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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:

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 communication.

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 student research internships, 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.

New Courses

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.

Research Internships

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.

Mentor Teachers

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 lessons.

Looking Ahead

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 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 institutions.

Originally produced for submission to "The Guide to Math & Science Reform-- An Interactive Resource for the Education Community" (CD-ROM) April 1997

Fall 1996 project report

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