Impacts of graduate student content specialists serving in middle school classrooms on teachers and graduate students
Improving student achievement is a major concern across the United States. One strategy being implemented to help students achieve in math and science is the partnering of teachers with professionals in math and science careers. One such program is the Fellows Integrate Math/Science in Rural Middle Schools program, from which this research stems. The intent of the program was to match middle school teachers with graduate students preparing for careers in science, technology, mathematics, or engineering fields. The graduate students spent ten hours a week in classrooms, interacting with teachers and students. Improved student performance in math and science, improved teacher content knowledge, and improved graduate student communication skills were expected program outcomes. This research assessed the impact of program participation on the teachers and graduate students involved. Data were collected from 33 middle school teachers and 33 graduate students over the course of two years of program participation. Questionnaires included a pre post measurement of knowledge, experience, and comfort level with education related groups and issues and summative program evaluations. Major findings of the research included:
- Teacher knowledge, experience, and comfort levels with education related groups and issues did not change significantly because of participation in the program.
- Graduate students experienced a decrease in knowledge, experience, and comfort level with several education related groups and issues from the beginning of the school year to the end. Knowledge decreases were noted with the following groups and issues: a. High school students b. Teaching college students c. Theories of learning d. Planning a project e. Following through on project tasks Experience level decreases were noted with the following groups and issues: a. Science education reform b. Current issues in K-12 education c. Teaching college students d. Theories of learning e. Assessing student learning Comfort level decreases were noted with the following groups and issues: a. Elementary school students b. University faculty engaged in K-12 education c. Science education reform d. Teaching college students e. Theories of learning f. Evaluating educational activities
- Graduate student gender, race, and age were not found to be predictors of success in this partnership program.