The Obama Administration stands committed to providing students at every level with the skills they need to excel in the high-paid, highly rewarding fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). That’s why the President launched the Educate to Innovate initiative to move American students from the middle to the top of the pack in science and math achievement over the next decade.
National efforts in STEM education are focused on leveraging private sector support, preparing 100,000 effective STEM teachers in the next 10 years, strengthening federal investment in STEM, and ensuring that ALL children have access to strong STEM education and STEM careers. Creating a cohesive, integrated, and research-based public education system (P-20) that prepares students to compete in the pursuit of global competencies is central to the economic competitiveness challenge of the next decade.
In Connecticut, Bioscience Connecticut will jump-start Connecticut’s economy by generating “long-term, sustainable economic growth based on bioscience research, innovation, entrepreneurship and commercialization.” This effort has been translated into three high-profile UConn efforts that will define the university’s work over the next decade – Next Generation Connecticut, UConn Tech Park, and the collaboration with Jackson Laboratories.
The availability of quality STEM education, preschool through graduate school, is critical to the success of Connecticut’s and UConn’s efforts to redefine themselves as hubs for STEM research and innovation. To be successful in these research and innovation efforts, UConn must become a nationally recognized innovator in STEM education as well. Nationally, STEM curriculum, standards, and instructional approaches are being redefined to enhance the student educational experience; promote project-based, hands-on learning; and ensure that students develop the skills to conduct scientific inquiry, solve problems, and innovate.
UConn and the Neag School of Education have important roles in implementing the changes in P-20 science and mathematics education called for by the national standards. This involves strengthening STEM education from the earliest grades through college. Future teachers of science and mathematics must experience, understand, and develop facility with science, engineering, and mathematical practices across their college careers to be able to leverage these techniques in the preparation of the next generation of STEM-literate citizens at the core of the 21st-century workforce. Coordination of efforts to create and implement a challenging, articulated, and seamless STEM curriculum from kindergarten to technical preparation pathways and higher education will require widespread collaborative efforts that include leaders in education, engineering, and the arts and sciences, as well as other stakeholders within and beyond the university. Funding for such collaborative efforts is obtainable, and the university’s infrastructure is in place to support large-scale efforts.
The education of a STEM citizenry and workforce cannot be separated from the challenge of resolving educational inequities so ALL students have the opportunity to become part of this exciting effort, within our state and across the country. The National Research Council has clearly stated that STEM education is an equity issue and has set a national goal to broaden the participation of women and minorities in the STEM-capable workforce. We envision a University-based, statewide STEM Education Collaborative that can successfully tackle the challenges of innovative, effective STEM Education, along with challenges of equity and access.
Strengths in STEM Education
- There is a strong track record of extramural funding for research, program implementation, and professional development in science education and mathematics education, including research that identifies effective science teaching strategies, mathematics teacher leadership development, the promotion of early and middle grades mathematical reasoning and discourse, the use of technology in the science classroom, and teaching math to English language learners. We have obtained more than $8.78 million in extramural funding for 15 projects in the past five years.
- Foundation funding, such as the McLeod Fellowship, focused on recruitment and retention in STEM degree programs, creates opportunities.
- We have recognized faculty scholarship in teaching science within the sociopolitical context, science as inquiry, mathematical reasoning and problem solving, and mathematical discourse.
- We offer highly productive summer programs for professional development of educators; Confratute celebrated its 38th year this past summer.
- There is extramural funding for scholarships in mathematics and science education, including the Noyce Scholarships (NSF) and the Weiss Scholarships for recruitment of minority math and science teachers.
- Our schoolwide expertise in the preparation of practitioners and administrators is essential to promote STEM learning and mathematics curriculum development.
- The Neag School’s preservice and in-service teacher education program is the only program in the state that graduates elementary educators with subject area specialties in math and science.
- We are highly skilled and experienced in the coordination of university programs and research in K-12 schools.
