$2 million NSF grant supports research on math teacher preparation
Dawn Berk
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10:26 a.m., Oct. 13, 2009----Dawn Berk, assistant professor in the School of Education, is leading a group of University of Delaware researchers who will be evaluating the University's mathematics teacher preparation programs over the next five years, thanks to a $2 million grant from the National Science Foundation's REESE (Research and Evaluation on Education in Science and Engineering) program.

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Berk is the primary investigator of the group, which will be following two cohorts of graduates from math teacher preparation programs within the School of Education and the Department of Mathematical Sciences over the first three to four years of their teaching careers.

The goal of the study is to determine whether the knowledge the graduates have learned at UD makes an impact in the classrooms in which they teach.

The research team will be investigating what mathematics knowledge and teaching skills graduates develop in their preparation programs at UD; if, how and under what conditions their mathematics knowledge and teaching skills influence their teaching of mathematics; and if, how and under what conditions their teaching influences students' learning of mathematics.

Berk said the motivation behind this study is that, with the United States government enacting such high-stakes policies as No Child Left Behind, there is a need for more evidence on how to prepare effective teachers.

“In the United States, we spend tens of millions of dollars to train tens of thousands of teachers to teach our youth,” Berk said. “While there are many education policies enforced in the United States today, the problem is that there is not enough empirical evidence to inform these policies when needed. We hope that our study will help explain if and how teacher preparation makes a difference in classrooms.”

The results of the study can make impacts nationally and locally, Berk said. On the national level, the results can contribute to the research base on teacher education and help inform future policy decisions.

Meanwhile, on the local level, the study will help the University make its own teacher preparation programs more effective over time.

“To be able to see how our alumni are doing in the classroom will make a big contribution in how we can improve our programs and classes here at UD,” Berk said.

The grant follows a previous NSF grant in which the mathematics teacher preparation program in the School of Education has been intensively studied and improved upon over the past nine years.

“This is the next natural step in our research agenda,” Berk said.

The team consists of Berk; co-primary investigators James Hiebert, Robert J. Barkley Professor of Education in the School of Education, and Alfinio Flores, Hollowell Professor of Secondary Mathematics Education in the Department of Mathematical Sciences; and additional UD faculty members from the School of Education and the Mathematics and Science Education Resource Center.

Article by Jon Bleiweis