By Bernadette Monahan MA
Co-Director of the STEM Education Center
The STEM Education Center is now in its fourth year of operation under the direction of Dr. David Wojick. As part of the Center, the teacher team is the window into the educational system in our country. Our team consists of a National Board Certified Teacher (Heather Smelser), an Instructional Technology Resource Teacher (Jennifer Arey Paschke), and individuals who have attended content review boards for the state of Virginia’s standards in math and history (Bernadette Monahan and Cristin Livingston). Each member has a masters in Education and Instructional Technology. We are fully accredited, contracted teachers. Combined we have over 40 years of experience in education.
It is not often that classroom teachers have an opportunity to influence changes in the educational system of their state let alone their country. At the STEM Education Center this is our mission, to be a part of some very important changes which are occurring in education today, namely in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education.
For the past four years, we have become experts in reviewing and disseminating various state educational standards. We are experts because it is part of our daily existence as teachers to be able to understand, implement, and assess our own Virginia state standards.
Much of our early work dealt with creating Grade level stratification or GLS, which is our term for sorting educational content, mainly in science, by grade level. See our work titled “Grade Level Stratification”. Using the state standards of three states, we were able to “average” the terms according to the grade levels in which they are taught. The core science concepts should not and cannot be taught without first understanding terms or vocabularies, which are a part of the body of core knowledge. This works extends from Kindergarten through college and is currently used in the science education portal www.scienceeducation.gov . Also see Dr. Wojick’s blog in OSTI (Office of Science and Technology Innovation) which explains this work. http://www.osti.gov/ostiblog/home/entry/cataloging_concepts_by_learning_level
Another important part of our research has been in the confusions found within state standards. See our paper titled “Confusions in State Science Standards: An Introduction.”Standards are what drive education today. Schools and more importantly teachers are held accountable based on the education standards each state must create. In our research, we have found not all standards are created equally. What a student learns in science in California is quite different from what a student in the same grade level will learn in Virginia or Texas. We have created a detailed site with links to every states’ standards. More importantly this research into state standards has helped us become experts in reviewing and comparing state standards; a luxury that many teachers to do not have.
Finally, in this forum we would like to be the window, in which others may view the daily process a teacher, student, and even parents experience in an average classroom. We are excited about sharing our research as well as what we are working on in the future. Please visit us often, share your opinions, and provide us with opportunities to be your experts.