Grant supports STEM teaching collaboration

UIndy, charter school will use video analysis, industry input to improve math instruction

math-074A grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York will help the University of Indianapolis and nearby Christel House Academy charter school collaborate with local professionals from Dow AgroSciences to improve the preparation of math teachers and the academic performance of elementary students. UIndy is one of just five organizations nationwide that received grants from Carnegie late last year through a competition hosted for partners in 100Kin10, a national initiative to increase the ranks of highly skilled teachers by 100,000 in 10 years in the STEM disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The competition identified 100Kin10 partners such as UIndy that are working to prepare excellent STEM teachers, with a focus on national standards and a priority toward collaboration with school districts and other 100Kin10 partners.

The Indianapolis project involves creating “communities of practice” among UIndy education faculty, Christel House Academy teachers, and UIndy students majoring in elementary education. The relationship will allow undergraduate teacher candidates to practice and refine their skills in a real-life setting with a diverse population of high-need urban students. In preparation, UIndy’s Elementary Teacher Education program has augmented its curriculum with additional courses in math content and methods to address the national Standards for Mathematical Practice. “We believe this project offers a new vision of collaboration and professional development,” said UIndy Professor John Somers, principal investigator on the $50,000 grant. “It’s a vision that builds on the apprenticeship model, but puts the professionals and the teaching candidates in the dual roles of learner and teacher.”

Video analysis is a key tool in the project, which began in January and will continue through October, though participants hope the relationships will continue into the future. As student teachers and working teachers collaborate in developing new math lesson plans, portable systems using tablet computers and robotic tracking will record the UIndy candidates presenting lessons in the classroom. The resulting videos will be uploaded to Edthena, a virtual communication platform where Christel House teachers will coach the teacher candidates on improving their instruction, and project participants can identify content for professional development seminars.

In June, several STEM professionals from Indianapolis-based Dow AgroSciences will join the participating educators in attending the annual Project-Based Learning Institute, sponsored by UIndy, its Center of Excellence in Leadership of Learning, the Indiana University School of Education at IUPUI, and the Metropolitan School District of Wayne Township. There, the partners will develop project-based lessons that will be implemented and evaluated this fall at Christel House Academy. Project-based learning is a standards-based, inquiry-driven instructional approach in which students develop solutions to real-world problems through group investigation and collaboration. As part of its comprehensive STEM education initiative, Dow AgroSciences provides ongoing support for UIndy and its Woodrow Wilson Indiana Teaching Fellowship, as well as support for other teacher preparedness and professional development programming.

UIndy is one of only three Indiana organizations partnering in the 100Kin10 initiative, along with the Indiana Department of Education and the I-STEM Resource Network. Launched in 2011 by the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Institute for Advanced Study, 100Kin10 is a national network of nearly 200 partners—including major corporations, universities, school districts, charitable foundations, government agencies, and other organizations—responding to the national call to prepare and retain 100,000 excellent STEM teachers by the year 2021.