Undergraduate Faculty Enhancement: Introducing faculty in state universities and colleges to new concepts and methods in preservice mathematics instruction.
In response to the growing national concern about the quality of American elementary and secondary education and especially about students' achievement in mathematics and science, considerable efforts have been directed at enhancing the skills of the teachers in the labor force through inservice training. Less attention has been focused on preservice training, especially for elementary school teachers, most of whom are educated in departments and schools of education. In many institutions, faculty members who provide this instruction need to become more conversant with the new standards and instructional techniques for the teaching of mathematics in elementary schools.
The proposed pilot project was designed to examine a strategy for meeting this need. The project attempts to improve preservice education by giving the faculty teaching courses in mathematics to future elementary school teachers new knowledge, skills, and approaches for incorporation into their instruction. In the project, the investigators ascertain the extent of faculty members' knowledge about standards-based instruction, engage them in expanding their understanding of standards-based reform and the instructional approaches that support high-quality teaching; and assess the extent to which the strategies emphasized and demonstrated in the pilot project are transferred to the participants' own classroom practices.
The project is being carried out on the main campus of a major state university under the leadership of the Director of the Center for Educational Innovation. Ten day-long workshops will be offered to two cohorts of faculty members from the main campus and branch campuses. These workshops will be supplemented by opportunities for networking among participating faculty members and the exchange of experiences and recommendations during a summer session following the academic year. The workshops are based on an integrated plan for reforming undergraduate education for future elementary teachers. The focus of the workshops is to provide carefully articulated information and practice on current approaches to mathematics instruction (content and pedagogy) in elementary grades, consistent with state frameworks and standards of excellence. The program uses and builds on the knowledge of content experts, master practitioners, and teacher educators.
The following strategies are being employed in the workshops: presentations, discussions, hands-on experiences with various traditional and innovative tools, coaching, and videotaped demonstrations of model teaching. The summer session is offered for sharing experiences, reflecting on successful and unsuccessful applications, and constructing new approaches. In addition, participants are encouraged to communicate with each other throughout the year via e-mail. Project activities are funded for 2 years and are expected to support two cohorts of participants; funding for an additional 6-month period to allow performance of the summative evaluation has been included.
Participation is limited to faculty members on the main campus and in the seven 4-year branch campuses of the state university where courses in elementary mathematics education are offered. Participants are selected on the basis of a written essay and a commitment to attend all sessions and to try suggested approaches in their classroom. A total of 25 faculty members are to be enrolled in the workshops each year. During the life of the project, roughly 1,000 undergraduate students will be enrolled in classes taught by the participating faculty members.
As presented in the grant application, the project has four main goals:
A staff member of the Center for Educational Innovation with prior evaluation experience was assigned responsibility for the evaluation. She will be assisted by undergraduate and graduate students. As required, consultation will be provided by members of the Centers statistical and research staff and by faculty members on the main campus who have played leadership roles in reforming mathematics education.
A formative (progress) evaluation will be carried out at the end of the first year. A summative (outcome) evaluation is to be completed 6 months after project termination. Because the project was conceived as a prototype for future expansion to other institutions, a thorough evaluation was considered an essential component, and the evaluation budget represented a higher-than-usual percentage of total costs (project costs were $500,000, of which $75,000 was allocated for evaluation).
The evaluation designs included in the application were specified only in general terms. The formative evaluation would look at the implementation of the program and be used for identifying its strengths and weaknesses. Suggested formative evaluation questions included the following:
The summative evaluation was intended to document the extent to which participants introduced changes in their classroom teaching and to determine which components of the workshops were especially effective in this respect. The proposal also promised to investigate the impact of the workshops on participating faculty members, especially on their acquisition of knowledge and skills. Furthermore, the impact on other faculty members, on the institution, and on students was to be part of the evaluation. Recommendations for replicating this project in other institutions, and suggestions for changes in the workshop content or administrative arrangements, were to be included in the summative evaluation. Proposed summative evaluation questions included the following:
The proposal also enumerated possible data sources for conducting the evaluations, including self-administered questionnaires completed after each workshop, indepth interviews with knowledgeable informants, focus groups, observation of workshops, classroom observations, and surveys of students. It was stated that a more complete design for the formative and summative evaluations would be developed after contract award.
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