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Teachers in Industry: Professional Growth

Dubner (2006) reviewed 60 different programs and reported that investing in support for improving teacher proficiency was the most cost effective way to increase student achievement.  Few studies have investigated systematic educational changes to assess their impact on student performance.  One study showed that students of teachers participating in science internships outperformed control classrooms on standardized tests after teachers had participated for more than one summer (Silverstein, et al, 2009). Other studies, reported in “Real World Experiences” (2006), demonstrate that the students of science teachers who participated in summer real-world experiences performed much better on tests of scientific reasoning than students of teachers who did not.  Little is known about how students of teachers who are in industry partnerships are impacted and this is one place that we hope to add to the literature.  Specifically, we will be assessing how students of teachers in Teachers in Industry change their attitudes towards STEM content and STEM careers

Table 1: Identified Benefits for teachers documented in the literature.

Teacher Benefits Authorship
  •  Teachers gained enhanced management, organization, interpersonal and communication skills 
  • Teachers gained a true perspective of how education fits into industry (outside view of education)
  • Teachers gained a  boost in morale 
  • Teachers gained a boost in  confidence that they could work outside of the teaching profession
  • Teachers gained problem solving skills and ideas to address big issues 
  • Teachers reflected on and questioned effectiveness of school professional developments  
Ball et al. 1995
  • Teachers enhanced relevance by using resources from industry – raw materials, wall charts, films, videos
  • Teachers regarded industry-education work as important but not so important in initial training (during student teaching)  
Bloomer 2006  
  •  Teachers got away from school routine and  came back with a fresh outlook and mindset    
  •  Teachers gained “real world experience” and deepened their subject-matter knowledge as one way to better equip students to compete globally 
  • 2/3rds of teachers improved their content knowledge and better integrated technology    
  • Mid-career teachers were effectively retained in the profession
  • Teachers were exposed to knowledge in their externship that they would not have gained otherwise  
Real World Experience 2006
  • Teachers valued their science work experience and it led to increased retention Teachers gained hands-on experience in the practice of basic and applied science 
  • Teachers gained familiarity with new materials and equipment 
  • Teachers learned a ‘great extent’ about the application of science, mathematics, and technology in everyday life and current issues in mathematics and science  
Silverstein (2012)   RET program

 

The literature clearly supports the premise behind Teachers in Industry that real-world  experience coupled with quality professional development enhances and improves the teaching of mathematics and science.  The teachers deepen subject-matter knowledge, become familiar with current practices, get an added boost in morale, and establish connections between workplace and school.  An additional benefit is the importance of becoming familiar not just with the materials and equipment but learning how new technologies are being used in the industry.  Furthermore, the internships provide a foundation for strong inquiry-based lessons and enhancing student problem-solving skills to address current issues.  As cited in the literature, these changes have a direct correlation with the internship experience.  If teachers do not have industry experience, they will find it difficult to build authentic lessons that center on relevant and up to date issues and create interdisciplinary project based learning opportunities. Finally, in the few studies that investigated student impact, greater student achievement occurred during the second year of participation in a program, thus underlying the importance of teachers’ participation in programs for multiple years (Silverstein et al., 2009).

 

To ensure that students learn 21st century skills, we need to change the current school experience to reflect workplace skills and practices.  To help students make “real world” connections, teachers need help reforming their instruction in the classroom.  Teachers in Industry participants achieve this through designated Problem Based Learning (PBL) activities.  We make regular classroom visits and provide feedback to our participating teachers using the Reformed Teaching Observation Protocol (RTOP) instrument. Our work with teachers exemplifies the philosophy of learning underlying Teachers in Industry, which is consistent with the Core Curriculum Mathematics Standards, the Next Generation Science Standards, and the ISTE Standards for Technology Education.  These sets of standards promote student engagement in authentic practices that emphasize core skills as well as content in preparing students for future careers.