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Purdue wants to change STEM teacher education

Five colleges at Purdue are partnering on an integrated STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) teacher education program.

The goal is for educators to learn to combine scientific inquiry, technological design, engineering design and mathematical analysis.

Professor Lynn Bryan is the director of the Center for Advancing the Teaching and Learning of STEM. She says the integration method is a relatively new direction for science and math education.

“There is a movement at some universities around the United State to enhance STEM instruction. We’re one of the few that are really taking it from a truly integrated approach – an approach we believe is reflected in the next generation of science standards, even in the mathematics standards.”

As part of the effort, Purdue is hiring six professors who will have joint appointments. All will be connected to the College of Education, with three positions related to Science and one each related to Technology, Engineering and Agriculture.

Bryan says the goal is to make more sense out of the science that students are learning.

“And to make it more applicable to real life and to help prepare students to be able to work in a workforce where they’re looking for solutions to these big global problems,” she says, “climate change, energy sustainability – those kinds of problems that exist today that scientists and engineers are working on.”

Bryan says they have a two year window to fill the positions, but hopes they can find the best candidates quickly to begin all the work that needs to be done.

“It involves courses. It involves majors. We want to have some kind of a master’s in integrated STEM. We want to have a specialization program for pre-service and practicing teachers. We want to have nationwide programs where practicing teachers update their skills to be able to do this.”

She says funding comes from the five colleges involved and some administrative funds, but thinks the work they do likely will attract other grants from outside sources.

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