An Evolution of Collaboratives within a University:
A Conversation among Colleagues
The University of Akron
The Context: Four colleagues at The University of Akron (UA) have just finished conducting a two day grant-funded (1) workshop on inquiry teaching and learning. With over 70 faculty members from 14 postsecondary institutions in NE Ohio in attendance, the workshop begins a regional cross-institution collaboration for UA, modeled after the cross-colleges collaboration already in place at UA. The four colleagues, catalysts for bringing about these collaborative efforts, are recalling the past and looking to the future. These colleagues are Education faculty members, assistant professors, Fred and Karen and Arts & Sciences faculty members, professor Anna and associate professor, Daniel. Listening to their discussion is Sagredo, a colleague from Michigan who is a knowledgeable impartial referee as in Galileo's dialectic discourses (Hofstadter, 1989).
Karen: I'm overwhelmed by the number of faculty who came to this workshop. Not only did we have a great turn out by UA faculty, but we also had more people than I expected from our neighboring colleges. Did you know that several participants had to stay overnight near here in order to come back today? I'm thinking of how far we've come in the four years that I've been at UA. Even two years ago this event could never have taken place.
Fred: You're right, Karen! You know how all this got started, don't you? I think it all got off the ground with the phase 2 grant, Project TEAMS (Teacher Education at Akron for Mathematics and Science) and those 'brown bag' luncheons.
Sagredo: Who funded these projects anyway?
Fred: Both the TEAMS project and this current project we call TIMS (Teaching Inquiry in Mathematics and Science) (http://www.uakron.edu.tims/) were funded by the Ohio Board of Regents, Project Discovery ' SUSTAIN (http://www.discovery.k12.oh.us/SUSTAIN/sustain.html). Project SUSTAIN (Schools and Universities Statewide Teaching Approaches to INquiry) is a multi-year effort initiated in the fall of 1996, sponsored by the State University Education Deans, and funded through OSI-Discovery to foster collaboration among institutions of higher education, urban school systems, and Professional Development Centers across the state of Ohio. The purpose of SUSTAIN is to expand and institutionalize reform efforts initiated by Project Discovery, Ohio's five-year NSF-funded Statewide Systemic Initiative (SSI) to improve the teaching and learning of mathematics and science in the middle grades.
Daniel: The 'brown bag' lunches - you mean those luncheons I never attended. I remember tossing the announcements in the 'round file'.
Anna: Well, Daniel, we had three or four of them and I told you about them, but you kept telling me that it was 'touchy-feely education-stuff' and wasn't for you! Those meals weren't bag lunches either. How nice it was to get away from my desk, to have a sit down meal with linens and real china, to meet interesting people, and to discuss science, science education, and teaching topics.
Sagredo: The National Research Council does not only support funding programs between scientist and science teachers, but also fund[ing] programs that eliminate barriers to and stimulate cooperation between science and teacher-education departments at colleges and universities" (National Research Council, (NRC), 1996b, p.8)
Fred: Remember that first luncheon when we invited the state science supervisor, local K-12 educators and administrators, university deans, and faculty from arts & sciences, education, and engineering. I think we had almost 40 people there. We discussed national standards and how these impact what we do in our teaching at the university.
Karen: And they kept coming back! We had nearly 40 people at all the luncheons. We made name tags for everyone who said they were coming, then we placed these around the tables so that people sat with folks they probably didn't know. I think that small thing contributed a great deal to the 'making connections' piece.
Fred: I think it made a big impact when we had Frank (Griffin, retired UA professor, physics) and Antonio (Quesada, UA professor, math) make presentations about inquiry teaching and the TIMSS (Third International Mathematics and Science Study) project. After all, they're not 'education folks', yet they were talking very knowledgeably and persuasively about education-related issues. They had a long history at the university and were well-respected. And not only were they talking, but they also were doing inquiry-based instruction in their classes.
Karen: What really made a difference is that so many UA administrators came to those luncheons. When they showed their willingness to participate, it gave the luncheons more credibility so more faculty got more involved.
Fred: If you recall, one of the reasons so many administrators came was that we coordinated the date and time of the luncheons to coincide with their calendars. The deans' secretaries really helped with that one!
Anna: I remember coming away from those luncheons wondering how all of the education-stuff really applied to me. Then I started reading some of the books (see references for a list) and articles you gave us and it all started to make sense.
