Research Experiences for Teachers

In the summer of 2003, an RET component was added to our existing REU-site. The goal of the RET program is to broaden the impact of our REU-site to K-12 schools and attract talented high school students to careers in science and engineering. The first year, Birmingham area high school teachers participated in materials research projects. We will leverage our efforts using a video technology that allows teachers to share their research experiences in their schools. Selected teachers will use their current scientific understandings, abilities and interests to make gains in intellectual professional growth, not merely technical training. Teachers will simultaneously act as sources of their own development, supporters of the development of REU students, and communicators of research experiences to their high school classes and institutions.

Selected teachers spend the last 6 weeks (of the 10-week REU period) in residence at UAB interacting with REU students and faculty mentors. In addition, if the teacher's end-of-school-year schedule permits, they will attend and participate in the program orientation activities in May. Based on interests and experience, each teacher will be assigned to work with a group of REU students. At the outset they will catalog the basic concepts involved in the projects with which they are associated. They will concentrate especially on one primary project in which they will be contributing. During the next 5 weeks the teachers will not be on site, but will interact regularly with REU students and mentors through electronic mail to stay updated on the status of the projects assigned to them. Technology will be used to provide low-cost web-based live images of lab activities. These, in combination with phone calls and email, will allow teachers to stay current with their projects. This arrangement responds creatively to what we see as the realities of recruiting and supporting strong RET candidates (see Anticipated Benefits for RET Participants below for explanation).

The tasks of teachers during the off-site period will be preparation and reflection. They will focus on how to communicate effectively the importance and the findings of materials research at the level of a high school audience. Teachers will

  • Read background materials and interim reports on the research projects of the students to whom they are assigned
  • Spend the last 6 weeks of the summer program in residence at UAB and will attend all program talks with the REU students
  • Obtain video of experiments, with which they already have conceptual familiarity, but have not seen in operation.
  • Have regular ongoing conferences with university faculty mentors.
  • assist REU students with preparations for oral presentations at end of the program (including both practical help in developing visuals as well as higher-order assistance). Fore examples critique presentation plans, ask questions to focus and improve the presentation content and organization and edit video, which they have recorded of the research efforts of each group.
  • Teachers will be encouraged by program leaders to highlight the scientific process rather than merely the hardware being used.
  • RET group will attend a training session to emphasize this critical point. Examples will be shown of video efforts (e.g., excerpts from the Nova series), which successfully convey the process of scientific inquiry. Easy-to-use computer applications such as iMovie (available in our department) will be employed to edit video, incorporate graphics, graphs, illustrations, and soundtracks.
  • Finally these video products will be burned onto DVDs, to be used in a variety of classroom settings. Teachers will clone enough DVDs to share with other RET participants, the research team involved, and other teachers.
  • Teachers will be provided with hands-on materials for classroom use to make DVD presentations more concrete (e.g., samples of materials deposited, models of crystallographic structures, simple functioning instruments such as optical pyrometers, I/V measurements, etc.). This will create a mechanism for dissemination of the content of the REU program to high school classes and broader audiences also boosting recruitment.

Anticipated Benefits for RET Participants

We expect that our choice of a 6-week residential component for teachers will permit the recruiting of a strong teacher cohort. Due to differences starting and ending dates of school systems and the lengthening of academic terms, teachers have a limited time for summer activities. They often defer home and family responsibilities until the summer and many cannot be available for a summer-long commitment.

The assignment of each RET participant to work with several REU students is expected to have several benefits. Teachers will be able to gather information from many types of scientific inquiry simultaneously and will be exposed to several types of research instrumentation. It is not impossible for an individual summer project to fail entirely (in terms of its original purpose) or to require radical modification due to unexpected findings. By participating in several efforts, teachers will get a well-rounded view of the scientific enterprise. They will also meet and work with a variety of students with different ages, experience levels, academic backgrounds, career goals, races and cultures.

The RET program will pay a $4,000 stipend for the ten weeks period, plus for out of state participants, additional support is provided for housing, travel and other expenses.

For more Information Contact:
Charita H. Cadenhead
Program Coordinator
(205) 975-8076
(205) 975-8009 (Fax)
charita@uab.edu