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Science and Mathematics Education

College of the Sciences

CWU Receives Companion Federal Grants to Further Improved STEM Education Efforts

There is intense interest in improving the quality of the country’s science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) teacher workforce. How to identify the top potential STEM teachers, and what can Central Washington University do to help them become the best educators they can be are questions the university is now looking to answer with the help of new National Science Foundation (NSF) grants.

One $63,622 grant is funding research into “Searching for Connections between Teacher Applicant Information and Selection, and STEM Teacher Retention and Effectiveness to Inform Teacher Recruitment and Education.”

“Not much is known about the characteristics of potential STEM teacher candidates and, in particular, which ones predict if candidates will stay in the classroom and be effective teachers,” said Jennifer Dechaine, co-director of CWU’s Teach STEM program and biology and science education faculty.

She added, “This research is looking at connections between data collected as part of the teacher education application process and STEM teacher outcomes that happen later. We’re using information on teacher candidates from teacher education programs at five higher education institutions in Washington, including Central. This study is completely novel and will generate empirical evidence to inform decisions and policies about admissions into our teacher education programs.”

The study will also look to determine the best stage at which teacher candidates should be recruited. A companion NSF $74,894 grant to CWU will be used for “Building Capacity for Master Teacher Specialization in STEM Leadership.” Such leaders are needed to promote innovative STEM curriculum in high-need K-12 schools which in turn can motivate K-12 students from diverse backgrounds to choose STEM careers and especially STEM teaching careers.

“Moreover, the STEM leaders will establish community partnerships to promote STEM literacy and relevance to everyday life,” said Mark Oursland, CWU mathematics, and STEM education professor, and one of the principal investigators for the project, along with Ian Loverro, curriculum, and instruction; Allyson Rogan-Klyve, science education; and, Brent Hancock and Emilie Hancock, mathematics.

The specialization will be the first of its kind in the state. By completing the CWU STEM Leadership program, STEM leaders will improve their teaching practice, developing knowledge and skills to mentor other teachers in best teaching practices, and be prepared to complete National Board Certification.

Media contact: Robert Lowery, Public Affairs, 509-899-0235, Robert.Lowery@cwu.edu

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