FEd Spring 2002 Newsletter - Improving the Quality and Quantity of K-12 Teachers of Mathematics and Science: The Collaborative for Excellence in Teacher Preparation in Pennsylvania

Spring 2002



Previous Newsletters

Current Issue

Contact the Editor

Improving the Quality and Quantity of K-12 Teachers of Mathematics and Science: The Collaborative for Excellence in Teacher Preparation in Pennsylvania

Patsy Ann Johnson, P. James Moser, Robert A. Cohen, and Joan E. Mackin

At Bloomsburg University, Professor James Moser watches a student control an electron beam by adjusting the accelerating potential, focus, and field current
(photo credit: Keith Boyer, Indiana University of Pennsylvania)

The National Science Foundation (NSF) from 1993 through 2000 provided funds to start approximately 25 Collaboratives for Excellence in Teacher Preparation, described as “large scale systemic projects designed to significantly change teacher preparation programs on a state or regional basis and to serve as comprehensive national models” [1, p. iii]. The typical award was one million dollars per year for five years. The number of institutions of higher education in a collaborative has averaged about ten, but there has been wide variability.

During the summer of 2000, the NSF awarded funds to the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (SSHE) for the Collaborative for Excellence in Teacher Preparation in Pennsylvania (CETP-PA). The 14 SSHE universities are Bloomsburg, California, Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Indiana, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Mansfield, Millersville, Shippensburg, Slippery Rock, and West Chester.

These 14 universities annually have 10,000 – 12,000 students completing teacher preparation programs. Almost one-sixth will become secondary science and mathematics teachers. Almost five-sixths are planning to teach science and mathematics in elementary grades. About one-tenth will become secondary teachers not teaching science or mathematics. In 1998 when the grant proposal was written, the SSHE universities prepared 29% of the teachers obtaining Pennsylvania certification in secondary mathematics, 35% of those in secondary science, and 39% of those in elementary education.

As a demonstration of its commitment to the CETA-PA project, the SSHE is providing one million dollars in matching funds over the five years of the project. A SSHE website is used with Blackboard software to communicate among the campuses about the CETP-PA project. Calendars, reports, evaluation forms, and other documents are available on this SSHE website.

The 14 universities have committed physical space to accommodate mathematics/science/technology education centers, computer equipment and technician time to maintain CETP-PA websites, faculty release or reassignments to accomplish CETP-PA work, as well as over one-half million dollars in hard match and indirect costs for the duration of the project. The centers will continue to function after the end of NSF funding for CETP-PA as the means to institutionalize curricular changes through conducting professional development events, sharing written resources, and loaning out hands-on and manipulative equipment.

Numerous people are involved in CETP-PA. It is led by the Project Director and Principal Investigator. He is assisted by five Co-Principal Investigators. The project has two Community College Coordinators and one K-12 Coordinator (with an opening for another one). There are six State-wide Workgroup Chairs and 67 other members of State-wide Workgroups. Each of the 14 universities has one or two Team Leaders, for a total of 22. Of the 379 people who are team members, 65% are university faculty, 22% are K-12 teachers, 5% are community college faculty, 3% are university students, 2% are business employees, and 3% are other types. Each university has one team member designated as the Evaluation Liaison. The Advisory Committee has 10 members, and the National Visiting Committee has six members plus a NSF Representative. The Steering Committee has 49 members, all of whom have a position listed above. Three external evaluators from the National Council for the Improvement of Science Education (NCISE) work on the project's evaluation.

Four statewide workgroups have been formed to provide descriptions of teacher education programs at SSHE universities, lists of resources, and recommendations for curricular change. Both content and pedagogy courses are targeted for reform. These four workgroups are Elementary Science, Secondary Science, Elementary Mathematics, and Secondary Mathematics. Two more workgroups that do not deal with curriculum also have been formed. One deals with supervision of field experiences in K-12 schools for university students preparing to be teachers. The other workgroup seeks to improve science and mathematics teaching by starting with more and better teacher candidates. The issue of how the workgroups might be most helpful has not yet been resolved to everyone's satisfaction. Efforts by local CETP-PA teams have sometimes placed them ahead of the curriculum and supervision workgroups even though the latter were intended to provide guidance to the former. Most of the recruitment activity currently being done is occurring at the statewide rather than the local level.

