This Phase II Master Teaching Fellowship (MTF) project builds on and expands the successful Phase I Noyce MTF program awarded to the University of Rochester (UR) in 2010 by preparing a second cadre of K-12 math and science master teachers to create a critical mass of teacher leaders in three diverse districts in upstate New York.
Through a combination of coursework, mentored experiences, and on-site opportunities at partnering schools, the new Fellows will gradually develop their knowledge and skills in:
(a) STEM content and pedagogy,
(b) STEM coaching,
(c) STEM professional development, and
The specific set of coursework and mentored experiences includes what worked best in the training provided in Phase I, as well as new learning modules relating to the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics (CCSSM) and the New York State Science Learning Standards (NYSSLS) which are based upon the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), and a new course on online learning and experiences involving East EPO. All Phase II completers will gain a Certificate in Teacher Leadership from the UR as a tangible credential for the intense training undertaken. Fellows will also have the option to pursue one of the following additional credentials: (a) UR certificate in Online Teaching, (b) NYS certification as School Building Leader, or (c) Ed.D. in Teaching & Curriculum. This project also contributes to research on the preparation and support of STEM master teachers in high-need districts through an enhanced and longitudinal evaluation involving both Phase I and Phase II Fellows.
Fellows begin their program by focusing on their own practice as STEM teachers, adding another layer of complexity to their role as “master teachers” each of the following years, according to the following sequence:
YEARS 1 & 2: Focus on STEM teaching. For the first eighteen months, Fellows focus on their own teaching practice to create STEM learning experiences that are more interesting, meaningful and effective for all students in their local settings. This involves learning more about best practices to teach specific STEM topics, including a new emphasis on online teaching and learning. Issues of race and poverty, and their implications for teaching in urban settings will also be addressed, to help Fellows better understand the students they teach and how to leverage their funds of knowledge (Moll et al., 1992; Gonzalez, Moll & Amanti, 2005). Concurrent with this coursework, Fellows participate in specific STEM innovations taking place at East (such as “demonstration lessons” based on innovative STEM curricula or PD on data-driven instruction), so as to see how these theories can play out in practice. Fellows also engage in innovative STEM learning experiences in the context of summer camps, after-school programs and/or museum exhibits, capitalizing on the partnership with the Museum as well as other existing initiatives (such as the Science STARS afterschool program at East).
YEAR 3: Focus on STEM coaching. While continuing to improve their own STEM content and pedagogical knowledge as well as teaching practice, Fellows prepare for and take on the role of coach or “mentor” for student teachers and colleagues. This involves specialized coursework in mentoring, communication, conflict resolution, and other areas that may be new to these successful STEM teachers, as well as mentored practice such as reviewing innovative instructional materials, collaboratively planning STEM lessons for students, designing school-wide assessments, or mentoring student teachers.
YEAR 4: Focus STEM professional development (PD). While continuing to work on their practice as teachers and coaches, Fellows prepare for and begin to take on the role of professional development provider in settings such as workshops, summer institutes, family STEM evenings at the Museum, and other events involving teachers from local schools (including East) and/or UR pre-service teachers, capitalizing on existing professional development provided by the various partners.
YEAR 5: Focus on STEM reform. Finally, while continuing to work on the previously described dimensions, in the last year Fellows focus explicitly on what it takes to successfully promote systemic STEM reform in their district. Building on previous coursework and their on-going participation in the East EPO, Fellows begin to plan and implement STEM reform initiatives within the district, in collaboration with their STEM district coordinators to ensure support and sustainability.
As one of the “lessons learned” from our Noyce Phase I project, we significantly enhanced our recruiting process to attract a larger, more committed, and more diverse pool of applicants. As part of this process, we initially met with administrative teams from each of the 3 districts in order to review the overall scope of the program, discuss the qualities and characteristics of successful fellows based on our experiences, and co-develop the recruitment and application process. We engaged in the following activities:
Participation in a mandatory STEM Leadership Workshop
Reference check with specific prompts
Each of these is described below in more detail.