Karen: Wasn't it around this time that the four deans (arts & sciences, education, engineering, and fine & applied arts) decided to form their task force for teacher education? I think the deans always talked about teacher preparation issues, but this task force has them getting together on a regular basis and puts teacher education near the top of their lists of priorities. I think it was at the fourth luncheon that we asked the deans to tell us how they viewed teacher preparation at UA and to listen to some of our concerns.
Fred: I've been impressed at the interest in teacher preparation by the College of Engineering. They don't teach courses for our teacher preparation programs, but they stay 'in the loop', I think, because our discussions about inquiry and assessment are important issues for anyone who teaches any discipline.
Sagredo: "University administrators in research universities, comprehensive colleges, liberal-art colleges, and community college should support K-12 teachers' professional development by providing incentives for faculty to be involve in K-12 science education by recognizing faculty involvement in teacher professional development, rewards through promotion and tenure decisions, and recognition of professional development as a legitimate teaching activity of university science faculty, examining undergraduate science teaching to see whether their institution is preparing future science teachers effectively, promoting cooperation between science departments and schools of
education to improve science education at all levels. " (NRC, 1996b, p. 53-54).
Anna: It was also around this time that I was asked to help with SEI's (Summit Education Initiative; a countywide K-12 partnerships of school districts, community leaders, and postsecondary educators (http://www.seisummit.org/) standards' project. I helped write the science standards they are advocating for all schools in this area. Having been introduced to the national standards at the luncheons helped a lot with that project.
Sagredo: Fulfilling the Promise: Biology Education in the Nation's Schools (1990) suggested that scientist become leaders in the larger scientific community especially to promote science education reform "as both guide and goad, both resource and participant" (p. 103).
Anna: I'd always been aware that what I teach and how I teach it in my undergraduate classes has an impact on all students but especially on those students who may be teachers some day. But before that I had no idea what was taught at the K-12 level and what the specific needs of future teachers were. That's when I looked at all my syllabi and matched up what I teach to the National Science Education Standards (http://www.nap.edu/readingroom/books/nses/html/)
Fred: Maybe our 'chautauqua' gave you some help with this activity, too.
Daniel: Is that the three-day workshop you had in June, '99? I couldn't attend that because Rich (Londraville, UA assistant professor, Biology), Peter (Niewiarowski, UA assistant professor, Biology), and I were attending the FIRST (Faculty Institutes for Reforming Science Teaching (http://darkwing.uoregon.edu/~first/) workshop at Murray State's field station (http://www.murraystate.edu/qacd/cos/hbs/hbsfirst/first.htm). I wasn't so sure about going to that either ' more education-stuff, but Rich and Peter needed a third member for their team and I couldn't let them down. When I got there and got hooked on the importance and the fun of teaching in an inquiry-based way, I eventually made some major transformations in my teaching. Diane Ebert-May really got us fired up, but the conversion of my teaching practices came after much skepticism.
Sagredo: You mean my fellow Michigander at Michigan State University, the director of the Lyman Briggs School?
Daniel: One and the same!
Anna: You know that chautauqua gave us some important information and some time to discuss with colleagues, to reflect on our readings, and to experience inquiry-based lessons. We never could have done all that in one-hour luncheon conversations. Ginny (Anderson from Towson University, director of National Science Foundation-funded, Reciprocal Science Success Project; (http://www.towson.edu/) got us thinking about assessment of inquiry and learning in our undergraduate courses. You gave us a copy of her book and several other books (see book list). I was getting quite a library!
Karen: Well, Anna, that library was contributing to our underlying motive to give you the tools you'd need to develop or revise one of your courses to meet Ohio's new licensure guidelines (http://www.ode.state.oh.us/tp/cld.htm) for our prospective middle school teachers.
Sagredo: I am wondering what are those new licensure rules for Ohio?
Karen: Licensure is a bit different from our certification rules. Beginning in 2002, all graduates of teacher education programs in Ohio will be licensed in one of three ways. There's the early childhood license for teachers of children age 3 through grade 3. And the middle grades license for grades 4 ' 9 requires two areas of specialization from among mathematics, science, social studies, and reading/language arts. There's also adolescent/young adult, the subject specific license to teach grades 7 ' 12. Courses for those seeking licensure to teach science and/or mathematics in middle grades needed to be developed in 1999 in order to be taught in 2000. So, we needed new courses developed and we figured while we were working on those, we could also have faculty look at existing courses and revise them as needed, linking the content to national standards and modeling for our students standards-based teaching.
