Essays on Teacher Preparation by Workshop Participants

picture of Jackie Huntoon

Jackie Huntoon

Michigan Technological University
Houghton, Michigan

Earth and Space Science Teacher Preparation at Michigan Technological University

Michigan Technological University (MTU) recently instituted a teacher training program that allows undergraduates to obtain a degree in Geology (B.S.) and an Earth and Space Science secondary-level teaching credential in only four years. The program is designed for undergraduates who are interested in becoming teachers but wish to maintain strong ties to the academic discipline that most closely matches their primary area of interest. The first group of students to take advantage of this new program graduated during the 1999-2000 academic year.

The program, like others leading to teacher certification at MTU, is housed within a content-area department. Pre-service teachers in the program are Geology majors rather than Education majors. This organizational structure ensures that students in the program receive strong content-area instruction; it is viewed positively by external review groups.

In Michigan, pre-service teachers must complete coursework that specifically addresses the State's Standards for the Preparation of Teachers in both a teaching major (in this case Earth and Space Science) and a teaching minor. Teaching minors include all disciplines for which teacher certification is available at MTU. The basic program that leads to certification in earth and space science at MTU includes the coursework necessary to satisfy the requirements for a general Science minor. Individual students are encouraged to work with their academic advisor to customize the basic program to meet their own goals. Students can substitute courses and/or complete additional courses leading to teaching minors in Math, Biological Science, Physics, Chemistry, Computer Science, Economics, English, Social Science, or Technology and Design.

The basic program is extremely rigorous and requires students to complete a minimum of five credits of field geology plus five credits of field geophysics. Students who are interested in pursuing a second teaching minor are allowed to substitute that coursework for field geophysics. It is hoped that students who complete this program will have great confidence in their abilities as scientists and will pursue graduate study in a geoscience-related field at some point during their career.

At the graduate level, MTU developed a M.S. program in Applied Science Education during 2001. This program is designed to provide in-service teachers from a variety of disciplines with engineering and technology application of math and science. It includes intensive on-site instruction during summer months and on-line courses during the academic year. Teachers in the program are required to complete three 4-credit Applied Science Core courses, three 2-credit Education Core courses, a 3-6 credit Industry or Research Internship, a 2-credit Graduate Research Paper, and 6-9 credits of electives. The first group of teachers graduated from this program in 2003.

Electives in the M.S. program include offerings from the Educator's Science and Mathematics Institute Series (ESMIS). ESMIS courses are offered in the summer and provide teachers with hands-on field- or laboratory-based instruction in several content areas.

MTU also houses the Western Upper Peninsula Center for Science, Mathematics, and Environmental Education, which provides teachers from a five-county area with curriculum support, special programs, field trips, and professional development opportunities.