Tarleton awarded $300,000 grant to test STEM distance learning
Tarleton State University
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, November 28, 2012
STEPHENVILLE, Texas—The Sid W. Richardson Foundation has awarded a $300,000 grant to Tarleton to test a model that would expand science and math coursework, through distance learning, in rural school districts.
The project involves area rural public schools, the College of Education and the College of Science and Technology. It will explore a method for increasing access to STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) classes in small, rural Texas towns.
Many rural school districts struggle to find teachers certified for all of the science classes students need, said Dr. Credence Baker, the principal investigator on the project. Therefore, some science classes, such as physics, may not be offered or are taught by an out-of-field teacher.
The grant will allow Tarleton to work with area rural schools to deliver physics content via distance education while simultaneously training and mentoring local teachers to facilitate lab activities. Eventually, schools would share teachers through distance learning.
"Let’s say for example that Lingleville has a physics teacher, Hico has a biology teacher, and Early has a chemistry teacher," said Baker, assistant professor of educational technology and certification officer for the College of Education. "The idea is that they can share those three teachers to cross-teach subjects that might not otherwise be offered. In the first year, Tarleton will provide the content, professional development, and the necessary lab kits. The first test of the model is just physics and it’s just three or four schools."
After the first year, she added, a lead teacher will be identified to deliver the content, thus creating a sustainable, shared network that can be replicated in other rural regions and for other STEM area courses.
Dr. Dan Marble, associate professor of physics, will teach the test course, Baker said.
“Delivering high quality science instruction in rural high schools is a challenge,” said Dr. Jill Burk, dean of the College of Education, “and we are eager to work with schools to develop a model that uses technology to effectively meet staffing needs in high-need fields.”
Dr. James Pierce, dean of the College of Science and Technology, said the pilot study “should demonstrate that it is possible to deliver high quality science classes to rural schools that have been unsuccessful in hiring qualified STEM teachers. We believe it will serve as a model for rural schools to use in sharing teaching expertise through the use of technology. In the long run, we hope that this program will give rural students the opportunity for careers in STEM fields by providing them with the foundations necessary for success.”
In an email to Burk, Dr. William Koehler, former provost at Texas Christian University and now education adviser to the Sid W. Richardson Foundation, said he and the foundation “expect (Tarleton) to make history.”
“You and your colleagues will prove that the presence of great teachers is not place bound,” Koehler said.
Tarleton State University
A member of The Texas A&M University System
Contact: Joe Michael Feist