MITEP: Bringing Knowledge to Middle Schools in Michigan
by Tom Schneider, student writer
First impressions are everything--especially in education.
This is the driving idea behind a five-year project led by Michigan Tech geosciences and education faculty to improve science education in Michigan. Faculty will work with middle-school earth science teachers to improve instruction and curricula for what is often a student's first science class.
Declining interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) courses has led educators to focus on sparking interest at an early age. One means of doing this is the Michigan Institute for Teaching Excellence Program, or MITEP, recently funded by a grant of $4 million from the National Science Foundation.
Michigan Tech received one of only four NSF grants nationwide totaling $18.7 million to establish math and science teacher institutes. The institutes are part of a larger NSF program called the Math and Science Partnership.
MITEP will focus on improving curriculum through instructional modules, assessments and professional development offerings for educators. University researchers will guide the teachers' efforts and provide pedagogical expertise and knowledge from various disciplines.
University involvement with teachers will be through a variety of methods, including distance-learning programs as well as direct involvement with developing programs. Grand Rapids public schools will be a focal point of the program, with the greatest number of teachers involved.
The project, due to start in January 2009, follows a long tradition of high-quality teacher improvement at Tech. Teachers involved in the program will receive credit towards a master's degree while improving instruction.
"It's the natural development of things many of us have been doing on campus for years," explains Jacqueline Huntoon, dean of the Michigan Tech Graduate School. "It's a credit to all those in teacher education at Tech to be selected for the award."
Tech faculty will be collaborating with scientists from Grand Valley State University, the American Geological Institute, the National Park Service, and the Grand Rapids Area Pre-College Engineering Program. An external evaluation team from the Colorado School of Mines will oversee data collection and analysis.
"If this effort works, it could be a template for improvement in STEM education throughout the whole country because we think the educational problems in Michigan are quite typical for the country," explains Bill Rose, geology professor and lead researcher on the project.
Faculty members working with Huntoon and Rose include Bradley Baltensperger and Kedmon Hungwe, of the Department of Cognitive and Learning Sciences, and Christopher Wojick, of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.