It really is an art, and studying the art of teaching math and science is exactly what some schools are doing. This fall scientists from Western Washington University will run a research project to at a local elementary school to study how educators teach math and science.
With science and math a big piece of STEM learning it’s important to see if teaching focus makes a difference.
This study has been put in place to see if education specialists, those who specialize in one or two subjects, are more effective teachers than those who handle general education studies. So, are education specialists more effective?
The three-year project, funded by a $449,957 grant from the National Science Foundation, will compare math and science instruction models currently in place in the Anacortes, Bellingham, Burlington-Edison, Ferndale, Nooksack Valley and Sedro-Woolley districts.
Elementary school teachers have traditionally been generalists, teaching all subject areas to students in the same classroom.
“What’s challenging for elementary teachers with the traditional model is that they need to be experts in everything,” said Kimberly Markworth, principal investigator for the project and assistant professor of mathematics education at WWU.
Markworth has experience teaching fourth, fifth and eighth grades. Even at the elementary level, teaching several subjects can be complex, she said. But what happens when teachers focus on one or two subjects like STEM learning.
“It’s a really challenging model, especially with the emphasis on standards,” Markworth said. “It’s a lot to ask of them – planning to teach five subjects every day.”
Markworth will work with Chris Ohana, associate professor of elementary education in WWU’s Woodring College of Education, and Ruth Parker of the Mathematics Education Collaborative in Ferndale.