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Scope

REST is part of an integrated plan to advance the science teaching experience for high school students and teachers, engage undergraduates in science and research and reach out to the local, largely Hispanic community to promote awareness in scientific research and applicability.

a number of educational and human resource development programs and we will develop and into Texas State’s efforts to increase participation of underrepresented minorities and women in materials science and engineering research and professional development.

Initiative 1: Research Experience for Science Teachers (REST)

According to the report to the President from the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and technology: “The success of the United States in the 21st century – its wealth and welfare – will depend on the ideas and skills of its population. These have always been the Nation’s most important assets. The problem is not a lack of skills but a lack of interest in STEM fields by the students.”[1] One of the two conclusions of the report was that “to improve STEM education, we must focus both on preparation and inspiration” We must prepare all students, including girls and minorities who are underrepresented in these fields, to be proficient in STEM subjects. Two of the recommendations of the panel were “to recruit and train more STEM teachers and create opportunities for inspiration through individual and group experiences outside the classroom.”[1]

Teachers have the most impact on the decisions that students make upon entering a college and deciding on a Major. There are over 100,000 science teachers in US and over 16,000 physics teachers.[1] However, in the state of Texas, there has been a continuous shortage of science teachers since 1990.[2] Moreover, no transcript analysis is required for Texas high school teachers to determine whether they have formal training in each of areas covered in the teaching assignment or whether the earned grades of the potential teacher indicate sufficient mastery of the subject. [3] A research study in Texas[3] showed that among all science subjects, the most notable lack of training was within the content area of physics, for which only 8.6% of the physics teachers had more than eight semester credit hours of physics.

Science teachers have described a general ambivalence toward teaching when interacting with university science and math faculty. [4] They reported that one of the biggest challenges was motivating and engaging students in classroom work, and use content-based teaching strategies (beyond lecture) to actively engage students.

The objective of this initiative is to improve science teaching in high schools, and science teacher retention rates and quality through targeted professional development of the science teachers by expanding their science knowledge and content and increasing their confidence in their scientific training and understanding and supporting them.

More specifically, their training will have the following components:

  • LEARN/UNDERSTAND:  Interactive Lectures that start from the basics in Physics and build up to explaining how certain instruments or devices work and the relevance in every-day life. Undergraduate students will assist with lectures and discussions with the teachers.
  • APPLY/DEMONSTRATE: Lab involvement where they will have the opportunity to get involved directly with the phenomena and materials to explore it. Immersing themselves in these activities, students develop a grounding of experience with the phenomenon. They will work together in teams so as to build a base of common experience that assists them in the process of sharing and communicating. Texas State University has an excellent infrastructure for experimental research, with a newly installed state-of-the-art Helios 400 Dual Beam Microscope, a newly renovated clean room, and photolithography, and e-beam lithography equipment. In this activity, the participants will learn the physical principles behind how a hard-drive works, how a solar panel work, what is the state of the art and what are the challenges and issues that we are facing and how are we planning on solving them. They will get an overview and learn the science, get hands-on experience in a UHV system.
  • EXPLAIN/TEACH: We will ask the participants to discuss their observations, structured by checklists and problem-based learning exercises, and will be asked to apply the understanding to the world around them. We will work with them to help them translate and bring these concepts to their classrooms. At the completion of the program, the participants will be given a set of presentations with the relevant content and activities to bring with them to their students that will also be available on the Web. [5-7]

Initiative 2:  “Field Trips” and “ Open House”- Outreach

The REST teachers will present their research experience and the "science in everyday life" modules and communicate their excitement in their science classes during the year. We will encourage a visit of a group of students from their high school that took a scince class and expressed an interest for a “Field Trip Day”. The goal is to engage students in learning by relating their everyday life experiences to scientific principles and methodology so that they can experience the applicability and practicability of science. Dr. Theodoropoulou and her undergraduate and graduate students will prepare a lecture on Physics principles and a set of demonstrations in the Research Labs. We will tour the research Labs, the MBE facilities, the Clean Room, the Electron Microscope, the Atomic Force Microscope.

[1]          http://statweb.org/

[2]          "Teacher Shortage Areas Nationwide Listing", U.S. Department of Education, Office of Postsecondary Education (April 2012) (2012).

[3]          Pamela Esprivalo Harrell, "Teaching an Integrated Science Curriculum: Linking teacher Knowledge and Teaching Assignments", Issues in Teacher Education 19 (1) (2010).

[4]          "51 Math and Science Teachers in Texas: Motivating, Preparing, Supporting, and Retaining Math and Science Teachers in Texas High Schools".

[5]          Louis Bloomfield, How Things Work: The Physics of Everyday Life. (2009).

[6]          Patrick J. Mulvey and Starr Nicholson, "Physics Undergraduate Degrees", American Institute of Physics, focus on, AIP Statistical Research Center (2011).

[7]          Council on Undergraduate Research, http://www.cur.org/