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LeagueTLC Innovation Express
Exploring Issues, Innovations, and New Developments with Information Technology Professionals

Project TEACH (Teacher Alliance of Colleges and High Schools) at Green River Community College 

Community colleges are the "missing link" in the recruitment and preparation of future teachers. For the 40 to 49 percent of future teachers who choose to begin their higher education at a community college, opportunities to make connections to the teaching profession are minimal or nonexistent. To address this critical need, Project TEACH was initially established by a National Science Foundation grant as a collaboration among Green River Community College (GRCC), Central Washington University (CWU), and six school districts to provide students interested in education with a seamless pathway to a teaching career. 

Beginning with recruitment programs that target underrepresented populations, Project TEACH improves the preparation of future teachers, especially in mathematics and science. In its current phase, Project TEACH serves as a model for demonstrating the role community colleges play in teacher preparation through the creation of a seamless transitional path into the profession. Four strategies for creating this path and achieving the project objectives have been developed: 

1. To recruit more talented students into the teaching profession with recruitment beginning at the high school level and focused on underserved populations; 
2. To improve the preparation and retention of prospective teachers through a new paraprofessional certificate and a preprofessional degree in education;
3. To strengthen math and science in elementary schools through math courses and interdisciplinary science courses for future teachers that model interactive teaching and active learning; and
4. To provide practical and diverse preservice field experiences with mentor teachers utilizing interactive methods of science, math, and technology education. 

Project TEACH Results

Working with K-12 and university partners, community colleges can and should play a significant role in helping to identify, recruit, and prepare future teachers. Through a collaborative network, Project TEACH has enhanced the quality of teacher education within the region and proven that K-12, community colleges, and university partners can work together to enhance the teacher preparation process. 

Project results were defined by progress within the four key objectives, and over the course of two academic calendar years, student and faculty surveys were developed and administered to both GRCC and CWU participants. The quantitative measures were combined with a series of interviews and observations as qualitative indicators. A series of guiding questions was developed to organize data sources and evaluation activities as represented in the following tables. 
Objective One Evaluation Question Data Sources
To recruit more talented students into the teaching profession with recruitment beginning at the high school level and focused on underserved populations What evidence is there that the project recruited more talented students into the teaching profession?

»GRCC and CWU student surveys
»Project TEACH staff interviews


The evaluation of Project TEACH progress toward this objective was guided by the question: What evidence is there that the project recruited more talented students into the teaching profession? The success of the project's efforts to recruit students who come from underserved populations and lower income levels has been significant. Project TEACH and GRCC are serving many nontraditional college students, especially those whose economic circumstances require them to work part-time while attending college. In the fall 2000 survey, 98 percent of the CWU students were enrolled full time as compared to only 83 percent of the GRCC students. 

The purpose of the survey was to collect data on student demographics, course taking patterns, student achievement (grades), and attitudes. Surveys were distributed and collected during scheduled classes to increase response rates and, following this methodology, virtually 100% of the students in attendance on the day of the survey responded (78% of those enrolled in the surveyed classes). 

Evidence of the project's success in recruiting talented students into elementary teaching is suggested by the increase in the grade point average for high school mathematics courses from 1999 to 2000. With the exception of Algebra 2 and Calculus, the 2000 GPA for GRCC students intending to teach elementary school was higher than in the 1999 survey sample. 

Evidence of the effect of Project TEACH on students' attitudes towards mathematics and science was collected and reveal notable changes. It is likely that the shifts occurred as a result of the new mathematics courses that were developed and implemented as a result of Project TEACH. 

As with the two previous surveys, the fall 2001 survey was also administered to students at Central Washington University (CWU), the four-year college partner in Project TEACH. The surveyed classes included those with a high percentage of juniors and seniors (97 percent of the respondents) who intended to pursue a career in teaching (100 percent of the respondents). Using the same methodology as the 1999 and 2000 surveys, the CWU survey was administered during class time, resulting in a high completion rate of 81 percent. 

A comparison of the CWU and GRCC responses on the attitudinal portion of the survey suggests some significant differences that may be attributed to Project TEACH. Former GRCC/Project TEACH students are considerably more positive in their attitudes about and confidence in mathematics. Responses indicate that twice as many former GRCC/Project TEACH students "look forward to taking more math classes" than their counterparts at CWU. In addition, the former GRCC/Project TEACH students are significantly more positive in their approach to problem solving, a critical element in the Washington state K-12 mathematics standards and assessments. 

