CLAS Acts October 2018
FROM THE DEAN’S DESK
Frederick J. Antczak
There is no mistaking that fall has arrived.
Last weekend we hosted the CLAS Alumni Board and treated them to presentations by VMA’s Renee Zettle-Sterling and ANT’s Kristin Hedges. We also discussed our challenges and received the sort of ideas and perspective that we have come to value so highly from those who see their Grand Valley education in the context of the lives they have lived since graduation.
We are also right in the middle of the 25th anniversary Shakespeare Festival. King Lear has an uncanny way of speaking to everything from aging parents to mental health to the perils of politics, so don’t miss your chance to see it. You can also see the newly-minted play Defy the Stars in the black box theatre, so hop on the website right away.
Tonight, October 1, is the annual Fall Arts Lecture. William Deresiewicz will address the topic “What is Art in the 21st Century?” 7:30pm in the Eberhard Center. Get there early for the best seating. It is a fun time to be downtown because you can catch a little ArtPrize while you are at it.
Steve Buchwald of MIT will give a public lecture Thursday, October 4, 6pm in Loosemore auditorium on the Pew campus. The Ott Lecture often has a daunting title, but the wonderful speakers know the audience will include many non-specialists, so give yourself the gift of a better understanding of “The Development of Palladium-Catalyzed Carbon-Nitrogen Bond-Forming Reactions as a Key Technology for the Pharmaceutical Industry”.
After all that you might need to relax, so luckily on October 11 is Science on Tap: “A Series of Tubes” (explaining the technology behind the internet) by Marc Bitterle, Network Engineer, Michigan State University, at the SpeakEZ Lounge at 600 Monroe Avenue in GR.
In other words, there is no reason to be bored this month. I didn’t even mention The Great Lakes History Conference, AWRI seminars, and Philosophy talks, and much more that is shoehorned onto the CLAS Happenings poster and our web calendar.
In no time, it will be pumpkin spice everything, Homecoming, the World Series and Happy Halloween.
My next column will come out just a few days before our once-a-decade (it is to be hoped) visit by the Higher Learning Commission accreditation team. It is time to polish the brass work and make sure that your calendar has a note to be on campus November 5 and 6. Tuesday the 6th is also the midterm election, so having a voting plan will save you from trying to be in two places at once (any more than usual).
To quote Maurice Sendak, “Let the wild rumpus start!”
Collaboration in a Changing Educational Environment
ISCI students learn content and pedagogy in science education through active learning in our ISCI course curriculum, and during authentic field, service learning and scholarship experiences. All faculty emphasize, and students are fully immersed in Michigan's K-12 Science Standards, which are based on the Next Generation Science Standards. Integrated Science faculty engage students in discipline-specific scholarly activity and research, leading to publication and presentation opportunities. ISCI faculty are well-published experts in the science disciplines, and have won numerous prestigious teaching and research awards. ISCI faculty regularly work with science teachers around the state in professional development and grant opportunities. Integrated Science alumni are highly valued by employers and have a high success rate in securing teaching positions. The ISCI Program at GVSU is dedicated to developing and supporting the highest quality K-12 science teachers and their classrooms.
The Integrated Science program’s website suggests just how important the state’s educational policy and regulations of standards are to what the faculty must accomplish to prepare students for Michigan classrooms where their graduates fill a critical need.
So when I sat down with Geology’s Steve Mattox and Biology’s Stephen Rybczynski, who both wear a second hat for Integrated Science, it did not take long to see that the sometimes rapid changes in those state policies and standards necessitate nimble adaptation on their part. Fortuitously, the integrated nature of the program has tended to engender a great deal of collaboration which also strengthens their ability to cope with these changes.
The collaborative nature of the entire enterprise occurs on a number of levels—between CLAS and the College of Ed, between the content and the pedagogical aspects of the curriculum, between the sciences encompassed by ‘integrated science’, and between the sciences and the liberal education context of GVSU. That the delivery of the program is carried out in collaborative styles of teaching seems almost inevitable.
The Integrated Sciences program at Grand Valley came about when a decade ago the state began to require that teacher training in disciplines other than science include science at the elementary level. SCI 225-226 were designed and 16-18 sections a year were taught. The design was a collaborative project. After several iterations of the course in a team teaching style, the BIO and GEO participating teachers feel ready to teach the component that covers material in the other’s discipline. Steve and Stephen have seen significant evolution in the course over the ten years.
More recently, and thanks to an NSF grant, they are developing a new course for the new student population at the secondary level. Other drivers included that Chem Ed had its own course and Earth Science students wanted one, too. Physics also did not have a pedagogy course per se, so the new Integrated Science Secondary major performs a number of functions.
With a million-plus teacher shortage looming and a British longitudinal study showing that 1 in 3 teachers leave the profession in 5 years, Steve and Stephen feel the need to provide classroom experiences early in the students’ curriculum so that they do not become retention statistics. Early classroom placements can become a way for students to learn where their passion is (for instance, some love middle school unexpectedly) and to make sure they are on the right path. They are also aware that the first 5 years of teaching are quite stressful and that access to alumni can help the program to be transparent about that.
“Collaborative teaching also gets our students access to more of their professors earlier,” Steve notes. “And it helps us identify students who would be interested in collaborations.”
The new curricular sequence wraps up with SCI 400 covering Physics, and Chemistry and SCI 450 on Earth & Life is offered every other year.
“We find they are now better prepared by the time they get to the College of Ed. They’ve had key classes and more can be taken as given. That frees up more time to teach deeper pedagogy,” Stephen observes.
Though the pair often have many preps (Stephen often has 4), they really enjoy working together, tweaking new courses, and being in the classroom together even when one or the other is not ‘on stage’. “We weave the teaching together and between the two of us we can catch the little eddies in the teaching cycle that we might not spot if we were teaching alone,” Steve says.
The possibility of additional collaborative teaching is energizing. For instance, Steve Mattox would like to collaborate on his work on his Hawaii course with a biologist and his Iceland course with an artist. “When you have taught a course 5 or 6 times, you like to stay excited about it,” he explains.
Both point out that it is truly a pleasure when there is chemistry between the faculty and the new perspectives of each translate into benefits for the students. They also caution that this benefit is dependent on working well together.
Several Grand Valley faculty are involved in the new teacher prep standards that are coming. If teacher certification is parsed to 3 to 4 grade components, adaptation will be the watchword once again.
“Sharing ideas helps us deal with the educational changes,” Steve acknowledges. “We can draw explicit integrations between disciplines, we can provide pedagogy classes with subject matter experts, and we can make sure students are deeply immersed and able to see those cross cutting issues between the sciences.”
They see as one of their next challenges to collaborate with English faculty who are addressing the literacy components of the certification restructure. With their customary “can do”, they both are pretty sure there would be ways to do that.