Teachers in Industry is an intensive real-world program aimed at a select group of early and mid-career STEM teachers. As a key program of the newly formed University of Arizona STEM Learning Center, Teachers in Industry includes features that are essential for successful retention of new teachers. It is long-term, combines the best practices of teaching and learning with the expertise of the business and research community, creates a community of practice that will support teachers, and helps classroom teachers build their expertise in content and delivery of science, mathematics and technology skills within the 21st Century Skills Framework, consistent with a reformed teaching environment.
The purpose of Teachers in Industry is to provide professional development, real-world industry work experiences, and networking both to increase the retention of STEM teachers and to improve STEM teaching and learning. Teachers in Industry achieves its goals by offering teachers a combination of paid summer work experiences in Arizona STEM businesses and industries combined with coursework that leads either to a Master’s Degree in Teaching and Teacher Education or professional development credits, depending on the individual teacher’s needs. In addition to the summer classes, teachers in the Master’s option also take one course in their content area each semester, leading to increased content knowledge.
Teachers in Industry has been operating successfully since 2009. We initially tracked the progress of our teachers towards increasing expertise within the reformed teaching environment by conducting regularly scheduled classroom observations using the Reformed Teaching Observation Protocol (RTOP) instrument, and now we have expanded to pre-post surveys of teachers and their students. We have a retention rate of 93% over the lifetime of the program among teachers who have completed at least one summer with us, and in addition our teachers demonstrate significant changes in classroom practice, moving away from traditional teacher-centered approaches towards learner-centered classroom instruction and building student proficiencies not only in content but also in skills such as problem solving and collaboration with an emphasis on real world applications.
Teachers in Industry is gathering data on the interest of middle- and high-school students on STEM careers. We are interested in the effects our teachers are having in this area, when compared to teachers who have not participated in our programs, and our early analysis shows that students benefit by gaining a better understanding of STEM careers available to them, learning how businesses use 21st Century skills, engaging in critical thinking,collaboration, problem solving and creativity intheir classroom. In addition, we are finding that their teacher’s experience in an industry workplace is motivating students to learn.