Research in Mathematics Education

STEM Academy for Science Teachers

A Powerful Coalition for Change

The STEM Academy for Science Teachers is a collaborative partnership with the Texas Instruments Foundation, Dallas ISD, and Southern Methodist University designed specifically for DISD middle school science teachers. We are at a critical juncture for improving the STEM pipeline - the gap between available, high-paying careers in STEM fields is far outpacing the number of viable candidates, and through these partnerships we can start to elicit the change we seek. 

Leading by Learning

Through the generosity of the Texas Instruments Foundation and a committed partnership between DISD and SMU, Dallas middle school science teachers have the opportunity to advance their careers, become teacher leaders in STEM integration, and ultimately develop the next generation of STEM professionals in the classroom. This collaboration is a three-year project that has been designed for the needs of Dallas ISD teachers and coaches to improve student achievement, engagement in science, and interest in STEM. This is a systems-level initiative with recruitment at the school and science department level. 

Inspiring by Doing

The next generation of STEM leaders are sitting in today's classrooms. According to the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS), 40 percent of the time students are in science classrooms, they should be engaged in laboratory and field investigations.

In other words, twice a week, students should be hands-on with activities and investigations of scientific phenomena. According to an article titled An Analysis of Frequency of Hands-on Experience and Science Achievement by Dr. Patricia M. Stohr-Hunt at the University of Richmond, Department of Education, she reports: 

"From the analysis, it was concluded that significant differences existed across the hands-on frequency variable with respect to science achievement. Specifically, students who engaged in hands-on activities every day or once a week scored significantly higher on a standardized test of science achievement than students who engaged in hands-on activities once a month, less than once a month, or never."

Working with Expert Faculty

 SMU's faculty has designed a flexible curriculum that layers content knowledge with pedagogy and integrates inquire-based experiences. Teachers will be hands-on in maker spaces as part of this project, and the participating school's science department will receive high-impact materials that will provide students with the experiences that will deepen their learning. 

The STEM Academy will include professional development related to three key areas: (a) the design of integrated STEM learning environments, (b) hands-on participation in scientific practices and processes, and (c) grade-level appropriate science content instruction. 

As part of this project, DISD teachers will: 

  • Be part of a first cohort for positive change
  • Immediately take away inquiry-based experiences that can translate directly to classroom instruction and boost deep content learning
  • Encourage teachers to grow their teaching practice along with their colleagues
  • Earn graduate credit hours towards a Master's degree from the Simmons School
  • Receive materials specifically tailored for use by individual school's science department

Advancing Their Teaching Practice

Each summer, teachers will gain six graduate-level credits toward the completion of a Master's of Education degree at the Simmons School of Education, as they immerse in a two-week academy on the SMU campus, accumulating 70 face-to-face and hands-on hours with faculty at Simmons as well as the Lyle School of Engineering. These two weeks will also flexibly include pre- and post-academy online coursework to achieve the 90 hours required to gain credits. During the academic year, teachers will receive monthly coaching and real-time support that will garner an additional credit toward a Master's degree.