The structure, operation and outcomes from the first two years of a focused Research Experience for Teachers (RET) site in the interdisciplinary STEM area of functional materials and their manufacturing are reported. Eleven research groups from the Functional Materials and Manufacturing Institute (FMMI) and sixteen STEM educators at various levels, including in-service high school teachers, community college faculty members, and pre-service teachers, have participated in this research experience over the first two years. The location of this RET site in the highly-equipped and instrumented FMMI, along with its focus on a single interdisciplinary research area, allowed participants to make substantial progress in functional materials research and curriculum development. Implementation of the site resulted in (a) facilitation of teachers’ research progress and lesson plan development via interrelated activities including an eight-week, common course on the fundamentals of materials science and engineering, weekly research meetings leading to brainstorming of ideas, feedback and support, and weekly lesson plan seminars and (b) a diverse and sustainable set of educational activities for translation to the home institutions of the teachers.
A major goal of any RET program is to create partnerships between the university site and participating schools that allow for translation of research experiences and new knowledge gained into classroom activities. We learnt that incorporation of lesson plans developed by the teachers into their existing courses is difficult--- there is little time to bring in new material because of demands to cover standards-based content that students need for their standardized tests. We also learnt that it is difficult because the underlying assumption, that the particular research experience each teacher engages in will fit the curriculum flow of the courses they teach in their home institution, is artificial. Rather, creative activities which are unique to their particular situation, but resulting from the research experience, were found to be the most suitable, sustainable and translatable outcomes of this RET program. By fostering an environment to conceive such outcomes, a diverse and useful set of activities resulted for translation to the home institutions of the teachers.
In this presentation, we summarize assessment results obtained from surveys of participants, report pre- and post-test scores for the Fundamentals of Materials Science and Engineering course, and provide a summary of translational activities resulting from participation in this site, including information on the number and diversity of students impacted from these activities.
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