Friday, August 2, 2013

President’s Visit Highlights Success of UTeach and Master’s in Engineering Program

MASEE Graduation Dinner for Cohort 3
July 31, 2013
The following is a recent story about President Obama's visit to Manor New Tech High School in Manor, Texas but also emphasizes a summer Master's program I helped start at The University of Texas at Austin known as the MASEE Program (Master of Arts in STEM in Education- Engineering). A program funded by the National Science Foundation as part of the UTeach Engineering Math Science Partnership (MSP). -Dr. Petrosino 

You know you’re doing something right when the President of the United States stops by to see what’s driving student success at your school. Manor New Tech, a high school just outside of Austin, TX, was honored with just such a visit on May 9. President Obama toured the school, speaking to teachers and students and commending their innovative approach to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education.“Every day this school is proving that every child has the potential to learn the real world skills they need to succeed in college and beyond,” said the President. “You’re doing things a little differently around here than a lot of high schools and it’s working.”

Since Manor New Tech opened in 2007, The University of Texas at Austin’s College of Education has forged strong ties with the school, providing skilled UTeach graduates who have become STEM teachers there and working closely with in-service teachers who already are in Manor New Tech classrooms.

One of the key ways in which the high school’s STEM instructors have gained a teaching edge is through pursuing the relatively new Master of Arts in STEM Education - Engineering (MASEE) that’s being offered in the College of Education. The MASEE is both unique and rigorous, focusing on traditional math and science education while also stressing engineering, a subject often overlooked in secondary education.

“MASEE is funded by the National Science Foundation and, in my opinion, it’s a national model for success,” said Anthony Petrosino, MASEE director and an associate professor in the College of Education’s Department of Curriculum and Instruction. “Over the course of three summers, we offer state-of-the art coursework in the learning sciences, effective pedagogy and topnotch engineering curriculum that really allows students to put that all together and implement it in a secondary classroom context.”

Since its inception the MASEE program has graduated two cohorts - a total of 19 students. A third cohort is nearing graduation and will bring the number of graduates to 28. Most students in the MASEE program are practicing teachers who have a background in STEM education or in engineering specifically. The program consists of four long semesters of online courses and three nine-week summer sessions on the UT-Austin campus. This blend of online and in-class courses allows working teachers to stay on the job during the school year as they earn their master’s degree.
Giving in-service teachers the opportunity to continue their professional development is a key component of the MASEE degree.

“It’s something to which our program’s very dedicated,” said Petrosino. “Our faculty take this time during the summer to teach the MASEE courses because they value in-service teacher preparation and recognize the importance of continual professional development. These teachers are getting competitive disciplinary content area master’s degrees that have value way beyond one particular classroom.”
MASEE is devoted to developing professional support networks for in-service teachers by promoting connections with top researchers and practitioners in students’ chosen specialties as well as providing opportunities for each cohort to share ideas and projects.

Like many programs in the College of Education and UTeach, MASEE emphasizes the importance of STEM education in struggling schools in urban and rural districts. In addition to content area courses, MASEE students also get pedagogical instruction that addresses the specific needs of urban and rural districts, where higher level specialized STEM education is difficult to come by.
There’s definitely a commitment to addressing the issues of underrepresented populations and providing access to STEM education and STEM careers,” said Petrosino. “It’s critical that we do so. That’s the commitment of the program.”

For Texas teachers who are interested in expanding their technology and engineering knowledge, the flexibility and convenience of the MASEE degree makes more comprehensive STEM education  - that includes specialties like robotics and engineering - a possibility.