in several cases leading to joint and even lead-author
The special mentorship program is establishing early and influential
connections between outstanding science and mathematics teachers and the
MCTP teacher candidates. On a recent Saturday morning MCTP teaching
scholars organized a special workshop that saw mentor teachers presenting
model science and mathematics lessons and leading discussions of what it
takes to make such lessons effective in schools. The students, who
organized the meeting themselves, were so excited about the effect that they
are already planning a reprise in the Spring semester.
Taken together, the stories of these emerging science and
mathematics teachers speak of impressive effects from fundamentally new
approaches to teacher preparation in content, pedagogy, and field experiences.
Faculty Development - One of the essential concomitant factors in
development of new approaches to teacher preparation is transformation of
higher education faculty teaching philosophies and skills in science and
mathematics. One of the outstanding successes of the Maryland Collaborative
has been formation of a kind of invisible college of faculty from
institutions and disciplines that span the institutions of our state. That
invisible college stimulates and supports faculty who want to explore
fundamental change in their teaching, and the signs of that activity appear
regularly on our MCTP faculty list-serv discussions and at the semi-annual
statewide course debriefing meetings. In a state where the various public
institutions rarely had friendly interchanges at any level, we now have
congenial and lively dialog that cuts across scientific disciplines and
education as well.
Institutional Effects - To make sure that changes supported by NSF
funding remain in place when that funding ends, it is essential that the
MCTP innovations become part of the regular programs at participating
institutions. That is the case at five of the eight four-year institutions
in the Collaborative, including the largest teacher preparation programs at
UMCP and Towson State University. Furthermore, as Maryland is engaged in
fundamental redesign of teacher preparation at all levels, the Maryland
Collaborative program is widely viewed as a prototype of the desired new
Dissemination - To see that the insights gained by our Maryland
Collaborative initiatives are of value to other science education and
teacher preparation programs, we've engaged in a variety of dissemination
activities. We've maintained an actively-visited and award-winning site on
the world-wide web, a lively faculty discussion list-serv, and a quarterly
newsletter that reaches hundreds of interested people.
To share in more detail the ideas developed and experiences acquired
in our efforts to transform content preparation of prospective teachers,
we've been preparing an MCTP sampler of background papers and case reports
that we expect to publish under the title Constructing Understanding of
Mathematics and Science. This publication outlines the instructional and
content philosophies underlying our various instructional innovations,
strategies for implementation of those ideas, and reports of practical
experiences at implementing the MCTP philosophy.
Finally, as mentioned earlier, the MCTP project has conducted a
significant line of research on student and faculty development through the
activities of the collaborative. Those research studies have been presented
in numerous sessions at major national meetings of organizations like NARST,
PME, NCTM, and AERA. Papers have been submitted to leading science and
mathematics education journals.
5. Project Evaluation
The activities of our Collaborative have been evaluated each year by
our national visiting committee, the SRI team, and NSF program officers.
But, on a day-to-day basis, the evaluation that most shapes the PI's
decisions about activities of the project is provided by our internal
evaluation team led by Gilbert Austin.
In summary, we believe that in less than three years since our
original NSF funding we've been able to move a long way toward our goal of
building an effective collaborative and an important new kind of teacher
preparation program for Maryland. We are enthusiastic about our prospects
for successful work on the important tasks that remain to build permanent
support for the new program.
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