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Center for STEM Education Launches Trustey Family STEM Teaching Fellows

Written by William Schmitt on Sunday, 05 October 2014

University Supports STEM Education through Innovative Initiative

Excellence in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) is critical for our nation’s continued social and economic well-being and security. In order to foster growth in these disciplines, the University of Notre Dame’s Center for STEM Education is launching the Trustey Family STEM Teaching Fellows Program.

Study after study has shown that, more than any other factor within the control of schools, instructional practice best predicts successful student achievement. In addition, while teaching practice remains the single most important factor in a child’s academic development, maintaining a qualified and effective teaching force remains challenging. National studies indicate that nearly half of new teachers leave the profession within their first five years. A disproportionate number of these teachers focus their teaching on the STEM disciplines and often leave the profession for more lucrative financial opportunities in the private sector.

Notre Dame’s Center for STEM Education plans to develop targeted strategies to address this dual challenge. First, the Trustey Family STEM Teaching Fellows program will develop strategies to recruit ambitious early-career STEMeducators to participate in an innovative and comprehensive professional formation program to enhance their teaching skills. Second, over time, the program aims to develop a national corps of professional educators who are committed to long-term and continuing and rigorous formation in instructional leadership in STEM disciplines.

“The importance of the STEM disciplines for the future of our children and our country cannot be overstated, and the Trustey Family STEM Teaching Fellows program is enabling Notre Dame to work toward dramatically increasing the quality of instruction for tens of thousands of students,” Rev. Timothy R. Scully, Hackett Family Director of the Institute for Educational Initiatives, said.

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“We know that nothing impacts student learning more than great teaching, and there is no more important area in which we can help the youth of our country than in providing them a rigorous and engaging STEM learning experience,” Director of Notre Dame’s Center for STEM Education Dr. Matt Kloser said. “This program is committed to measuring the impact of its efforts, improving the program based on data, and keeping teachers engaged in a supportive and mission-driven network of STEM teachers.”

The Trustey Family STEM Teaching Fellows program will help the Institute continue to develop hundreds of STEM educators who will serve a critical and growing need in elementary and secondary schools across the country with a particular focus on Catholic schools. It is the most recent initiative of Notre Dame’s Center for STEM Education, which, through research and the translation of research into practice, seeks to increase student interest and learning in the STEMdisciplines.

For more information: Dr. Matt Kloser at

Originally published by William Schmitt at iei.nd.edu on October 03, 2014.

Notre Dame Center for STEM Education Welcomes New Members

on Friday, 12 September 2014

An exciting summer of growth for the Notre Dame Center for STEM Education was marked by the recent addition of three new team members.  Meet Matt, Gina, and Jessica:

Matt Wilsey, joins the Notre Dame Center for STEM Education as the Associate Director.  As a research assistant, Matt will investigate science teacher assessment and data use.  He will also coordinate the STEM summer camps, help with science teacher formation and professional development, and work with both Education, Schooling, and Society undergraduates and current ACE Teaching Fellows.

Before joining the Center, Matt taught high school Physics, Chemistry, and Forensic Science at St. Rita of Cascia High School in Chicago, IL.  He has also worked as an ACE mentor teacher, a Summer Science and Engineering Camp instructor, and has designed curricula for both the Alliance for Catholic Education and the Center for STEM Education. 

Matt is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame with degrees in Biology and German.  He also was a member of the ACE 17 cohort of ACE Teaching Fellows in Brownsville, TX, where he taught middle school science and math.

Gina Svarovsky, Ph. D., joins the Notre Dame Center for STEM Education in a joint appointment with the College of Engineering.  In this position, Gina will work to bridge engineering and engineering education efforts on campus.  She will teach the Introduction to Engineering class for first-year engineering students, conduct research on how young people – particularly underrepresented populations – learn engineering in a range of environments, and will translate research into practice for K-12 STEM educators.

Prior to this position, Gina was the Senior Evaluation and Research Associate at the Science Museum of Minnesota.  Here, she focused on how engineering learning takes place outside of the classroom in informal learning environments, such as in museums, camps, and other out-of-school programs.  Gina also worked on how young people learned about engineering – and STEM, more broadly – with their family groups, with a particular focus on how children interacted and talked with their parents during engineering activities.

Gina was a member of the ACE 6 cohort of ACE Teaching Fellows in St. Petersburg, FL, where she taught high school Physics, before serving as a Faculty Supervisor.  Gina graduated from the University of Notre Dame with B.S. in Chemical Engineering before earning her Ph.D. in Educational Psychology from the University of Wisconsin. 

Jessica Gottlieb, Ph.D., joins the Notre Dame Center for STEM Education as a Postdoctoral Research Associate, whose research focuses on math education and teacher quality.  Jessica will conduct research on how educational policies can be used to recruit, retain, and develop effective math educators.  Her research interests also include teacher quality – especially STEM teacher quality – and education governance.

Jessica recently completed her Ph.D. in Policy Studies in Urban Education with a concentration on Education Organizations and Leadership at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Prior to her doctoral studies, she received a degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Southern California.  She also taught high school Algebra and Geometry in Los Angeles, CA, and worked in the private sector.

Dr. Matt Kloser, Director of the Notre Dame Center for STEM Education, is excited about welcoming the new faculty and staff to the Center stating, “We have assembled an amazingly talented and thoughtful core group.  Matt, Gina, and Jessica will contribute greatly to the scholarship of this University while also making a tangible impact on STEM teaching and learning in schools across the country.”

