Supported Site Florida International University: Collaboration

Collaboration among the College of Arts and Science, College of Education, and Miami-Dade County Public School (MDCPS)

Successes

  • The collaboration between faculty in the Physics Department and the College of Education (CoE) is a strong and productive relationship. It is the source of several funded grant projects, including CHEPREO (the Center for High-Energy Physics Research and Education Outreach, www.chepreo.org), FIU-SEAMS (FIU – Student Equity and Achievement in Math and Science, a Department of Education Minority Science and Engineering Improvement Program (MSEIP) grant), FIU-GEMS (FIU – Get Educators in Math and Science, an NSF Noyce proposal), a new Howard Hughes Medical Institute grant for extending FIU’s physics reform model into other disciplines, and an institutional Strategic Initiative aimed at housing cohesive, integrated STEM programs through a Mathematics and Science Learning Center.
  • The collaborative efforts between Physics and CoE continue to serve as a model for discipline-based teacher education through partnerships between STEM disciplines and the College of Education.
  • The Learning Assistant course, PHY 3012, was co-taught by Diane Crenshaw (Physics Teacher-in-Residence) and Laird Kramer (College of Arts & Sciences). Enrollment from other disciplines accounts for roughly half of the class. Currently, the majority of other disciplinary students are from Mathematics, but Chemistry and Earth Sciences are expected to increase substantially in Fall 2010.
  • The PhysTEC Teacher Advisory Group meets regularly, further strengthening ties with MDCPS.
  • David Brookes joined the Physics Department as a Physics Education Researcher, indicating continued support from the department. At least 2 additional discipline-based education researcher faculty lines have been committed to by the FIU administration, likely to join the biology and chemistry departments.
  • The Colleges of Education and Arts & Sciences have each committed to providing half salary for the TIR position, as it moves from PhysTEC support to university supported.
  • FIU installed a new President in August 2009. President Mark Rosenberg has been most supportive of our efforts, including highlighting our work and hosting a dinner for the SMTI Leadership Collaborative Meeting in January 2010. These efforts reach across the colleges and help sustain the initiative at the institutional level. President Rosenberg also just joined the SMTI Executive Committee, furthering his commitment to the efforts.

Challenges

  • Establishing a permanent model for the ongoing hiring of Teachers-In-Residence continues to be a challenge. Negotiations did reach to a higher level last year (Deputy Superintendant), with the district agreeing to support the TIR as intended, i.e. allowing a teacher to be assigned to FIU and FIU would provide replacement teacher funding. However, the agreement was never satisfied as the district personnel did not respond to multiple requests after the TIR was selected. The current plan is to work with a more permanent TIR until excessive goodwill is created with the district.
  • Managing multiple projects involving collaboration across colleges requires additional administrative competence.
  • Changes in administration at FIU and in the local school district continue to pose challenges in building alliances, although the rate of change appears to be reducing and the alliances are probably strong enough to resist change by new administrators. The biggest concern is that a new acting interim College of Education dean will begin a year of service on June 15, 2010.

Sustainability

  • We feel confident that we have built a sustainable framework for continued collaboration across the colleges and across the institution. We have built a reputation for high quality science education reform at the institution and are becoming the ‘go to’ group for education reform. These efforts have been greatly enhanced by the PhysTEC project and especially the external voice provided by the PhysTEC management.

Lessons Learned

  • Participation in PhysTEC has illustrated how the multidisciplinary, cross-college partnerships built on CHEPREO as well as partnerships with external PhysTEC projects pay off for the students and the program. These have resulted in better recruiting (from external and internal partners), early field experiences (from additional opportunities internally), and a better LA seminar (due to input from Colorado), to name a few. Current research in our community ecosystem is promising to provide insight into the nature of our model and the role that the physics education advocates play in its implementation.
  • PhysTEC continues to provide the foundation for the continued success of the science education reform program. Weaving it within other projects, notably CHEPREO, SMTI, HHMI, and the cross-college secondary education program reform, has provided substantial synergies that continue to blossom. An example is the use of modeling in the curriculum, both as an example of inquiry learning and as a placement option for LA field experiences.