Center of Science and Math in Context (COSMIC)

The mission of COSMIC is to advance high quality teaching and learning in science and math for all students at K-12, undergraduate, and graduate levels.

University of Massachusetts-Boston
Established: 2004

Profile submitted by Arthur Eisenkraft

Vision and Goals

  • Provide support for science and math teachers, through teacher training and professional development during their teaching career paths as novice teachers, experienced teachers, and teacher leaders.
  • Develop and evaluate standards-aligned, inquiry-based curriculum and assessment materials for K-12 and university science and math courses.
  • Provide professional development for K-12 and university science and math teachers to help them strengthen their pedagogical knowledge, content knowledge, and pedagogical content knowledge.
  • Strengthen the pipeline toward science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers, including teaching, from K-12 through the graduate level.
  • Conduct research studies on the effectiveness of our interventions on high quality teaching of science and math and its impact on student achievement.
  • Create partnerships with school districts, industry, government, and non-governmental organizations.

Center/Program Structure

The Center of Science and Mathematics in Context (COSMIC) is a joint venture of the College of Education and Human Development and the College of Science and Mathematics at UMass Boston. COSMIC has a full time director (faculty member), an associate director, an office manager and additional FTE (2 at the present time) to work on specific grants. Specific science and math and education faculty have associations with COSMIC. We also have post-docs, graduate students and undergraduates who support our work. Many of our projects include faculty and researchers from other institutions through subcontracts.

Description of Programming

COSMIC presently supports projects that total over $10M of funding. The Boston Energy in Science Teaching (BEST): a phase II math science partnership funded by NSF seeks to better understand how to articulate "energy" as both a disciplinary core idea and a crosscutting concept in grades K-16. This involves work with K-12 teachers and administrators in the Boston Public Schools in creating both vertical articulation and cross disciplinary approaches. BEST also involves university faculty at UMass Boston, Northeastern University and Roxbury Community College. (Funded by NSF.)

COSMIC is also leading an NSF-funded research of teacher learning from professional development (PD) associated with the redesigned Advanced Placement (AP) examination in biology (PD-RAP). (Research partners include faculty from Harvard, UMichigan, EDC, UMinnesota.) The research questions include:

  1. What are the patterns (type, number, and combinations) of PD choices that teachers made in response to the AP Biology revisions?
  2. How are PD choices and patterns related to teacher characteristics, such as experience, gender, age, and specific concerns about teaching the revised AP Biology course?
  3. What is the relationship between the PD patterns of teachers and their students' AP examination outcomes? (Analyses to address this question are in process at the time of this submission.)
COSMIC is also running the Wipro Science Education Fellowship program which seeks to improve K-12 science education in five districts in Greater Boston and a parallel effort (with Montclair State University) in New Jersey. A total of 120 fellows will participate in this program over the next few years. The goals of the SEF are to create and support a corps of teacher leaders; to institute a culture of active and reflective instruction; and to improve teacher quality through vertical alignment, the CCLS model, and professional development in order to increase student achievement.

Successes and Impacts

COSMIC has recently concluded its NSF supported Math Science Partnership, the Boston Science Partnership (BSP). It has positively impacted science education in all partner institutions - the Boston Public Schools, UMass Boston, Northeastern University, and Roxbury Community College. It has created a community of cooperation and collaboration amongst all partners. Through extensive research and evaluation, we have seen improvements in the way science is delivered and how science is approached K-16.

Elements Contributing to Success

COSMIC has both the respect, commitment and support of both the College of Science and Math and the College of Education and Human Development, as well as the Provost's office.