We held 3 (optional) information sessions that were facilitated by our leadership team and Phase I Fellows. In these sessions, we provided an overview of the major components of the project and Phase I fellows shared major highlights from their experience including what they may have wanted to know/realize from the beginning.
Thirty-seven participants attended these information sessions, with a wide range of diversity of race, background, grade level, content area. Seven Phase I fellows participated in these sessions.
Interested candidates were required to submit an electronic application that included the submission of:
Current resume or curriculum vitae
Recent lesson plan
Samples of student work with feedback
Letter of reference from a colleague
Contact information from principal/direct supervisor;
All received applications were reviewed by the leadership team and a representative of each of the district partners to create a short list of promising candidates, based on:
Holding a full-time tenure track position as a math or science teacher with a completed Master’s degree
Evidence of innovative teaching practices and impact on student STEM learning
Past involvement and performance in STEM professional development and reform efforts
Other evidence of high quality STEM teaching and leadership potential
Commitment to participate in all project activities and maintain district employment
Preference given to candidates with at least 3 years of teaching experience
There were a total of 50 applicants.
Another component of the application process was required attendance at a 2 ½ hour STEM workshop facilitated by the leadership team and 3 Phase I fellows. The purpose of this event was to help participants gain a better understanding of the learning principles and leadership ideas that inform the project, as well as for us to gain insights into applicants’ beliefs and content knowledge. Forty-one candidates attended this workshop.
Based on the leadership team’s review of applications, we selected 24 applicants who had completed the STEM workshop to interview and observe. Interview teams consisted of at least 2 members of the leadership team and at least 1 Phase I fellow. We generated a list of questions that uncovered candidates beliefs related to the most important qualities for this project. For example, questions were asked to uncover candidates’ beliefs and experiences related to:
Does the candidate take an inquiry stance to learning about their own teaching?
Does the candidate stay current with changes in the field and reach out to knowledge base?
Is there evidence that the candidate values student voice, risk taking, reflection and self-assessment to support students’ self-direction towards learning of important math or science ideas?
Does the candidate exhibit a commitment to and belief in the teaching and learning of ALL (students AND adults)?
Does the candidate provide evidence that they respond pro-actively in the face of challenges, drawing on appropriate resources and support to do so?
Is there evidence that the candidate is committed to continuous growth as a learner and leader?
In addition to interviews, we conducted classroom observations of the 24 final candidates. We used the Reformed Teaching Observation Protocol (RTOP) to provide further information for the selection process. Our proposal describes the criteria that were particularly important to us as we analyzed the results from the observations, and the Evaluation Report summarizes the observation ratings from the selected Fellows. Contact us for more information.
The leadership team also spoke with each interviewed candidates’ principal/direct supervisor with questions created to triangulate the above information. All of the data was recorded on a summary table and reviewed and analyzed by the leadership team.
The Spring Leadership Seminar served to scaffold Fellows’ understanding of what is involved in creating a unit of study using backwards design. National consultant Julie Kopp led four seminars as Fellows began using Wiggins & McTighe’s, Understanding by Design (UbD) to inform the creation of the first stage of a high quality unit of study. Julie led the Fellows through work on acquisition, meaning making, transfer and understanding. Fellows then developed meaning making experiences to carry out in their classrooms with help from their mentors. The Fellows developed Stage 1 of a unit of instruction and these were shared and reviewed by peers. Feedback was also provided by Senior Fellows and Mentors as a culminating activity of the Spring Leadership Seminar course.
The Summer Leadership Seminar course involved 11 days of exciting professional learning. The Fellows continued their work with Julie Kopp on designing units using the UbD process. While developing a full unit of study, Fellows continued to focus on meaning making experiences and opportunities for students to practice transfer. Fellows will teach the unit they developed in the fall while gathering data to use and discuss in Fall Leadership Seminars.
The Fellows also spent two days working with national coaching consultant Lucy West, founder of Metamorphosis Teaching Learning Communities. They explored and reflected on leadership within their own classrooms. West’s work with Fellows focused on strengthening instructional practices, particularly related to student discourse, developing identities as leaders, and building communication skills in service to supporting positive change in their classrooms and schools.
