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African American Initiative for MathScience

By Phyllis Cruz,2014-11-26 11:37
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African American Initiative for MathScience

Mihaela Poplicher

    University of Cincinnati

    Mihaela.Poplicher@uc.edu

    513-556-1223

    African American Initiative for Math/Science

    (Abstract)

This is a paper intended for the Study’s Strand I: Teacher Preparation

    Programs and the Early Years of Teaching, specifically for:

    ; Structure of teacher preparation; and

    ; Recruitment and retention.

    The African American Initiative for Math/Science (AAIMS) is a model five-year program that will provide full tuition through graduation for 25 qualifying University of Cincinnati students entering the College of Education in the Fall 2004.

    This initiative was proposed based on research on attracting and retaining qualified African American teachers in the urban schools. This research suggests teachers who come from similar socio-economic backgrounds as their students are more likely to stay in the teaching profession, and are also more likely to continue teaching in the inner city.

    This paper intends to describe this initiative whose four key goals are:

    a) Improve math and science education for African American children in

    urban schools;

    b) Increase the number of African American math and science teachers

    in urban schools;

    c) Develop a model teacher preparation program addressing the above

    needs;

    d) Increase retention of African American students in the teacher

    preparation program and in teaching jobs in urban schools.

    The last part of the paper focuses on one of the most important parts of this program: cooperative learning.

    African American Initiative for Math/Science (AAIMS)

    This is a paper intended for the Study’s Strand I: Teacher Preparation Programs and the Early Years of Teaching.

I) General Presentation of the AAIMS

    The African American Initiative for Math/Science (AAIMS) is a model five-year program that will provide full tuition through graduation for 25 qualifying University of Cincinnati (UC) students entering the College of Education in the Fall 2004.

    This initiative was proposed based on research on attracting and retaining qualified African American teachers in the urban schools. This research suggests teachers who come from similar socio-economic backgrounds as their students are more likely to stay in the teaching profession, and are also more likely to continue teaching in the inner city. That’s because they are

    already familiar with the cultural environment in urban school systems and the challenges they face. This is very important considering that national figures suggest that 50 percent of all new teachers in urban schools leave the profession within the first five years of teaching.

    The initiative is meant to achieve four key goals:

    e) Improve math and science education for African American children in

    urban schools, primarily children in grades 7 through 12;

    f) Increase the number of African American math and science teachers

    in urban schools;

    g) Develop a model teacher preparation program addressing the above

    needs;

    h) Increase retention of African American students in the teacher

    preparation program and in teaching jobs in urban schools.

    This program is supported in part by a donation of $500,000 made by Toyota Motor Manufacturing, North America. This gift helped start this program. The University of Cincinnati and faculty from several colleges within the university are working in the program.

    The applicants (a total of 95 students) came from urban schools in Ohio: Cincinnati, Covington, Dayton, Columbus, and Cleveland. Of these students, 25 were selected for the program on the basis of the following demonstrated achievements:

    ; Three years of high school mathematics;

    ; Two years of high school science;

    ; Leadership;

    ; A rank in the top half of their graduating high school class;

    ; A minimum of 850 on their SAT.

    The effectiveness of the program will be measured by the number of students who graduate and take teaching jobs in urban schools. After graduation, the College of Education will stay in contact with these new graduates to determine how long they remain in teaching, specifically in the inner city. Upon graduation, the students may select any urban school system across the country to begin their careers. We hope that they will stay on the job for at least five years.

This initiative has been conceived as a “three-tiered program”, with the UC

    College of Education combining its resources in preparing highly qualified teachers with a College of Engineering program, the UC Emerging Ethnic

    3Engineers (E) Program to retain minorities in engineering fields, and with the UC College of Arts and Sciences. The three tiers are:

    ; Tier One: Students admitted to the African American Initiative for

    3EMath/Science (AAIMS) attended the Summer Bridge Program

    June 20-July 30, 2004. This intensive program, including study in

    English, physics, chemistry, pre-calculus, and calculus, prepared the

    students for freshman mathematics and science courses. The

    students lived in the residence halls, and had a day-long program

    from 9am to 8pm. Their schedule included many cooperative

    learning sessions and study hours.

    ; Tier Two: During the 5-year program, students will complete a

    curriculum that will fulfill the requirements to graduate, include

    intensive study in mathematics and science, and earn State of Ohio

    teacher certification. During their first year in the program, the

    3Estudents are taking courses and interacting with engineering

    3Estudents in the program.

    ; Tier Three: AAIMS is designed to provide financial, academic and

    emotional support to keep students on track toward becoming

    teachers in the urban schools. Daily and weekly support activities,

    regular conferences with UC faculty and student advisors, mentoring

    by upperclassmen, and participation in other informal discussion

    groups is meant to build on their success.

