Role for research universities in promoting STEM education

October 1, 2012 at 9:16 am 4 comments

I was pleased to see an essay in Inside HigherEd from a computing education researcher, Orit Hazzan.  I’ll be interested to see what happens with her new program, that seeks to create more STEM teachers from former STEM graduates.  Here’s the part that I wonder about: Will a graduate with a potentially high-paying STEM degree (say, in CS) stay in teaching when offered a better paying job in industry?  We’ve had relatively little luck making that work in Georgia.

To this end, Views invites Technion graduates back to the Technion to study toward an additional bachelor’s degree in its department of education in technology and science, which awards a teaching certificate for high school STEM subjects. Technion graduates enrolled in the Views program receive full study scholarships from the Technion for two years and are not required to commit themselves to teach in the education system. Extending the program over two academic years enables the graduates to continue working as scientists and engineers in industry in parallel to their studies (one day or two half-days each week).

Technion graduates are not required to commit themselves to teach in the education system since the knowledge they gain in the Views program is useful also in businesses, where teaching and learning processes are crucial for coping with new knowledge and technological developments on a daily basis. Thus, even if they decide not to switch to education, they will still contribute to Israel’s prosperity, but in a different way.

In its current, first year of operation (2011-12), the program started with 60 Technion graduates. Sixty percent of them are males – a fact that indicates that the Views program indeed attracts populations that traditionally do not choose education as their first choice, and who at the same time are attracted to the program.

via Essay on role for research universities in promoting STEM education | Inside Higher Ed.

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Don Davis (@gnu_don)  |  October 1, 2012 at 9:51 am

    What about the shortage of CS teaching positions? Many schools simply don’t offer CS, especially schools with students underrepresented in CS careers (Margolis, Goode, Holme, & Nao, 2008).
    At first I thought it might just be my perceptions based on one state in the union, but then I was reminded of the Margolis et al. (2008) study and others. This is not a new question to this blog.

    Is there some place with unfilled K12 CS teaching positions?

    It’s been my experience that those I know who have CS degrees and teach have been hard pressed to find CS jobs – they end up teaching intro classes such as intro business skills. On the other hand, I know at least one non-CS major who teaches CS in addition to physics and advanced math – because the CS position was far from requiring a full time teacher and he happened to be there when the school finally acquiesed to parental protest to introduce CS classes.

    • 2. Mark Guzdial  |  October 1, 2012 at 11:36 am

      Don, I believe that you are asking the $64,000 (or maybe CS10K :-) question. How do we create the demand for the teachers?

      • 3. Don Davis (@gnu_don)  |  October 2, 2012 at 10:09 am

        It seems that with the integration of the new core curriculum content standards that adding CS to the mix might help. However, the “Nation at Risk” report had strong recommendations for including more substantive CS and computational thinking type elements (CT) – and that didn’t seem to change much. Also experiences with English Language Learner legislation shows us that unfunded mandates have less than stellar success. Moreover, top-down “you need CS” might not be the way to proceed.

        In many schools, there has been revived interest in trade and technical components. This is in part due to the obvious practicality of such classes. (These aren’t just “bake a cake” or “build a dog house” classes – but classes with relatively stringent nationwide standards and certifications.) Also a substantial part of the appeal is these classes receive large federal stipends.

        This begs the question: Why would the government subsidize CS in schools? Why would schools be interested in CS? How is this practical in a climate when art classes are being cut so that students can focus more on math and reading?

        CS is lucky in part because it has superficial appeal and many acknowledge its importance (though this doesn’t necessarily translate into more CS classes)… The schools that are doing quite well – the more affluent schools will quite likely have CS programs. So, how to get CS (and related content) to underrepresented students (in schools)?

        Perhaps it would benefit to focus on advantages of CS0 – build on it and work to the advantages of the AP CS related classes.

        Q: Why CS0 useful/important/worthwhile for your school (that got rid of art)?
        A: Less is more.

        With CS0 students can focus on learning the components of algorithmic and computational thinking that will improve their performance on standardized tests. Core content math and science teachers are forced to give superficial treatment to a plethora of concepts, which has a net result of failing to support deeper and transferable understanding. However, CS companion courses would provide students with “21st century skills” while bolstering success in content area classes by supporting students in the development of computational thinking skills that will bolster their success on parsing and understanding core content concepts, texts, problems, and (standardized) tests.

        Sales pitch:

        “Students and the school will benefit significantly from the introduction of a computer science curriculum. Many researchers and policy makers are expecting a critical shortage of CS and other STEM related professionals in the US in coming years. By providing these important learning opportunities, you will be helping assure students better employment opportunities in the work place of tomorrow. Moreover, by incorporating CS0 courses and following AP CS courses – students will be supported in achieving greater success in core content areas such as math, science, and even social studies; this will facilitate greater accomplishment on standardized as well as AP tests.

        How is this possible? The benefits of the thinking skills developed with computer science go back to Pythagoras – the utilization and design of algorithms helps students more easily and more efficiently break down novel situations and problems into manageable efficient bits. This “computational thinking” is developed and scaffolded throughout the progression of CS courses. From intro-to-CS0 to AP CS courses students will develop key “computational thinking” skills that will improve performance in content area classes. Further, CS concepts will be explored in content-area related contexts in order to support learning in the content area classes while improve the transferability of CT and CS concepts to the broader content area.”



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