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Team Wins 5-year, $1.98 Million NSF Grant to Improve Teacher Preparation

A team of Penn State College of Education faculty led by P. Karen Murphy has won a five-year, $1.98 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to improve the preparation of undergraduate preservice elementary teachers.

Murphy, distinguished professor of education (educational psychology), is the principal investigator (PI) on the study. She is joined by co-PIs Gwendolyn Lloyd, the Henry J. Hermanowicz Professor of Teacher Education and professor of education (mathematics education); Amy Voss Farris, assistant professor of education (science education); and Rachel Wolkenhauer, assistant professor of education (curriculum and supervision).

With support from the NSF Improving Undergraduate STEM Education Program: Education and Human Resources, this project aims to serve the national interest by investigating whether teaching preservice elementary teachers how to use discussion-based pedagogy improves the quality of mathematics instruction in their classrooms. Specifically, the researchers will adapt Quality Talk (QT), a small-group, teacher-facilitated discussion approach, for use by teacher educators in STEM methods courses and classroom-based field experiences for future elementary teachers.

“Including QT in teacher education is expected to help preservice teachers extend their mathematical understandings and reasoning through content-rich discussions and learn to use effective discussion-based teaching approaches in their own classrooms,” Murphy said.

This five-year project also aims to enhance the professional vision of teacher educators by bolstering their discussion-intensive pedagogical content knowledge and efficacy. “We plan to investigate the adaptation of QT for preservice teacher education through a series of mixed-methods studies in the first four years of the award, with a focus on broad dissemination in year five,” Murphy said.

Teacher educators and preservice teachers will be drawn from six Penn State campuses and two types of teacher preparation settings—Professional Development School and traditional—to participate in the research study.

The project has the potential to provide needed research regarding ways to foster teacher educators’ professional vision for advancing preservice teachers’ discussion-intensive mathematical proficiency and emergent STEM pedagogy, so that elementary mathematics instruction can be improved.

“Our expected project outcomes include increasing the ability of teacher educators to support other educators in improving instructional practices, changing teacher education models and practices to advance preservice teachers’ mathematical understandings and reasoning, and supporting preservice teachers’ development of effective STEM pedagogy,” said Murphy.

The project aims to positively impact society by improving the STEM education community’s capacity to meet 21st-century pedagogical expectations by examining the effectiveness of QT for mathematics teacher education, providing online access to QT materials, increasing sustainability of QT through propagation to diverse settings, and disseminating findings widely.

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