The Notre Dame Center for STEM Education, through innovative research and the translation of research into practice, seeks to help all students, especially the underserved and those in Catholic schools, engage and excel in STEM disciplines.

Notre Dame Center for STEM Education Programming and Robotics Camp Yields Success for Middle School Students

Written by William Schmitt on Monday, 25 August 2014

Notre Dame Leads New Initiative to Excite Students about Computer Coding and a Future in STEM

Thanks to an innovative camp designed under the auspices of Notre Dame’s Center for STEMEducation, students in Catholic schools in Arizona, Florida, and Indiana came away from the summer of 2014 with experiences that went far beyond suntans, pools, and the great outdoors.

Finches and pythons became their friends, you might say, but in this case you’d be talking aboutFinch robots through which these kids—mostly in the sixth through ninth grades—learned how to program computers using Snap! and the sophisticated Python language. They participated in the roll-out of an initiative called ND CORE, or “Notre Dame Coding and Robotics Experience.”

ND CORE was part of a larger suite of summer STEM experiences that engaged nearly 200 students in eight cities across the United States.

The three-week curriculum for these budding computer programmers emerged from the Center for STEMEducation in 2013 as the product of three educators formed in the University’s Alliance for Catholic Education(ACE).  Dr. Matthew Kloser (who received his M. Ed. through ACE in 2004) led the team and directs the Center.

Middle-school students from the Notre Dame ACE Academies in Tucson, as well as schools in the Palm Beach, FL, and South Bend, IN, areas, attended the camp. A distinctively early, effective, and hands-on introduction to computer programming yielded exciting experiences for students, teachers, and parents alike.

J.C. Clark, one of the two curriculum designers working with Kloser, returned to northern Indiana this July to serve as lead instructor for the roll-out held at Marian High School. He said he was delighted with the results.

“I’ve been blown away by how much these kids have progressed,” he commented. “I feel so blessed to be teaching this camp to these kids and just seeing their growth.” He noted the capstone project in which students customized behaviors for their Finches to act without remote control, in response to their built-in sensors.

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Camp instruction at St. Luke School in Palm Beach earlier in the summer also yielded impressive results, according to a report in The Florida Catholic. Finches at all of the sites displayed their programming through singing, dancing, reacting to heat and light, and much more.

The initiative, ready for roll-out to more Catholic school students in collaboration with various dioceses, strives to excite young people, including females and underrepresented populations, about programming and STEM literacy.

“The majority of jobs in the future will probably deal with some sort of computer applications, probably a lot with computer science,” said Clark, describing his goals for the curriculum at Marian. “The more you can get kids exposed to computer science, the better.”

Clark, a 2013 M. Ed. recipient through ACE and now a high school science teacher in Denver, assisted Kloser in the curriculum planning, along with Michael Comuniello. He teaches high school science with ACE in the Tampa Bay area. The Center and ACE are part of Notre Dame’s Institute for Educational Initiatives.

Photos are taken from the Palm Beach, FL, ND CORE camp experience hosted by St. Luke School in summer 2014 and developed by the Center for STEM Education.

Originally published by William Schmitt at iei.nd.edu on August 22, 2014.

NSF Grant Supports Center's Development of Tablet-Based Teacher Portfolio

on Saturday, 23 August 2014

Efforts to improve teaching have historically been hampered by the lack of high quality information to evaluate and improve instructional practice. A team of researchers from UCLA, RAND, and the University of Notre Dame's Center for STEM Education have received a grant for over $1.5 million from the National Science Foundation (NSF REAL) to develop, deploy, and evaluate a new generation of a teacher portfolio instrument using a tablet platform.

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The project is a collaboration between a multidisciplinary team of experts in assessment, science education, and technology aimed at helping researchers and practitioners monitor, assess, and improve instruction in middle school science classrooms aligned to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Building on prior successful portfolio systems, the new electronic portfolio platform will be developed and tested using a mixed methods validation study. A sample of 40 volunteer middle school science teachers will be selected for participation from a partnering large urban school district. Teachers will collect evidence of their instruction using the electronic portfolios, and this evidence will be assessed by a group of experienced raters and experts using a set of guidelines of instructional practice aligned to the Next Generation Science Standards. Advanced quantitative methods, including multifaceted generalizability theory, factor analysis, and hierarchical linear models, will be used to assess the properties of portfolio data against other teacher measures and student measures. This evidence will be complemented with in-depth qualitative analyses of portfolio contents, and debriefing interviews with participant teachers and reviewers.

The proposed tool can constitute a breakthrough in the study of teaching by combining multiple modes of data collection and communication to open an unprecedented window into science instruction. In the context of current education policies, the platform holds great promise for supporting efforts to improve teaching by 1) providing rich, reliable and valid information about instruction; 2) enabling pertinent and useful feedback and mentoring to teachers to help them align their instruction to the goals of the NGSS; 3) engaging teachers in extended and meaningful self-reflection along these same goals; and 4) offering an integrated, formative, evidence-based approach to teacher induction, evaluation, and professional development, potentially improving teacher buy-in and perceptions of fairness.

The University of Notre Dame's Center for STEM Education's, Dr. Matt Kloser, is serving as Co-PI on this three year grant. The Notre Dame Center for STEM Education conducts and translates research into practice to improve the quality of STEM teaching and learning for K-20 students, especially those from under-served backgrounds.

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