One hundred percent of the former GRCC/Project TEACH students report that they "usually do well in mathematics" - evidence that the project is being successful in recruiting students who are well-prepared in mathematics to the elementary teaching profession. Further support is found in the survey analysis, indicating 80 percent of GRCC students who report that they have "always liked math" as compared to 35 percent of the CWU students. The fall 2001 survey also asked students to indicate the number of college science and mathematics courses they have taken. CWU students reported an average of 2.8 mathematics courses, while former GRCC/Project TEACH students indicated they have taken an average of 3.2 mathematics courses. In addition to taking more mathematics courses, the former GRCC/Project TEACH students received, on average, significantly higher grades with an average of 3.75 in mathematics courses compared to 2.97 for CWU students and an average of 3.46 in science course compared to 2.94. 

The data collected indicate that in the past two years, Project TEACH made substantial progress in recruiting more talented students into the teaching profession. Survey data suggest a positive trend toward increased abilities among GRCC/Project TEACH students who intend to teach at the elementary level. The trend towards increased abilities as demonstrated by high school and college courses taken and grades received was most evident in the area of mathematics. In addition, GRCC/Project TEACH students report more positive attitudes towards and confidence in mathematics. 
Objective Two Evaluation Questions Data Sources
To improve the preparation and retention of prospective teachers through a new para- professional certificate and preprofessional degree in education  How have the Project TEACH courses and activities affected students' desires and abilities to teach elementary school? »GRCC and CWU student surveys
»Project TEACH student interviews
»Project TEACH staff interviews

Progress toward objective two was guided by the question: How have the Project TEACH courses and activities affected students' desires and abilities to teach elementary school? Data from surveys of GRCC and CWU students and interviews with Project TEACH students and staff provided measures of accomplishment. 

In the year 2000, Project TEACH accomplished the goal of implementing a pre-professional degree for students who are interested in pursuing teacher certification through a four-year college/university teacher preparation program. The AA Pre-professional degree in elementary education requires 98 - 100 credit hours, including 15 hours in the interdisciplinary science series and 13 hours in foundations of elementary mathematics (number theory, geometry, and probability and statistics). With the implementation of the new preprofessional degree, a number of courses, field experiences, and advising activities provide students with opportunities to gain knowledge and skills that are directly applicable to the elementary classroom. Project TEACH students are consistently reporting a high degree of satisfaction with their GRCC experiences. Evaluative reports provide further documentation of the effectiveness of the mathematics and science courses associated with the preprofessional degree at GRCC.

The paraprofessional certificate program, also established as part of Project TEACH, requires 44 credit hours and offers an elementary or early childhood education option. An important aspect of both the degree and certificate programs is the practicum in which students gain experience in K-12 classrooms and/or tutor students in Saturday and summer programs. 

The impact of these programs and the support and advising activities associated with them is evidenced by analysis of student surveys. The results of the Fall 2001 student survey responses by former GRCC/Project TEACH students compared to those only enrolled as CWU education majors indicate an extremely high level of satisfaction on the part of the GRCC students directly related to their participation and activities in the Project TEACH program. The GRCC/Project TEACH student responses include higher percentages of "strongly agree" and "agree" comments related to positive support, active advising, and useful field experiences related to teacher training and preparation of classroom leadership. 

The early field experiences provided by Project TEACH are especially important in retaining students. In interviews, project staff reported several instances whereby, through these field experiences, students have decided not to pursue teaching. This represents another success of Project TEACH as it demonstrates the effectiveness of the field experiences. By providing students a realistic view of teaching, it allows some to make a change in their college and career plans before they have invested considerable time and resources. Helping those students who may be considering teaching realize that the profession is not to their liking and abilities is an important role for Project TEACH that will in the long run better serve education. Interview and survey data indicate that the large majority of students find that their GRCC classroom and field experiences confirm and support their desire to pursue a teaching career.

