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Posted 10.12.06

 
 
   

College of Education Researchers Receive $2 Million NSF Grant

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Classrooms across the nation need more math and science teachers, according to the National Education Association. Now, a $2 million dollar grant from the National Science Foundation will help the University of Missouri-Columbia fill the void.

"This is the second grant awarded by the National Science Foundation," said Sandra Abell, Curator's professor of science education and director of the MU Science Education Center. "The first grant concentrated on designing and developing a new program, but the new grant concentrates on researching how teachers in the program learn."

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The focus of this grant is to study 90 individuals preparing to become teachers. One of the main objectives of the five-year funded project is to understand how teachers in an alternative certification program learn to become science or mathematics teachers.

The new grant will focus on researching how teachers learn and how they develop their knowledge for teaching. Researchers will compare two models that involve mentoring. The teachers are either under the supervision of an experienced mentor or teaching independently with limited mentoring. During a two-year period, researchers will gather data when these teachers enter the SMAR2T program, and four times through observing teachers in the classroom, interviewing them and reviewing their lesson plans.

SMAR2T recruits and prepares individuals with bachelor degrees in the sciences or in mathematics to teach at the middle and/or secondary levels. In 15 or 24 months, participants can earn a master's degree while they become certified to teach science or mathematics, in grades six to 12, in Missouri.

"What makes our research somewhat unusual is the longitudinal look at learning, in a labor-intensive, natural setting. It is based solely on authentic tasks that teachers actually perform," Abell said.

After five years, the research should help close the gaps in literature about teacher learning in math and science. Abell hopes the knowledge gathered will help improve classes for teachers and allow them to better understand the difficulties math and science teachers face in the classroom. This project is a team approach and includes assistant professors Fran Arbaugh, Kathryn Chval, Patricia Friedrichsen and John Lannin and associate professor Mark Volkmann, all in science or mathematics education. The team also includes eight graduate research assistants.

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