The NSF funded the Collaboratives nationwide based on the following “basic premise”: “The mathematics, technology, and science that prospective teachers learn as part of their undergraduate education, and the manner in which the courses are presented, have a critical influence on the quality of their teaching” [1, p. iii]. The SSHE proposal for the CETP-PA project stated, "Constructivist teaching practices are recognized by current research as the most consistent with how individuals learn." The proposal went on to say that constructivist teaching involves finding out what students already know and then teaching in ways that help students link, in their own individual learning styles, new information to their already existing cognitive frameworks and knowledge.

The first CETP-PA conference was held August 21 – 25, 2000, at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Jim Gallagher from Michigan State University was the main presenter. He explained the categories used in three Teacher Analysis Matrices that contrast didactic and constructivist teaching. Participants in breakout groups viewed videotapes of classes and analyzed them using these matrices. The project’s external evaluators also presented information and raised issues.

A smaller conference at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania on March 9 – 10, 2001 focused on the use of inquiry and learning cycles in teaching science. Advice and examples were given in physics by Lillian McDermott and Paula Heron from the University of Washington, in chemistry by James Reeves from the University of North Carolina, Wilmington, and in biology by Anton Lawson from Arizona State University. Dr. Lawson also talked about project evaluation using the Reformed Teaching Observation Protocol (RTOP).

During the Western Region conference at Butler County Community College on April 28, 2001, presentations were given about three sets of recommendations [2] [3] [4]. Each participant was given a copy of the third publication, which is a report of a NSF invitational workshop held in 1998. Small group discussions on that Saturday were followed by reporting of recommendations concerning community college participation in the CETP-PA project.

On May 9 – 10, 2001, at Millersville University of Pennsylvania, James Gallagher was again the primary presenter at a CETP-PA conference. His topic was teaching science for understanding and application of knowledge.

The second CETP-PA summer conference was held August 16 - 18, 2001, at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania. The following presenters each gave a plenary address and led a workshop: Priscilla Laws from Dickinson College about teaching physics, Deborah Ann Moore from the University of Puerto Rico about teaching mathematics, Judith Scotchmore from the Museum of Paleontology at University of California Berkeley about teaching earth science, Gordon Uno from the University of Oklahoma about teaching biology, and Dorothy Waninger from Lakeview School in Ridley Park, PA, about teaching elementary school science and mathematics. Many meetings were held for groups within the CETP-PA project, such as center directors and workgroup chairs. Local teams displayed posters highlighting their accomplishments during the first year of the project


On November 29 – 30, 2001, the Indiana University of Pennsylvania CETP-PA team ran a conference about constructivism and the Pennsylvania K-12 standards for mathematics and science. Participants in breakout sessions discussed these topics. James Stith, from the American Institute of Physics, spoke in the final session of the conference about the need for education reform.

The next CETP-PA conferences occuring this year will be the Western Region conference at the Community College of Allegheny County on April 27, the Eastern Region conference at Bucks County Community College on May 31 – June 1, and the third summer conference at Millersville University of Pennsylvania on August 15 – 17.

At the local level, the main CETP-PA efforts have been content course revisions, K-16 professional development activities, curriculum materials purchased and made available for loan, pedagogy course revisions, recruitment of K-12 teacher candidates, and supervision of student teachers shared by content and pedagogy university faculty. This list is in descending order for the level of involvement at the present time on the 14 campuses.

Physics 101 class at Slippery Rock. The students are using string telephones to observe the difference in the speed of sound through the air and through the string.