Objective Three Evaluation Question Data Sources
To strengthen math and science in elementary schools through interdisciplinary courses for future teachers that model interactive teaching and active learning How have students' knowledge of, attitudes toward, and confidence in mathematics and science improved as a result of their participation in Project TEACH content courses? »GRCC and CWU student surveys
»Classroom Observations
»Analysis of alignment between GRCC courses and state and national standards
»Student Interviews

Several evaluation activities were conducted to determine progress toward Objective Three. They include classroom observations, student interviews, an analysis of the IDS course's alignment with state standards, and pre/post tests of students' content knowledge and confidence levels. The evaluation question guiding these activities was: How have students' knowledge of, attitudes toward, and confidence in mathematics and science improved as a result of their participation in Project TEACH content courses?

As part of the curriculum design, Project TEACH courses and activities offer a high degree of alignment between the Washington state Essential Academic Learning Requirements for science (state K-12 standards) and a new Interdisciplinary Science Series, implemented as part of the Project TEACH core program. 
The Interdisciplinary Science (IDS) Series is a year-long sequence consisting of content from biology, chemistry, and earth science, with integrated mathematics applications. The fundamental approach of the courses involves the collection and analysis of data through extended field studies. For example, throughout the year students investigate climate and weather: how they are measured, how they change, and their impact. Through hands on investigations and actual application, students learn about science and how scientists work.

Student interviews substantiated the nature of the IDS course content and pedagogy; their remarks to two key questions are summarized below. Their comments provide further evidence of the IDS course's success in modeling active teaching and learning that is aligned with the state's science standards for K-12 students.

What are the strengths of this class? 
*Learning inquiry is the thing that has been the most useful. I didn't have any idea what inquiry was. 
*You're free to make mistakes and you learn more.
*The instructors really have a passion for what they are doing. They are really interested in helping us be better teachers. 
*I think it's a strength that they allow us to think about how we might teach. I'm realizing that lecture might not work for everyone. Kids are going to learn differently and we need to provide kids with opportunities to learn differently.

How has the course changed your ideas about how you might teach science? 
*I'm going to use inquiry, experimentation, and get messy.
*Your enthusiasm really affects students. Our instructors are very enthusiastic about their subject. If you do poorly, they think they've failed by not teaching you well. 
*At times the instructors would tell us that things didn't work the way they expected and they took the time to re-teach it. 
*This is the first time I've kept everything from a class (materials, handouts, etc). We can use a lot of that in our own teaching, and that's one of the biggest parts of this class. 

A pre/post-test methodology was used to measure the effects of the IDS course on students' content knowledge and confidence levels. The instructors developed a series of standard questions, called the Science Concept Inventory, to assess student's growth in understanding important science content. They administered the inventory to students enrolled in the IDS course during the fall and spring quarters. In addition to responding to each true/false question, students were asked to indicate their level of confidence regarding the correctness of each answer. In the spring, the number of correct responses increased by 27 percent, with a significant increase in students' confidence level for correct answers was demonstrated as the average increased from 2.67 in the fall to 3.88 in the spring.

The evaluation data suggests that the IDS series of Project TEACH are proving to be useful vehicles in modeling effective pedagogy while improving GRCC students' understanding of the disciplines. There is a high degree of alignment between the courses and the state standards for K-12 students. In these courses, preservice students are learning mathematics and science in the ways they will be expected to teach these subjects in elementary classrooms. The data also suggest that the focus on inquiry in the science courses and problem solving in the mathematics courses is causing students to examine their own understanding of content in new ways. Rather than merely looking at the answers, the students enrolled in these courses are also considering the "why" of those answers-an indication of a deeper look at the content than is traditionally presented in introductory level courses taken by prospective elementary teachers. 

Objective Four Evaluation Question Data Sources
To provide practical and diverse preservice field experiences with mentor teachers utilizing interactive methods of science, math, and technology education What are the consequences of early preservice field experiences on high school and community college students? »Math Maniacs and Summer Math Evaluations
»
Observation of Tutoring Sessions
»Student Interviews
»Mentor Teacher Interviews
»Evaluation by Parents, Student Participants, and Preservice Students

In addition to the field experiences provided through GRCC courses, Project TEACH implemented two activities directly related to Objective Four. Math Maniacs and Summer Teach are two tutoring programs that provided preservice students with opportunities to work with elementary students and mentor teachers. The evaluation of progress toward this objective was guided by the question: What are the consequences of early preservice field experiences on high school and community college students? Data sources included an observation of a Math Maniacs tutoring session, interviews with preservice students and mentor teachers, and evaluations completed by parents, elementary students, and preservice students. 

