Augsburg College was recently selected as a partner in the Minnesota Mathematics and Science Teacher Academy initiative. According to the Minnesota Department of Education, the Academy is a result of Governor Pawlenty’s efforts to improve teacher effectiveness particularly in the areas of math and science.
The Academy is comprised of nine regional teacher centers, each including at least one K-12 school district or education service cooperative and one higher education institution. Augsburg is partnering with Resource Training & Solutions in St. Cloud to provide training for 19 districts in Region 7. Approximately 140 teachers will participate in the program, which begins with a summer institute to be held August 11-15, 2008 at Apollo High School in St. Cloud.
Rebecca Koelln ’76 and ’91 MAL is the director of school improvement services at Resource Training & Solutions. She is excited to be working with Augsburg math professors Tracy Bibelnieks and Matt Haines as well as Education professor Linda Stevens to conduct the training for the St. Cloud area. Koelln sees the program as a way for teachers to expand their content knowledge and to refine pedagogical approaches that promote student engagement. She also hopes students will become interested in studying math and the sciences after high school.
The initial goal of the program is to prepare teachers to implement new math and science standards, which will be used beginning with the class of 2015. These standards involve introducing algebra into elementary school lessons. The centers provide training and technical assistance to help teachers implement Minnesota’s content standards, master the use of multiple instructional approaches, and improve skills to diagnose student learning needs using assessment of student performance.
Throughout the year, training will provide a continued focus on algebraic thinking with teachers involved in ongoing professional learning communities, full-day workshops, and implementation of new instructional practice. All of the activities are geared toward providing resources for teachers as they prepare their students for taking algebra in the eighth grade.
The topic for the math in-service is algebraic thinking, a recent addition in the elementary and middle school math curriculum. Leading this program gives the Augsburg faculty an opportunity to learn more about recent research on the development of children’s algebraic thinking. Stevens said, “We can then use this information in our mathematics content and methods courses for Augsburg’s students to prepare them for their future as teachers.”
Bibelnieks said, “One of the powerful pieces of the Academy is the opportunity for ‘algebra’ to become a term that no longer strikes fear into the heart of some parents and many students.” She added that the elementary mathematics curriculum includes algebraic thinking, but teachers and students don’t often recognize the skills as related to what they experience in middle school or high school as algebra. “Identifying and making algebraic thinking explicit to students can help them see the connections to what they are doing in the lower and upper primary grades and what they will do later,” she said.
“I’m not sure that you would see a significant difference if you sat in on a math class before and after the academy,” Bibelnieks added. “The mathematics content isn’t going to change. The language of the instruction, however, will be a bit different. Stevens added, “Our intent is to help the teachers recognize that deep understanding occurs when the learners are actively engaged. We will be modeling and discussion effective lesson plan structures that encourage students to develop mathematical thinking and will focus on a classroom environment that encourages students to problem solve and discuss their thinking process.”
One anticipated outcome from the learning communities is continued and sustained professional development for teachers within a school or a district. During the school year teachers will be encouraged to form teams as they prepare and study their teaching. Stevens said, “United States teachers have limited time to collaborate with others about their teaching. The principals of the teachers attending this course have committed time during the school day for the teachers to discuss the instruction and the students’ understanding.