(photo credit: Keith Boyer, Indiana University of Pennsylvania)

Each type of activity was incorporated into the project to strengthen what might be a weak link in the teacher preparation process. The content course revisions, for example, try to get content faculty to improve their instructional methodologies. The rationale is that they should model the type of instruction that their students should later utilize. At the same time, they should improve the pre-service teachers’ understanding of mathematics and science. Pedagogy course revisions are being done with the intention of incorporating more content. To improve courses generally, local CETP-PA teams have sponsored discussion groups, loaned materials, and held faculty workshops. They have also targeted their efforts at specific courses, usually based on the willingness of the faculty to work on course revision. According to evaluation guidelines adopted by this project, each campus should provide data on changes in at least one pedagogy course and at least one content course. Currently more attention is being devoted to the content courses.

K-12 professional development first of all tries to improve the quality of the teaching by cooperating teachers with whom university students are placed for student teaching and other field experiences. By being an example and by giving advice, cooperating teachers have great influence on university students. K-12 professional development also is aimed at affecting the teaching environments in which graduates begin their careers.

Credible and timely evaluation information is being used to monitor and adjust CETP-PA activities as part of formative evaluation of the project. Baseline data will be compared to subsequent data to measure the project’s progress toward accomplishment of its long-range goals. Summative evaluation will begin in 2004. The methods being used for data collection include document review, survey questionnaires, individual interviews, focus groups, and classroom observations. University students, faculty, and administrators are among the people being interviewed by telephone or in person. Observations of student teachers, cooperating teachers, and university faculty are being recorded on the CETP-PA Protocol for Classroom Observation. Multiple data collection activities involving personal and documentary sources are being used to counteract problems associated with respondent bias and self-report data. Responsibility for data collection is shared among the Project Director, Co-Principal Investigators, project staff, campus Team Leaders, campus Evaluation Liaisons, Center Directors, and NCISE external evaluators. Analysis of both qualitative and quantitative data is done mostly by the NCISE external evaluators.


[1]      National Science Foundation, Division of Undergraduate Education. (1996). Teacher preparation awards: NSF collaboratives for excellence in teacher preparation awards. NSF 96-146. Arlington, VA: Author.

[2]       National Research Council, Committee on Undergraduate Science Education. (1999). Transforming undergraduate education in science, mathematics, engineering, and technology. http://www.nap.edu/catalog/6453.html

[3]       National Research Council, Committee on Undergraduate Science Education. (2001). Educating teachers of science, mathematics, and technology: New practices for the new millennium. http://www.nap.edu/catalog/9832.html

[4]       National Science Foundation, Division of Undergraduate Education. (1998). Investing in tomorrow’s teachers: The integral role of two-year colleges in the science and mathematics preparation of prospective teachers. NSF 99-49. Arlington, VA: Author.

Web sites

Slippery Rock University Center for Mathematics, Science, and Technology Education http://www.sru.edu/depts/cmste/

The East Stroudsburg University MaSTER Center (Math, Science and Technology  Educational Resource Center)


The Bloomsburg University Mathematics and Science Learning Center  http://orgs.bloomu.edu/msc/index.html

Electronic Collaborative for Excellence in the Preparation of Teachers http://www.ecept.net/

Patsy Ann Johnson is a Professor at Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania in the Department of Secondary Education/Foundations of Education and is the Director of SRU's Center for Mathematics, Science, and Technology Education. She serves as a Co-PI and Western Coordinator of CETP-PA. She teaches courses offered by the Department of Chemistry and Physics. She was a high school teacher of physics and mathematics.

P. James Moser is a Professor and Chair in the Department of Physics and Engineering Technology at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania. He serves as a Co-PI and Eastern Coordinator of CETP-PA. Previously, he worked as an electrical engineer and as a government analyst.

Robert A. Cohen is an Associate Professor of Physics at East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania and is the Director of ESU's Math, Science and Technology Education Resource Center. He teaches a secondary science methods course. His research is on the structure of winter storms.

Joan E. Mackin is an Assistant Professor at East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania in the Department of Professional and Secondary Education. She was a teacher of physics, physical science, and mathematics; a science department chairperson; and a science coordinator in K-12 school districts.