The RET Teacher Activities and Experiences
The RET teachers’ research experiences consist of
Math-science teacher dyads are created, based on research interest and subjects taught, in Viterbi School of Engineering laboratories that are conducting engineering and computer science research with foci on computational thinking and integrated computer science, engineering, and applied mathematics. USC Viterbi has a strong and long-standing track record of cutting-edge research, including robotics, cyber security, biomedical engineering and telemedicine. These lab experiences enable teachers to understand first hand how science and math are interconnected and how STEM teacher teams must work together to effectively teach their students.Organizationally, each two-teacher team will be matched with a Ph.D. student mentor in the given laboratory, for direct daily interaction, and for facilitating bi-directional expertise transfer between the teachers and the Ph.D. student mentors. The mentors undergo a two-day orientation prior to the teachers’ arrival to prepare to work with the pre-college teachers.
The teachers’ research experience consist of a structured five or six week summer program in the Viterbi laboratories, with teachers directly immersed in research activities, collaborating with faculty and Ph.D. students on their investigations. To facilitate teacher-lab matching, the participating teachers are sent pointers to websites summarizing the participating research projects two months before the start of the program. Besides working together in the labs, the teachers and graduate students mentors will meet weekly to review, network, compare experiences, address issues, and to engage in collaborative lesson study and curriculum planning.
The teachers have weekly meetings for planning how their laboratory research experiences will be translated into middle school curriculum modules that introduce students to computer science and engineering and relate lessons using NGS and CCM Standards with a lesson study approach. Lesson study, according to James Stigler (2005) refers to a professional development process whereby teachers closely examine their lessons with a focus on addressing student need via data-driven decision making, creating powerful and relevant curricula and reformed designed lesson creation. Lesson study goes beyond collaboration to co-planning and observing actual lessons with a focus on student thinking. In this model, teachers learn together by planning, observing, and refining “research lessons” designed to make real their long-term goals for student learning and development. A key component of lesson study is the observing and teaching of lessons, which are improved collaboratively. For the purpose of the summer experience, participant teachers “study” videotaped lesson exemplars using the lesson study cycle (Stigler 2006). Together, these techniques compel teachers to examine their own practice in depth in the context of student learning, connect them with their students and professional community, and inspire them to improve continually. This model of teacher professional development has been applied widely and successfully in Japan, has been initiated by teachers at many sites across the US, and has been shown to be successful in USC’s Societally Relevant Engineering Technologies RET between 2011-2014.