- We have broad experience bridging the school-university gap and sustained long-term partnerships with public schools, including several projects sharing extramural funding with priority districts (e.g., Hartford) for programs such as the Math-Science Partnerships, Teacher Quality Partnerships, and U.S. Department of Education and National Science Foundation projects.
- We have recognized expertise in teaching math and science to linguistically and culturally diverse students.
- Our school counseling program has expertise in closing the opportunity gap within the STEM fields.
- We have international recognition for faculty expertise in teaching in partnership with museums.
- We use our successful history of outreach to education institutions at the local, state, national, and international levels.
- Neag School faculty have a strong connection to the Smarter Balanced Assessment consortium that is developing new state and national mathematics assessments for K-12.
- Our faculty are in state and national leadership positions, such as board members of TODOS, Board of Science Education, National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, Connecticut Council of Leaders of Mathematics, and Associated Teachers of Mathematics in Connecticut.
Opportunities in STEM Education
- Next Generation Connecticut will require a pipeline of well-educated Connecticut high school graduates to enter the university ready to tackle challenging college level work. This can only happen if the university energetically and systematically coordinates efforts with school districts in the development and recruitment of the best and brightest young STEM minds through the highest-quality STEM education system beginning in the earliest grades.
- A state and national shift in rethinking the teaching of science and mathematics as STEM will provide plenty of opportunities for leadership. This shift, captured in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), merges science and engineering practices in the classroom, links to core disciplinary ideas and cross-cutting concepts into an inquiry and problem solving approach, and provides the impetus for in-depth and far-reaching work in revising STEM education.
- The state and national adoption of the Common Core State Standards in Mathematics that represent forward thinking on mathematical practices, curriculum, assessment, and math’s central role in STEM education will provide many opportunities for innovation.
- There is an opportunity for obtaining federal funding (NSF, IES) for STEM education program development, demonstration projects, and best practices research.
- Opportunities exist for seeking Federal/private funding for programs such as 100K in 107 to increase the supply of excellent STEM teachers, the STEM Master Teacher Corps that seeks to elevate and engage a talented squad of existing STEM teachers from across the country in the proliferation of best practices and effective professional development, and the Noyce Scholarships.
- We have nationally and internationally recognized faculty expertise in:
- Science education and science literacy
- Math education, math literacy, math leadership
- Learning technologies and online programs
- Global Ed – STEM in the sociopolitical context
- Museums and schools
- We have the potential to refocus secondary science, secondary mathematics, and elementary teacher preparation programs on transdisciplinary STEM teaching and learning to supply the teacher workforce with well-prepared STEM teachers at all grade levels.
- UConn Tech Park offers an opportunity to develop a STEM Education Center, similar to those found in the North Carolina Research Triangle (NC Stem Learning Network) or the Massachusetts 128 Corridor, which provides opportunities for teacher professional development and student internships.
- The Jackson Labs education partnerships program offers academic-year teacher sabbaticals; a content-rich, research-based master’s program for secondary science and mathematics teachers; summer programs for students to conduct biomedical research; and high school internships in bench science. Jackson Labs Education Director has articulated a desire to replicate the successful Maine-based programs in Connecticut.
- Our current research and faculty know-how on teaching English language learners can be used to provide stronger STEM teaching to diverse populations of students.
- Continued development of STEM K-12 magnet schools and schools with an engineering focus in Connecticut, including several schools within the Neag School’s partner districts (East Hartford, Windham, Hartford), will create new opportunities for innovations in STEM education.
- We have an opportunity to create a STEM Leadership Certificate Program that will help current science, math, and technology teachers develop the skills for integrating the disciplines into a true STEM approach to teaching and learning.
- There are opportunities to engage with STEM faculty (e.g., biologists, chemists, engineers, mathematicians) on campus to consider enriching not only K-12 curriculum, but also 12-16 curriculum, and to coordinate efforts across the transition from high school to college for STEM students.