Fred: We gained two new courses (Math for Elementary and Middle School Teachers, Part 2 and Field/Lab Studies in Environmental Science) plus the revision of four courses (Physics by Inquiry, Astronomy by Inquiry, Principles of Biology I and Principles of Biology II) from that program. Having the grant that provided summer salary to support the faculty helped a lot. That was a busy summer!
Sagredo: How did you get all of this done?
Karen: Fred and I mentored faculty through the course development process. We provided the A&S faculty with NCATE (National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education) (http://www.ncate.org/) and OBR (Ohio Board of Regents) (http://regents.state.oh.us/) guidelines for content courses to be taught to our preservice teachers. We performed an internal review of each course to be sure that state, national, and teacher education standards were met and that the courses had appropriate content, to be taught with inquiry-based methods. A&S faculty sought and obtained any necessary department and/or college approval to get these courses 'on the books'.
Daniel: Rich, Peter and I were busy wondering how we could incorporate some of the FIRST materials into our courses. I guess somehow, I shared all this with Anna and she introduced me to you education folks.
Anna: You remember how I first started hanging out with you folks, don't you? When he first came to UA, Fred had come to my office to introduce himself and I was so busy with other stuff I never got around to following up on his invitation to get together sometime. Then a few months afterwards, they (maintenance) started renovating the restrooms in my building. So the restrooms were closed and I was forced to use the ones in your (College of Education) building. I had to walk right by Fred' office at least twice a day, and eventually we started talking. The rest is history!
Fred: So it was inevitable that 'your needs' got us together!
Anna: I'm thinking back to that summer. I'll say it was a busy one! I was developing the new course and that's also when I was getting one of my new activities ready to present in workshop format to the middle school teachers.
Karen: Yes, we figured that a good way for you to see if the content and style of your teaching were appropriate for our preservice teachers was to field test a lesson on a group of inservice teachers.
Anna: That's the workshop I did at the Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Center (http://www.cveec.org/) where we did sampling and measuring techniques to gather forest data. Those middle school teachers were a fun group. Fred, didn't you have a couple more of these workshops?
Fred: Yes, we had one in physics and one in astronomy.
Sagredo: Anna you were engaging in inquiry about teaching. Kkuerbis and Kester (2001) developed a professional development model in which "teachers become their own source for growth, in this case carefully nurtured by the faculty" (p.117). You were actively making sense of teaching and modeling active learning in science and pedagogy.
Daniel: Don't forget the time that Diane (Ebert-May) came to do her FIRST follow-up visit and we had the late afternoon workshop for the high school teachers. I think that was the first time many of us got to interact with high school teachers since we graduated from high school. I remember how surprised they were when we showed them how our teaching is changing from what they remembered about the science classes they took at the university. Too often they told us they were taught with boring lectures 'covering' forgettable content and assessed by memorization-heavy tests. When they got to experience the kind of lesson (Diane conducted an inquiry lesson using termites) we are now incorporating, they were very pleased. I assured them that 'things are changing'.
Sagredo: At this point, I will only quote the National Science Education Standards, "For all teachers, undergraduate science courses are a major factor in defining what science content is learned. Those courses also provide models for how science should be taught'.Because of the crucial role of such courses, reform in the content and teaching of undergraduate science is imperative" (NRC, 1996a, p. 60-61).
Karen: You know our efforts were really supported and strengthened by UA's emphasis on teaching.
Sagredo: Well, aren't all universities emphasizing 'teaching'?
Anna: Oh, it's more than just saying we do good teaching here, Sagredo. In 1999, the university held campus-wide discussion groups on the scholarship of teaching ' see references. Now in 2001, the university has established the Carnegie Academy for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (http://www.uakron.edu/teaching/) and we've just hired a vice-president to direct this effort.
Daniel: I think UA's joining the Project 30 Alliance (http://www.project30.org/main.htm) has had an impact, too.
Sagredo: I've never heard of Project 30 Alliance. What's that?
Daniel: UA became part the Project 30 Alliance, in 2000. It's a consortium of public and private universities and colleges. Project 30 Alliance focuses on the interrelationship of arts and sciences colleges and colleges of education and discusses the best ways to prepare teachers.
