National Science Foundation
College Professors and K-12 Teachers Learn from One Another
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A University of Pennsylvania chemistry professor and local teachers, who are also Penn Science Teacher Institute graduates, plan for their co-taught course on inorganic chemistry.

Credit: Constance Blasie, University of Pennsylvania
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Among the partnerships of the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Math and Science Partnership (MSP) program, there is a growing practice of K-12 teachers temporarily leaving their school positions to serve in residence on college and university campuses. During the 2002-2003 academic year, MSP projects reported 18 K-12 teachers in residence on six higher education campuses in four partnerships; by the most recent reporting year, 2005-2006, this practice had grown to 398 K-12 teachers in residence on 30 higher education campuses in 13 partnerships. Most typically, this strategy helps build bridges in the relationships between K-12 schools and institutions of higher education (IHEs), while also functioning as a form of professional development for the K-12 teachers and for higher education faculty. 

At the MSPinNYC project based at the City University of New York, K-12 teachers have profoundly impacted university professorsFor example, a chemistry professor in a partner institution states, “What I, as a college professor, learned from high school teachers in MSP is not a quick fix on faulty teaching methods at the college level, but it provides instructors with a starting point to plan or to reevaluate a course from the learner's perspective. The method requires that I prepare and conduct my lesson in a manner that I had not used at the college level. The NYC [New York City] high school teachers that I worked with in the MSP program have given me wonderful instructional advice, and so I have learned a valuable lesson in the form of a method that I have applied to teaching chemistry at the college level.”

The Math and Science Partnership of Southwest Pennsylvania designed its teacher fellow experience to build intentional feedback loops between the K-12 participants and the IHE participants to tap the discipline-based expertise of IHE, and to improve the mathematics and science learning experiences for all undergraduates. Together, IHE mentors and K-12 fellows revise IHE courses with the ultimate goal of improving undergraduate education and preparing pre-service students. The fellow deepens content knowledge through participation in IHE courses and the IHE mentor receives assistance in course revisions and pedagogical practice. By the summer of 2006, 32 K-12 teachers representing 27 school districts had participated in the teacher fellow program. To date, 74 college courses have been revised through this process. This revision of courses has resulted in greater success for undergraduates in IHE courses. By 2005, in at least 75 percent of revised courses, more than 80 percent of the students were attaining proficiency of a grade of C or above. For some faculty, the work with K-12 teachers has resulted in the adoption of different teaching strategies. Indeed, IHE deans interviewed by the project’s independent, external evaluator were quick to point out that the “professional development” faculty are receiving is one of the major benefits of their participation in MSP.

In the University of Pennsylvania Science Teacher Institute, high school teachers co-teach graduate level courses with chemistry faculty in the Master of Chemistry Education Program. The secondary teachers serve as pedagogical experts while the IHE faculty members serve as content experts, with their combined expertise enhancing the learning experience for all parties.

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