- Year 2019
- NSF Noyce Award # 1557211
- First Name Carol
- Last Name Johnston
- Discipline Biology, Chemistry, Math
Carol Johnston, Mount Saint Mary University, email@example.com
Upon arriving at MSMU, I was asked to teach a methods course with an emphasis on literacy skills. My first thoughts drifted back to my experiences as a high school math and science teacher. My colleagues responded to the request to teach reading and writing in our STEM courses with a quick quip: ‘Are English teachers being asked to teach math.’ However, I came to realize that the best person to teach how to read a science or math text was someone who had learned to navigate that very task through multiple experiences. Over the more than ten years of teaching this methods course, I have found that STEM teacher candidates need less and less convincing of the need to teach literacy skills. The candidates desire to learn more strategies for teaching literacy led to teaming up with a reading specialist to co-teach the course and model how two professionals can work together to benefit the students.
In the five years for which we have co-taught this course, we have collected student feedback for the purpose of continually improving the curriculum. We have been particularly interested in whether we are meeting the objectives of the course: Candidates will be able to 1) Define literacy in their content area. 2) Identify the factors affecting a student’s ability to read and comprehend text. 3) Identify strategies to improve the literacy skills (specific to the subject area) of their students. 4) Identify the ways in which two professionals can interact in the classroom to best meet the needs of all students.
As our goal has been program improvement, we have used a reflective cycle following Action Research methods. This involves a spiral of cycles consisting of four major phrases: ‘planning, acting, observing and reflecting’ (Zuber-Skerrit, 1991: p 2). As part of teaching the course, we model different strategies for co-teaching: One teach, one drift; One teach, one assist; Speak and Add; Alternative teaching; Station teaching; Parallel teaching; and Duet teaching. The strategies chosen by the students for their co-teaching lessons taught in their coach’s classroom, thus, becomes another source of discussion between my co-teacher and myself.
A goal for our course is that candidates will be able to produce a lesson plan that includes co-teaching strategies to teach a STEM standard, along with speaking, reading, and/or writing skill development. As this aligns with the NGSS standards that relate to inquiry, using evidence, synthesizing complex information, making arguments (orally or in writing), and integrating and evaluating between prose, graphs, charts, and formulae. We wish to share successful strategies we have found that enable candidates to create these kinds of lessons.
We have found co-teaching strategies to be a useful way of teaching candidates how to incorporate literacy skills in their future STEM courses. Not all candidates will work in schools in which they will have a co-teacher. For those who do have other professionals in the classroom, they will be able to effectively move beyond just the use of one teach, one assist, leading to a more balanced and respectful classroom environment. We are also hopeful that our candidates will be less intimidated by students with special needs. Having a teacher with knowledge of a range of strategies and resources will enable all students to be successful in their STEM courses.