Fred: That reminds me of all of the presentations we've made about our collaborative activities. Karen and I presented at AETS (Association for the Education of Teachers in Science (http://www.aets.unr.edu/), at NSTA (National Science Teachers' Association (http://www.nsta.org/), and at Ball State's Conference in Teaching (http://web.bsu.edu/tlat/).
Anna: Karen and I did a poster session at the PKAL Project Kaleidoscope (http://www.pkal.org/) conference last summer.
Daniel: We shouldn't forget the Project 30 poster session/discussion in Toronto last fall. Several of our administrators were present for that session and heard the comments of others in the audience who told us how far ahead of their institutions UA was in its collaborative activities. Did that ever impress our deans!
Karen: You know last summer (2000) we did some work that wasn't directly related to our phase 2 and 3 grants. Several of us received Ohio Board of Regents, Title II grants to revise undergraduate courses, especially those for teachers, in math and science. Education faculty had to work together with A&S faculty to get the money and to get the job done.
Daniel: That's right, Karen, UA had three of those grants; one in astronomy, one in earth science, and one in statistics. It was my earth science course project that got us planning for the CCLI (Course-Curriculum Laboratory Improvement) National Science Foundation grant.
Fred: Isn't it interesting how one project leads to another? Like TEAMS led us to Project TIMS (Teaching Inquiry in Mathematics and Science).
Sagredo: So what does the TIMS (http://www.uakron.edu/tims) project hope to accomplish?
Fred: Project TIMS will support discussions about inquiry-based teaching at private four-year colleges and two-year colleges throughout northeast Ohio. With monies from our grant, we'll be helping to implement UA's model of collaborative dialogue and reform of undergraduate course teaching at seven satellite sites. This workshop on inquiry teaching and learning began this outreach. In the future TIMS activities will include seminars held at UA and on the campuses of partnering institutions.
Karen: Wow! I think we've come to the end of our story ' or maybe it's just the beginning.
Anna: Yes, we've got a lot of tasks yet to be done.
Fred: You're right, Anna. Project assessment and dissemination are two things we'll continue to do. And don't forget about our development of an instrument to ascertain faculty perceptions of inquiry. We'll be working on establishing reliability and validity of that survey.
Sagredo: Maybe this is the time you need to look at the assessment of what you are doing, You need to ask the tough questions: "What are my students able to do? And what do my students know?' (Loucks-Horsley, Hewson, Love, & Stiles, 1998; NRC, 1996a). You have been doing all this talk about what you do, but assessment is the key.
Anna: Speaking of assessment, I'm looking at the workshop evaluations for these past two days. Over and over I'm seeing comments like, 'give us more help with assessing our students' learning'. Perhaps the topic of one of our next workshops should be 'assessment'. Maybe we could bring in a speaker and have breakout sessions by subject discipline?
Daniel: And we should look beyond this project way ahead into the future. Our college's dean told me that he and the Education dean have been talking about establishing a new department on campus. This department would focus on inquiry into teaching and learning. Members of the department would be faculty, like us, from Arts & Sciences and Education who would collaborate to teach courses, do research, write proposals, carry out projects, and perform service.
Sagredo: These are really exciting times at The University of Akron!
Readers wishing more information about collaboratives at The University of Akron should contact:
|Drs. Francis Broadway & Kathie Owens
||Drs. Annabelle Foos & David McConnell
|Curricular & Instructional Studies||Department of Geology|
|The University of Akron||The University of Akron|
|130 Zook Hall||113 Crouse Hall|
|The University of Akron, Akron, OH 44325-4101||The University of Akron, Akron, OH 44325-4101|
Hofstadter, D. R. (1989). Forward. In J. M. Jauch Are Quata Real?: A
Galilean Dialogue. Bloomington IN: Indiana University Press.
Loucks-Horsley, S., Hewson, P. W., Love, N., & Stiles, K. E. (1998). Designing professional development for teachers of science and mathematics. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press, Inc.
National Research Council (1996a). National Science Education Standards. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.
National Research Council (1996b), The role of scientists in the professional development of science teachers. Washington, DC: National Academy Press
Rhoton, J., & Bowers, P. (Eds.). 2001. Professional development: Planning and design. Arlington, VA: National Science Teachers Association.
Back to the EJSE