Math Maniacs brought together students and classroom teachers from area school districts with GRCC students interested in pursuing a teaching career. The program operated in four-week Saturday sessions throughout the academic year. The fourth grade elementary student participants were scheduled for state assessment testing in the forthcoming spring. All sessions of Math Maniacs focus on mathematical development, with an emphasis on problem solving and graphing. Each session included an opportunity for the preservice students to work with mentor teachers to plan and prepare for the two-hour session with the elementary students.

The Summer TEACH program was conducted in two local school districts. The program aimed to accomplish two main goals: (1) to provide meaningful classroom experience for tutors who are possible preservice educators, and (2) to engage elementary school students in a variety of activities to strengthen and expand their mathematical knowledge and problem solving skills. The tutors, who are high school, community college, and four-year university students, work with fourth grade students in small groups four days a week for one month. In addition, tutors attend a two-day orientation and training workshop prior to the sessions with students. 

Evidence of the program's success is found in the survey comments of participants and parents, all of which rate the program as "successful and rewarding." Parents' comments on the survey further confirm the benefits provided to the elementary students:

The patience, dedication and enthusiasm of his tutor and teacher is what my son needed to boost his self-esteem level and skill level after a very hard year. He was sad [as] the last day came closer.

My child had a great experience and [had] fun working with a knowledgeable, yet a firm and understanding teacher. I really appreciate her persistence and effort that she demonstrated in motivating my child to do well in class. 

Although not a focus of Project TEACH, the impact of the summer program on elementary students' confidence in and attitudes toward mathematics appears to include positive outcomes. Post-survey results indicate that students' attitudes improved substantially on the following four statements:
1. It is good to solve problems in your own way. 
2. I like math. 
3. The math problems we do are interesting. 
4. I get excited about math. 

The tutors' comments provide insights into the nature of their learning as a result of their participation in Summer TEACH:

This program has encouraged me to integrate math into as many subjects as possible. 

By showing students that math appears in everyday situations, I hope to make them comfortable with numbers and problem solving.

It has made me certain that I would like to teach and has also opened my eyes to the challenges of teaching.

The experience that I have gone through has made me think more about being a teacher. I have learned that the rewards are much greater than the salary. The project has also shown me how you have to handle each child differently.

The evidence indicates that the field experiences provided in the education courses, included as part of the preprofessional degree, coupled with Math Maniacs and Summer TEACH, served to provide practical and diverse experiences for Project TEACH students. The data collected confirm that the preservice students, mentor teachers, elementary students, and parents involved in Math Maniacs and Summer TEACH all experienced positive outcomes as a result of their participation in the programs.

In addition to these field experiences, the local Teachers of Tomorrow Club sponsors an annual Future Teachers Symposium as an opportunity for preservice students to connect with other professionals. These symposiums, completely organized and orchestrated by students, provide opportunities for future teachers to come together and learn among current K-12, community college, and university educators. 

Lessons Learned and Summary Conclusions

Project TEACH has enhanced the quality of teacher education within the Green River Community College District, and new collaborative endeavors support sharing and replicating successful elements of teacher preparation throughout Washington State. With support from the Fund for the Improvement of Post Secondary Education (FIPSE), five community colleges throughout the state have been selected to form Project TEACH partnerships with their local school districts and university teacher certification programs. Five Implementation Sites have been selected for this project-Highline Community College, Seattle Central Community College, Spokane Falls Community College, Tacoma Community College, and Yakima Valley Community College. These community colleges span the state and provide a mix of rural, semi-rural, and urban settings. In addition, they serve a large and wide variety of underrepresented groups and school districts that are experiencing teacher shortages.

In the two short years of its existence, Project TEACH has met program, academic, and community objectives. The project was implemented with strong administrative support and dedicated faculty and staff. Additional elements of success include the collaborative efforts of university and K-12 partners, and a strong external evaluation plan providing a genuine source of feedback and formative development. In addition to the evaluation data collected over the past two years, the project's positive impact is substantiated by additional funding sources and new opportunities to serve nationally as a model site for teacher preparation. The success of Project TEACH is realized not only through data, but also through the application and experiential learning of participants. 


For more information, contact 
Pam Reising
Director, Project TEACH

Leslie Heizer
Project TEACH Center Director

 

 

 

 

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