Aspiring math and science teachers at the university will now have better access to state-of-the-art instructional tools to promote higher-level thinking in the classroom, thanks to a new home for the VolsTeach program.
VolsTeach, which prepares math and science majors to become teachers in Tennessee’s high-need middle and high schools, moved into a new space last month. The program has been recognized statewide for helping to solve one of the state’s most vital education problems.
The transition from one room to the entire first floor of Greve Hall means new classrooms and an instructional materials library with such tools as TI-Nspire calculators and Vernier LabQuest probes, which students can use to collect, measure, graph, and analyze data as part of their classroom activities.
The tools will be instrumental in teaching K-12 students science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) principles.
“UT students are being taught to use the inquiry-based method of instruction, so that (K-12) students are asking questions and using tools to get an in-depth understanding of these principles,” said Susan Newsom, VolsTeach assistant director. “It’s not just about memorizing and moving on. This is deep, meaningful teaching our students are conducting.”
VolsTeach, which is housed in the Center for Enhancing Education in Mathematics and Sciences (CEEMS), will graduate its first class in spring 2013.
UT is playing a significant role in addressing the critical STEM workforce need in Tennessee, Chancellor Jimmy G. Cheek said.
“We’re proud of the work that is being done in the Center for Enhancing Education in Math and Science that involves VolsTeach and strengthening STEM disciplines,” he said. “On this campus, we have increased STEM discipline majors by 28 percent over the last six years. That’s phenomenal. This year, our College of Engineering has a 9 percent increase in their freshmen class. STEM is an area a lot of universities are losing majors in, and we’re gaining majors in those fields.”
More than 200 students have enrolled in VolsTeach since its implementation in fall 2010. It replicates UTeach, a proven model developed by the University of Texas, Austin. The program’s mission is to address the shortage of STEM teachers in middle and high schools.
The program, which targets undergraduate math, science, and engineering majors who may be interested in teaching, is a collaboration between UT’s College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences.
UT was the first VolsTeach site in Tennessee. There are now three others, including the University of Memphis, UT Chattanooga, and Middle Tennessee State University.
“Between now and 2018, there will be 109,000 open STEM jobs open in Tennessee, which far outweighs other fields,” said Richard Rhoda, THEC executive director. “Nationwide, the demand for STEM fields is expected to grow four times the rate of other occupational fields. So, when I am asked what the Tennessee Higher Education Commission is doing to address this issue, one of the programs I always highlight is the VolsTeach program.”
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