    The students are strongly encouraged to fulfill all the expectations:

    1. Register for and participate in all AAIMS academic enhancement

    courses, group study sessions and follow the AAIMS class schedules

    as defined by Program Coordinators;

    2. Attend all classes on a regular basis;

    3. Attend all Cooperative Learning Classes;

    4. Attend all study sessions;

    5. Meet with all instructors of their classes during their regularly

    scheduled office hours a minimum of five hours during each academic

    quarter with the first meeting taking place not later than the end of the

    first week of each quarter;

    6. Complete and turn in a progress report (a minimum of two per course)

    by the eighth week of each academic quarter;

    7. Meet with their Program Advisor and Department Program

    Coordinator at least once during the quarter;

    8. Attend all AAIMS monthly activities;

    9. Meet with the AAIMS Program Coordinator after each academic

    quarter;

    10. Complete an AAIMS information form and update this form when

    necessary;

    11. Respond to all requests for information from the AAIMS Program, the

    College of Education and the University expeditiously;

    12. Inform the AAIMS Program Coordinator of any academic and/or

    personal circumstances that may affect their status in the College of

    Education.

    II) Cooperative Learning Teaching as One of the Main Features of AAIMS

    As described above, the students going through this program have to satisfy a broad range of expectations. Their daily schedule includes as main components: regular classes, independent study sessions, and cooperative learning sessions (seminars). The most uniqueand, I venture to say, also

    the most beneficial for the studentsis the cooperative learning part. All the

    undergraduate students have regular classes, many of them participate in study sessions, but most of them do not have the cooperative learning session as an extra opportunity to clarify, deepen and apply their knowledge. In our AAIMS program the cooperative learning seminars are intended to help students with a certain course they take. The cooperative learning meetings are scheduled in the afternoon, the same day as the students have the class in the morning. I am responsible for such a cooperative learning

    seminar linked to an Introductory Statistics sequence of three one-quarter courses. Both the students and I appreciate very much the opportunity to work together, in groups of 4-5 students, on problems (sometimes not directly related with their class work.)

    We have a less rigid group structure and usually do not assign specific roles to group members, as the students are quite responsible and motivated. Our groups provide an open, friendly environment, where the students have an opportunity to develop their skills through the helpful support of the group and the facilitator (me!) The meeting room is large enough for me (the facilitator) to move unobstructed among the groups, and has moveable chairs with attached desks.

    The main benefit of cooperative learning is that the students take an active role in learning. I lecture very rarely, and even than the lectures are as interactive and short as possible so that the students spend the majority of their time doing activities/problems. Grading and final grade are based more on presentations and observation of the students at work within the group, rather than on tests and quizzes. Most of the time the students do not have extra homework for the cooperative learning sessions, but are strongly encouraged to raise any questions they have about their regular class-homework. We do not work out that homework, but we discuss similar or helpful problems. Many times, as facilitator, I change my original plan for the cooperative learning seminar based on students’ questions. Observing

    their group-work sometimes I discover that the students have confusions or misconceptions, I try to address and clarify those immediately. It has been (not only) my experience to notice that students do not learn enough when they are passive during lectures and they easily lose attention. However, since our students know that they will soon meet for the cooperative learning session where they will be required to do activities/problems based on the material presented in lecture, they pay more attention and they ask more questions. Once the students do the cooperative learning seminar, they become more familiar with the subject, the language of the subject and the thought process involved, so subsequent lecturing is more effective. In effect, through the cooperative learning process, the students quickly absorb and understand the material. However, the students can just as quickly lose the understanding if they do not reinforce the material by doing the homework. It is this three-way connection between regular course, cooperative learning, and regular homework (aided by study sessions) that, we hope, will make our students succeed.

    It is imperative that the students understand that cooperative learning is not a substitute for individual study. Because students gain more understanding through cooperative activities, they might feel this is sufficient to succeed in a course. We view cooperative learning as an efficient, effective, interactive style of learning (not as a substitute for independent study and practice) through which students deepen their knowledge and check their individual understanding. To this end, we constantly remind our students the goals we have for our cooperative learning sessions:

    ; To gain higher achievement for the individual through group activities;

    ; To provide better understanding of course material through utilization

    and practice of the thought processes and skills involved in a subject;

    ; To provide a vital, interactive, friendly environment for learning

    through group interactions during activities;

    ; To improve and better understand the cooperative behavior and skills

    necessary in virtually all aspects of students’ life.

    In planning the sessions I constantly keep in mind that cooperative skills are motivated by a clear understanding of the goals of cooperative learning. A clear understanding is gained through participation in the cooperative process. The students realize that their individual understanding and achievement is aided by group understanding and achievement, which is obtained through cooperative and productive group participation and interactions. Students are learning to utilize their group members as “resources” and view themselves as a “resource”…and the facilitator as “one of the last resources”. Since these “resources” are people, an open, positive,

    and helpful attitude for each group member is necessary. It was not hard for us to achieve this, due to the fact that our students spend most of their time together: they take the same courses, they have the same activities, they live in the same residence hall, and they eat in the same cafeteria…they are more than siblings! An important consequence of cooperative behavior during group activities is that the students come to realize that cooperative behavior and skills are essential and practical in virtually all aspects of their everyday life…and they appreciate it!

    Our program is still very new, but so far we are happy with the results and we believe in the success of all our students.

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