$2.1 million from National Science Foundation to fund program for undergrads nationwide interested in math or science education, led by Vassar mathematics professor

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has made a sizeable financial commitment to a team of faculty members from Barnard College, Brown University, Bryn Mawr College, Trinity College and Vassar College, whose dynamic new summer program for undergraduates will help answer the call for science and mathematics teachers in U.S. public schools. Over the next five years a $2.1 million NSF grant will enable 120 undergraduate majors in the so-called STEM fields (Science/Technology/Engineering/Mathematics) to participate in an extensive 6-7 week summer program in secondary mathematics or science education, that integrates pedagogical studies with hands-on instruction for more than 1,200 secondary students in Providence, RI and Hartford, CT.

Selection for the “Summer STEM Teaching Experiences for Undergraduates” (TEU) program will be highly competitive among students in a consortium of 61 liberal arts institutions across the country. Many of the participating schools are small undergraduate liberal arts colleges, and owing to their size, “a key challenge they face is how to provide their STEM students interested in teaching with high quality courses and experiences that are focused on mathematics or science pedagogy. The TEU program is designed to fill this need,“ wrote the project leadership team in their NSF proposal.

Undergraduates from these 61 schools will be eligible to participate: Amherst
 College, Barnard College, Bates College, Bowdoin
 College, Brandeis
 University, Brown
University, Bryn Mawr College, Bucknell 
University, Carleton
 College, Colby College, Colgate
 University, Connecticut College, Dartmouth 
College, Denison University, Drew University, Franklin & Marshall College, Furman University, Gettysburg College, Grinnell College, Hamilton College, Harvey Mudd College, Haverford College, Hofstra University, The College of the Holy Cross, Ithaca College, Lafayette College, Lawrence University, Luther College, Macalester College, McDaniel College, Middlebury College, Mills
 College, Morehouse 
College, Mount Holyoke
 College, Oberlin
 College, Occidental
 College, Pitzer
 College, Pomona
 College, Princeton
 University, Reed 
College, Rhodes
 College, Saint Joseph’s University, 
Saint Olaf 
College, Scripps College, 
Siena College, 
College, Smith
 College, Spelman 
College, Swarthmore
 College, Trinity 
College, Tufts
 University, Union
 College, University of Chicago, University of Pennsylvania, Vassar 
College, Washington and Lee
 University, Wellesley 
College, Wesleyan University,
 College, Whitman College, 
and Williams College.

Recruiting students from such a broad network of schools is a way to bring together a critical mass of participants and is a key feature of this collaborative project.

“My colleagues and I are looking to make a broader impact on math and science education in U.S. public schools than we can make individually, since each of our institutions enrolls a comparatively small number of students,” explained Charles Steinhorn, the principal investigator of the project and a professor of mathematics at Vassar. “Our project is guided by the principle that liberal arts institutions can accomplish together what they cannot do alone.”

This is the largest grant ever secured by a Vassar professor in that role.

Joining Steinhorn as co-investigators on the project are Alison Draper, Science Center Director and Lecturer in Interdisciplinary Science at Trinity College (CT); Maria Rivera Maulucci, Associate Professor of Education at Barnard College; Victor Donnay, the William Kenan, Jr. Professor of Mathematics at Bryn Mawr College; and Daniel Bisaccio, Director of Science Education and Teacher Education at Brown University.

Each summer for the next five years twelve undergraduate students will participate in the mathematics TEU program at Brown University and twelve will participate in the science TEU program at Trinity College. The TEU mathematics model has been piloted during the summers of 2013-2015 as part of the Brown Summer High School program, with funding from the non-profit Math for America.

Both the science and mathematics TEU programs will include an intensive pedagogy course for college credit, as well as a hands-on teaching practicum mentored by a master teacher. In the practicum, the TEU participants will develop and teach summer enrichment courses for roughly 1250 high-need urban secondary students from the Providence area and the Hartford Middle Magnet Trinity College Academy. Once back at their home institutions the undergraduates will also undertake a STEM leadership project during the following academic year.

Over the five years of the TEU project its five investigators will be evaluating and researching how well their model prepares undergraduates to be classroom mathematics and science teachers. Specific learning outcomes to be examined will include pre-service teacher pedagogical knowledge, efficacy, effectiveness, and leadership. “What will be learned through the project, and attendant educational research, aims to provide evidence for the wider adoption of the TEU model and will contribute to the broader impacts of this project,” wrote the investigators in their NSF proposal.

In another effort to increase the number of STEM majors entering K-12 STEM education, Steinhorn and three fellow professors currently oversee the Vassar Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program. Vassar students selected to be Noyce Scholars receive $25,000 a year in scholarship funds for their junior and senior years and in return commit to two years of teaching in a high-need district for each year of funding. In another facet of the program, students who are considering a career in education can apply for a summer internship and receive a stipend of up to $4,000 for any project of their choosing related to math or science education. Joining Steinhorn as co-principal investigators of this program -- which earlier gained a five-year, $1.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation’s Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program -- are Professor of Education Chris Bjork, Professor of Physics Cindy Schwarz, and Associate Professor of Biology William Straus.


Vassar College is a highly selective, residential, coeducational liberal arts college founded in 1861.

Posted by Office of Communications Monday, November 30, 2015