Carnegie grant to fund STEM teacher education

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A grant for the University of Indianapolis School of Education from the Carnegie Corporation of New York will assist with the collaboration between UIndy and Christel House Academy to enhance the knowledge of both students and teachers, according to Assistant Professor of  Teacher Education Rachael Aming-Attai. This grant will enhance students’ conceptual knowledge of math and provide insight into how to teach conceptually.

“We want both parties to actually benefit,” Aming-Attai said. “They both will be gaining knowledge about  … the standards for math practices.”

School of Education Director of Graduate Programs John Somers said that he and Aming-Attai worked as principal investigators in collaboration with Assistant Professor of  Teacher Education Jean Lee and Associate Professor of Teacher Education Beverly Reitsma, to develop and write the grant application proposing a way to assist students and teachers to learn how to teach math under the common core standards.

Junior elementary education majors will complete their field experience at Christel House Academy, and their lessons will be videotaped in order for Christel House Academy teachers to critique their teaching. Somers said the grant allowed the School of Education to purchase 15 Swivl devices and 10 iPad Minis for the project.

According to Lee, a host teacher from Christel House Academy will have approximately four UIndy candidates each teaching a lesson to a small group of elementary students.

Somers said these students will wear a medallion containing a microphone. Using line-of-sight tracking technology, the Swivl is then able to robotically rotate and tilt in order to follow the speaker, according to The iPad Mini is placed on the Swivl to record the lesson.

Afterward, the student uploads the video onto Edthena for the host teacher to view. After viewing, the host teacher provides feedback as a question, suggestion, strength or note.

Lee believes that this opportunity has many benefits for UIndy elementary education students.

“They’re not only deepening their understanding of math content but how to teach mathematics to students who may be underprivileged and who may already be disengaged from learning,” Lee said.

Lee also considers the process of critiquing to be beneficial to the Christel House teachers, as well as to the UIndy students.

“I think commenting and observing drives the process of reflection,” Lee said.

Somers also feels that this is important because teachers need to understand new math standards.

“It’s a huge paradigm shift for all of us,” he said.

According to Aming-Attai, research has shown that teaching math as a procedure or set of rules is not effective.

“Kids have to construct their own knowledge,” she said.

Aming-Attai said that the common core math standards take this into consideration and require a conceptual teaching of math. She believes that based on these standards teachers must give students an opportunity to explore and gain experience that leads to their own discoveries about math concepts.

“We believe that, in the long run, this will make our students increase in their ability to do math,” Aming-Attai said.

According to Lee, the School of Education wants to expand the emphasis on learning outside of UIndy and Christel House Academy.

“We also want to make it a community effort where there’s intentional STEM [Science Technology Engineering Mathematics] initiative,” Lee said.

In addition to the teaching critique program, the grant will also help fund a partnership with Dow AgroSciences in order to develop a project-based learning unit at the Project-Based Learning Institute in June. Overall, Aming-Attai said that she feels this opportunity is a winning situation for everyone involved.

“Even the [elementary] students are going to benefit from the experience that our candidates in the field are having,” she said.

UIndy students, Christel House Academy teachers and Dow AgroSciences scientists will collaborate in the unit development, and the students will then implement it in September for a few days at Christel House Academy. While beneficial for the students and teachers, Lee feels it will also benefit the budding scientists.

“We are trying to produce more scientists to compete in the global economy,” Lee said. “One way to do that is providing opportunities for little kids to have interest in these kinds of fields.”


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