Teacher Quality Grant Program Allows Teachers To Participate Remotely

To date, the program now serves educators in nearly 56 schools statewide.
Written by: CEHD Communications Staff
Post date: September 25, 2014

For the first time, the Teacher Quality Grant Program allowed educators to observe students from their homes or school campuses via a live camera feed.

The summer institute, led by professor of mathematics Dr. Sandra Nite, offers teachers real world experiences in STEM education through project-based learning, hands on STEM teaching, and observation of STEM professors teaching 6-12 grade students.

Although the program contains a face-to-face summer component, teachers did not have the opportunity to observe students in a classroom. Beginning this past summer, teachers observed from outside the classroom before they arrived in College Station to work with hands-on materials that support active learning.

“We have the only Teacher Quality grant in Texas that is very much online,” Nite said. However, “This year was the first in the Teacher Quality grant Program where we were encouraged to submit a bigger project.”

She and her team collaborated with IT professionals to create a virtual environment in which teachers could learn. Rather than having teachers travel to Texas A&M’s main campus to participate, teachers across Texas were invited to join online via Blackboard Collaborate. The software gives teachers the option to meet weekly in a synchronous, online environment, where they use headsets to speak with each other and use an online whiteboard to work through discussion problems together.

On the whole, the online features have made the program much more accessible to what has grown to be a much larger audience. To date, the program now serves educators in nearly 56 schools statewide.

“It’s not like a webinar like you usually see, where you get online and somebody lectures to you and then maybe you can type in questions,” she explained. “This is a completely different environment.” They are able to meet much more often throughout the fall and spring semesters.

“It really helps develop, I think, a better professional learning community,” Nite said. “You have this group that’s learning together.”

“We have the only Teacher Quality grant in Texas that is very much online" - Dr. Sandra NiteTweet This

Project-Based Learning & What's Next

Throughout the program, teachers are trained to understand project-based learning, a dynamic classroom approach in which students explore real-world problems and acquire a deeper knowledge of the subject in the process.

“Teachers can do the math, but how do you get this across to students in a way that’s meaningful and that they can remember and use?”

For example, as a next step in the grant program, Nite would like to have teachers integrate science, technology and engineering into their mathematics curriculum by (leading) 3D printing projects.

Currently, Nite uses funds from the grant to provide teachers with classroom materials for their learning experiences, including state-of-the-art graphing calculators, to facilitate project-based learning.

She hopes to use funds from future grants to create curriculum for 3D-printer projects and send teachers home with printers of their own to bring back to their classrooms.

On the effectiveness of project-based learning, she said, “We want them to understand how and why it works because research says that, if they can make sense of it, then can remember it better and do it better. That’s really what we’re all about is how do we help kids make sense of the mathematics so that they can still do it tomorrow… and next week.”

Media contacts: Dominique Benjamin, Communications Specialist, dbenjamin@tamu.edu or Dr. Sandra Nite, Professor of Mathematics, snite@math.tamu.edu