February 2010 cover SCAN"College of St. Catherine St. Catherine University
February 2010
 
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Learning Together

Faculty teaching pairs are one secret to STEM’s success at St. Kate’s

STEM faculty teaching pairs (from far left): Gina Mancini-Samuelson and Susan Goetz, Jill Welter and Tony Murphy, Lori Maxfield and Yvonne Ng.

BY ANDY STEINER | PHOTO BY TONY NELSON

When St. Kate’s received a $240,000 grant from the 3M Foundation in 2004
to develop a STEM minor, it quickly became clear that teaching college-level science, technology, engineering or mathematics classes for non-STEM majors presented an opportunity for collaboration.

The STEM minor is open to all students but designed especially for elementary education majors. So, the development team came up with a novel idea: Why not have a STEM professor and an education professor teach the courses together?

The result has earned kudos and generated curiosity from educators nationwide. The courses convey college-level STEM concepts to students who may not have naturally felt drawn to science, and professors say they’ve become better teachers by working with colleagues from other disciplines.

Associate Dean of Education Tony Murphy is working to develop a national STEM education center at St. Kate’s that would help other colleges and universities deliver leading-edge STEM teaching strategies. "We are one of the only places in the country to have done this," he says. "Most other institutions have STEM faculty and education faculty separate."

Despite its obvious cost, the team approach is working. "The high level of cooperation among faculty from the different areas has been amazing," says Senior Vice President Colleen Hegranes. "The result is a set of strong courses that serve our students well. It is an investment in our students, and that is a worthwhile investment."

TEAMWORK WORKS

Yvonne Ng, assistant professor of computer science and engineering, teaches the STEM course "Makin’ and Breakin’: Engineering in Your World" with Lori Maxfield, associate professor of education. "I have enjoyed it immensely," Ng says. "The things I learn working with other faculty members get translated to my computer science classes."

Jill Welter, assistant professor of biology, co-teaches "Environmental Biology" with Murphy. The course has proven so popular that even non-STEM minors elect to take it to fulfill their science requirements.

"It took a lot of work and cooperation to achieve what we have here, but the end product has been really effective,"Welter says. "I’m using a variety of the teaching methods that I’ve picked up during the STEM courses in my regular biology classes."

In order to team teach effectively, faculty members have to coordinate class outlines, syllabi — and footwork. "At first, when we began teaching together, we literally ran into each other," says Susan Goetz, associate professor of education, who teaches "Chemistry of Life" with Gina Mancini-Samuelson, associate professor of chemistry. "We didn’t know each other very well. We had to learn what our respective styles were and what our boundaries were. But now I can finish her sentences and she mine."

The pair meets for 90 minutes weekly when they are teaching their course, working to keep it relevant and appealing to students. "I’ve learned so much from her," Mancini-Samuelson says of Goetz. She smiles. "She’s learned from me, too."

 
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