- Year 2016
- NSF Noyce Award # 1439761
- First Name Maria
- Last Name Varelas
- Discipline Biology, Chemistry, Earth Science, Environmental Science, Physics, Space Science
Daniel Morales-Doyle, UIC, firstname.lastname@example.org
Carole Mithcener, UIC, email@example.com
Aixa Alfonso, UIC, firstname.lastname@example.org
Chandra James, Chicago Public Schools, email@example.com
Maria Varelas, UIC, firstname.lastname@example.org
Daniel Morales-Doyle, UIC, email@example.com
There is a need in the Chicago Public Schools for neighborhood schools to recruit and retain teachers who can teach in ways that respond to the concerns, hopes, strengths, and needs of the communities in which they are located. This need is especially pronounced in the physical sciences. This need is further contextualized by a sharp decline in the number of African American teachers in the Chicago Public Schools since 2002. At the same time, the percentage of Latina/o teachers has not kept pace with a rapid growth in Latina/o student population. Project SEEEC is a concerted effort to address these issues by educating new ‘community science teachers’ and by supporting experienced community science teachers to become local and national leaders in urban science education.
The goals of Project SEEEC include: (a) preparing 30 Teaching Fellows for the Chicago Public Schools, with an emphasis on recruiting and retaining African American, Latina/o teachers and teachers of physics and chemistry; and (b) supporting 10 Master Teaching Fellows who mentor Teaching Fellows while they pursue doctorates in science education. Activities include completing UIC courses, participating in programming led by community organizations, conducting teacher inquiry studies, learning to teach and teaching in Chicago Public Schools, and engaging with NGSS.
Our approach involves formal collaboration between UIC faculty in science education and faculty in UIC’s four natural science departments (Biological Sciences, Chemistry, Earth & Environmental Sciences, and Physics), seven grassroots, non-for-profit organizations, and the third largest school district in the US. This approach also relies heavily on teacher inquiry/practitioner research to support new and experienced teachers as they develop their culturally relevant and justice-centered science curriculum and teaching practices. We draw heavily on the concept of the “community teacher” (Murrell, 2001) as we construct what this concept means in the context of high school science teaching.
Eleven teaching fellows have earned a MEd and Illinois professional educator license while also participating in 11 supplemental workshops led by non-for-profit partners or science faculty members. Our first group of four Master Teaching Fellows completed and presented initial teacher inquiry projects internally. They have also submitted a proposal to present their inquiry projects at the 2017 NSTA national conference and have been admitted to UIC’s PhD in Mathematics and Science Education. We have completed the selection of 10 Master Teaching Fellows and have selected the majority of the 30 Teaching Fellows. Thus far the participants are 32% Latina/o and 38% African American, with 78% of the participants being people of color. In the coming year, we will graduate another group of Teaching Fellows as our first group of Master Teaching Fellows start their PhD coursework and begin to lead Teacher Inquiry Groups with the first group of Teaching Fellows. Our project team has also presented a research study related to the initiative at the 2016 NARST conference.
The broader impacts of the project have just begun to emerge as our first group of Teaching Fellows is currently seeking employment and our first group of Master Teaching Fellows has just completed their first year. The project has already contributed to the enrichment and growth of UIC’s MEd in Science Education and PhD in Mathematics and Science Education. As the project proceeds, those most impacted will be approximately 5,600 Chicago Public School students per year who will be taught by Teaching Fellows or Master Teaching Fellows, educators who will be continuously improving their practice through teacher inquiry projects. As both TFs and MTFs develop as local and national leaders in community responsive urban science education, the practices and curriculum they develop will impact a broader range of students as their work is disseminated in local professional development programs within Chicago and at regional and national conferences. Our research team will also contribute to the broader impact as we continue to conduct and share our research related to educating community responsive science teachers in high profile conferences and peer-reviewed publications. We anticipate that other synergistic projects related to curriculum, teaching practices, and research will also emerge from the networks built through this project.