Grant funds new opportunities for science majors to become teachers


 

The key to producing highly qualified science teachers for Virginia's middle schools and high schools is to start training them early in their college careers. But JMU has struggled with that, especially in areas like chemistry and physics.

"On average, physics produces half a physics teacher per year," said Dr. Eric Pyle, professor of geology and environmental science.

One reason JMU turns out low numbers of science teachers is students' lack of awareness in their freshman and sophomore years that secondary science teaching is an option. With the help of a $299,744 grant from the National Science Foundation, Pyle and several colleagues are now implementing new approaches to increasing the number of pre-service teachers who plan to teach science in secondary schools. The grant, which begins Oct. 1 and ends in September 2016, funds a program that will identify science students with an interest in teaching and provide the training and experience they need for licensure. The program will also be marketed to prospective students so they are aware that training to be a science teacher is an option.

"You're going to be motivated to pursue what you see yourself doing. If we can help these students wake up in the morning and say, 'Here's what I'm going to do today to become a better science teacher.' That's identity and that's what motivates you." — Dr. Eric Pyle

Dubbed EPIC, an acronym for Expanding Pathways, Identity and Capacity, the program is a collaboration between the College of Science and Mathematics and the College of Education that will create two credit-bearing pathways to science teacher licensure through summer outreach and academic year programs.

The summer outreach part of EPIC will begin in 2015. Before performing teaching duties in the summer outreach programs, participating students will take coursework during May and will tutor high school students to provide some practical experience. The student teachers will receive stipends paid for by the grant.

The second track will enable students to earn credit and pay during the academic year by working as learning assistants in lower-level science courses. In this track, students will help teach and tutor in classes they have already taken and done well in.

The new tracks focus on building teacher identity in students early in their college careers. "You're going to be motivated to pursue what you see yourself doing," Pyle said. "If we can help these students wake up in the morning and say, 'Here's what I'm going to do today to become a better science teacher.' That's identity and that's what motivates you."

In addition to increasing the number of pre-service teachers who intend to teach science in middle schools or high schools, EPIC will strive to create a pool of students who could be eligible for the NSF-funded Robert C. Noyce Scholars Program.  JMU will have to first apply to become part of the Noyce program before it would be available to students. Noyce Grants provide for an evidence-based approach to increasing the number of quality secondary science teachers by offering scaffolded experiences in the teaching and learning of science early in students' undergraduate careers.

In addition to Pyle, the other faculty on the grant are Dr. John Almarode, assistant professor of early, elementary and reading education; Dr. Kerry Cresawn, assistant professor of biology; Dr. Barbara Reisner, professor of chemistry and biochemistry; Dr. Brian Utter, associate professor of physics and astronomy; and Robbie Higdon, an instructor of middle, secondary and mathematics education.

# # #

 

By Josh Kelly ('15), JMU Public Affairs

Published Sept. 25, 2014

Published: Thursday, September 25, 2014

Last Updated: Thursday, October 20, 2016

Back to Top

    Related Articles

  • CCN Student volunteers CCN empowers caregivers and students

    In Harrisonburg and its surrounding areas, the aging population is expected to skyrocket through 2030. Students are working with the Caregivers Community Network to accommodate the needs of this rapidly growing populatio

  • PHOTO: Caroline Whitlow #CHBSChats with Caroline Whitlow

    #CHBSChats with Caroline Whitlow - Our series of informal chats with students

  • therapy without a therapist Therapy Without a Therapist

    Therapy without a Therapist: the Health Center and Counseling Center Present on Self-Care