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UTeach, a teacher preparation program at the University of Texas at Austin, offers an education model that presents courses through the lens of math and science, according to an Education Week article by Sean Cavanaugh.
The program has drawn widespread recognition and is now a model for revamping the training of math and science teachers nationwide.
Backers say it succeeds in breaking from the conventions of teacher education by offering enrollees an academically challenging course schedule and curriculum that provides them with early and frequent experiences in the classroom and firm grounding in math and science content.
Once Uteach graduates enter the profession, an unusually high number stay put. About 75% are still teaching after five years.
Many of the university’s math and science professors are heavily involved in designing UTeach courses, as well as teaching them to the prospective K-12 teachers. In other programs, these tasks are usually left to education faculty alone.
The program produces about 75 math and science teachers a year. While most are working in Texas, they are also to be found in 13 other states.
Districts across the country struggle to find, and keep, qualified math and science teachers. Nineteen percent of secondary schools report “serious” difficulty in filling these vacancies, higher than for any other subject.
No single teacher education program could meet even a small fraction of the nation’s demand for math and science instructors. A recent venture known as the National Math and Science Initiative seeks to mass-produce the UTeach model at universities across the country. The goal is to spawn UTeach models on at least 50 campuses.
Most UTeach students take eight courses as part of the program, in addition to standard undergraduate requirements. They can enroll at any time as undergraduates, though there is a more condensed schedule for upperclassmen.
Enrollees begin with courses that present the basics of how to structure and design lessons. Later courses focus on studies of how students learn, uses of technology and assessment, and historical and philosophical perspectives on teaching — all presented through a math and science lens.
After extensive classroom observation, UTeach students lead classes on their own in Apprentice Training.
This math- and science-heavy curriculum is a departure from many education programs, which tend to load undergraduates with pedagogy-heavy courses that bore them to death, says Kate Walsh, the president of the National Council on Teacher Quality.
Math and science majors who encounter lengthy and unfocused education-course requirements are the first to leave, according to Ms. Walsh.
UTeach places a heavy emphasis on inquiry — the idea that students benefit from having to investigate and acquire some knowledge on their own, rather than being fed information from teachers.
To that end, their lessons are expected to use the “5 E’s”: they should
- engage students and
- encourage them to
- explore topics on thier own and require them to
- explain their reasoning and
- extend it to other problems; and of course teachers should later
- EVALUATE whether students have understood.
KEY FEATURES OF UTEACH
Recruitment and Incentives
UTeach officials promote their program to new undergraduates and math and science students, cover tuition costs for those students’ first few teaching related courses, and arrange paid summer internships and scholarships for those who stick with the program.
Students take education courses that have a specific focus on classroom management and teaching techniques for math and science classrooms — not simply generic courses on teaching. (Critics say that teacher education programs do not offer enough lessons that are tailored to specific academic content.)
UTeach employs nine full-time master teachers, officially known as “clinical faculty,” who serve as university instructors, advisors, and field supervisors. They work alongside the program’s math, science and education faculty.
Students can enter the UTeach program at almost any step in their undergraduate careers. Eight courses are required, but scheduling is flexible enough so that math and science majors can meet the teaching requirement without its interfering with the classes necessary for them to complete their majors. This contrasts with some teacher education programs, whose daunting education course requirements discourage math and science majors from choosing that academic path.
source: Education Week article on 12/5/07 by Sean Cavanaugh (www.edweek.org)
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