Project Pathways: A Math and Science Partnership Program for Arizona Targeted Project Track
Project Pathways targets mathematics and science learning and achievement in grades 9-12. The project will produce a research-based and tested model to support secondary mathematics and science teachers. Core partners include four school districts (Chandler, Mesa, Tempe, and Tolleson) and the Center for Research on Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology (CRESMET) at Arizona State University (ASU). The Maricopa Community College District and Intel are collaborators with ASU in delivering the project's research-based services and products to these districts. The demographics of the partner school districts mirror those of Arizona, where 45% of students are persons of color and the Hispanic population is expanding rapidly.
Pathways will produce tools and knowledge to guide secondary mathematics and science teachers in promoting conceptual learning and STEM behaviors that the literature deems essential for continued STEM learning and course-taking. These key behaviors include competence and flexibility in scientific inquiry, mathematical problem solving, and engineering design. A central concept is that of function, which research identifies as a unifying concept of secondary mathematics and science. As the core strategy of the Pathways model, teams of engineers, mathematicians and scientists will partner with master teachers and STEM education faculty to generate instructional sequences for both teachers and students. The instructional materials will take the form of modules for secondary mathematics and science teachers, with companion modules for secondary STEM classrooms and companion tools for secondary STEM learning communities. The professional learning community tools will support teachers in adapting their new knowledge and instructional approaches to their own classrooms by engaging them in deep reflections on their instruction and their students' learning. Pathways materials will be easily adaptable in any learning environment. In this project, however, they will be packaged for use in four courses in an ASU graduate degree program for inservice teachers, delivered on-site in the teachers' schools. To better assist Arizona's many bilingual students, Pathways will adapt student modules to an innovative, research-developed English language learner technology platform. Other Pathways strategies include activities (such as science fairs for students and a regional conference for high school guidance counselors) to encourage all students to take challenging mathematics and science courses and to consider science-based careers.
Teams of STEM education faculty and graduate students will research the effectiveness of the courses and learning communities on teachers' understanding of mathematics and science concepts and their understanding of the process by which foundational STEM concepts and behaviors develop in students. They will also investigate the process by which teachers shift their classroom practices to promote improved STEM learning in their students. Graduate research assistants will be recruited to participate in the Pathways project, preparing many future faculty for careers as STEM education researchers. Pathways will establish new patterns of information-sharing and collaboration among STEM scientists and educators, community college faculty, secondary administrators and teachers, and industry partners. The project aims to narrow the majority/minority achievement gap, encourage students to take challenging STEM courses, increase high school student STEM learning and achievement, and improve the pass rates in ASU's introductory calculus, physics and biology courses.