Margaret Smith, a retired professor of instruction and learning at the University of Pittsburgh, also worked with the Fellows for one day. Smith’s work with Fellows focused on her book 5 Practices for Orchestrating Productive Mathematics Discussion (coauthored with Mary Kay Stein, 2011) and the companion book for Science (co-authored with Cartier, Stein and Ross, 2013). Smith supported Fellows in improving their discourse practices, including effectively anticipating and using student responses to high-level tasks to engage students in rich mathematical and scientific discussions.
The Fellows also engaged in a series of observations in informal learning spaces to consider how these are the same and/or different from traditional classroom learning spaces. Fellows spent a day observing summer learning sessions at the Rochester Museum and Science Center (RMSC), the Seneca Park Zoo, the Freedom School, and the Horizons summer enrichment program at Warner to better understand teaching and learning in these informal settings.
Concluding the scope of year one’s Leadership seminar, Fellows had a day of professional learning with the Noyce Phase II leadership team at Warner, comprised of Callard, Occhino, Martin, and Cook, synthesizing and reflecting on the units they designed, and on their summer learning experiences. They also made plans and commitments for the year ahead.
Mentors – Mentored practice is one of the core experiences of this program. During the recruitment phase, some potential Fellows reported that the mentored practice was one of the components that drew them to the program. Upon acceptance into the program, each Fellow was assigned a mentor – all experienced classroom teachers or school administrators. Mentors were charged with working with Fellows for a minimum of 8 hours per month, attend Leadership Seminar, attend a monthly mentor meeting with the project leadership team, and provide a written summary of the work they engaged with during the school year. In Year 1, mentors focused on developing relationships with each of their assigned Fellows as they supported them in implementing the instructional practices explored in leadership seminar. As with all learners, Fellows brought with them different levels of instructional experience and thus the mentor-fellow relationship took on different forms for each pairing. While all mentors spent time in their Fellow’s classrooms, some reported placing more emphasis on planning and reflecting outside of the classroom, while others engaged in more formal content-focused coaching cycles which included planning, implementing, and reflecting on the lessons in the classroom. Some general themes emerged from the mentor summaries of fellows’ strengths and areas of growth. Mentors reported that Fellows were receptive to and often requested feedback from mentor classroom visits. Fellows willingly attempted to re-design lessons so that they were more meaningful, interesting, engaging, and accessible to students. Lesson planning was a major focus for most Fellows and mentors, and continues to be an area that most report as an area of need. In addition, some mentors supported Fellows as they navigated new understandings of teaching and learning inside school cultures that promote compliance more than active engagement in learning. The challenges around planning and culture were expected by the leadership team and mentors as we began this work. Looking to year 2, we will continue to focus on lesson planning and unit design, setting clear expectations between all of the stakeholders (leadership team, mentors, fellows, students, and school/district administrators) in order to get the greatest benefit out of the mentored practice experience within the project.
Senior Fellows – Building on the success of our Noyce MTF Phase I project, we incorporated the knowledge and expertise of our Phase I fellows to provide support and mentorship for our Phase II fellows. The responsibilities for “Senior Fellows” included:
Providing informal, on-going support by touching base at least monthly throughout the year
Being an advocate for both the fellow and the project by serving as a supportive link between project leadership team and the fellow
Attending the first and last leadership seminar of the year
All Phase II fellows had a “Senior Fellow” available to them for support in Year 1. The Senior Fellows supported their Fellow by connecting through email, phone, or meeting them in person. One key area of support for many Fellows was the transition to the role of graduate student. Many of the Fellows had not been enrolled in graduate classes in a number of years and the expected level of reading and rigorous writing/assignments was a challenge. Some Senior Fellows met with the new fellows to work on assignments and share their work as models. Senior Fellows also read drafts and provided suggestions on some of the Fellows Meaning Making Experiences, Problem of Practice and UbD Stage 1 assignments. Senior Fellows also provided resources for Phase I fellows. Finding a balance between teaching responsibilities, participation in the grant, and home life was another area Senior Fellows aided current fellows with. They also answered logistical questions regarding tax issues for the grant stipend, questions about upcoming courses, and the possible doctoral programs.