2012 Teachers Institute Previewed

Henry Ehrenberg PhotoNew Haven Public School teachers and Institute seminar leaders — members of the Yale faculty — gathered to discuss the program’s seminars, application process, and curricular and professional development opportunities.

The following write-up was contributed by the program’s Josiah Brown.

Seminars in History of Art, Biography, Science, Math and Engineering

On Tuesday evening, Jan. 10, the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute held an Open House for New Haven Public School teachers seeking to learn more about this program and its 2012 seminar offerings.

The Institute’s teacher leadership, including school Representatives and Contacts from across the district, hosted the event on the Yale campus for their colleagues working in both elementary and secondary grades in New Haven’s public schools.

The Institute is an educational partnership between Yale University and the New Haven Public Schools designed to strengthen teaching and learning in local schools and, by example and direct assistance, in high-need schools around the country. Through the Institute, Yale faculty members and school teachers work together in a collegial relationship. Established in 1978, the Institute is also an interschool and interdisciplinary forum for teachers to collaborate on new curricula. Each participating teacher becomes an Institute Fellow and prepares a curriculum unit to be taught the following year. Teachers have primary responsibility for identifying the subjects the Institute addresses. The partnership is a way to support the district’s continuing effort to attract, develop, and retain additional effective educators in a teaching force of more than one thousand individuals.
In 2012 the Institute is offering four seminars to participating New Haven Public School teachers:

*“Understanding History and Society through Visual Art, 1776-1914,” led by Timothy J. Barringer, Paul Mellon Professor of History of Art

*“The Art of Biography,” led by John Lewis Gaddis, Robert A. Lovett Professor of History (and biographer of George F. Kennan)

*“Anatomy, Health, and Disease: From the Skeletal System to Cardiovascular Fitness,” led by William B. Stewart, Associate Professor of Anatomy at the School of Medicine

*“Engineering in the K-12 Classroom: Math and Science Education for the 21st-Century Workforce,” led by Paul R. Van Tassel, Professor of Chemical and Environmental Engineering

The Open House followed Representatives’ work in the fall planning seminars to respond to the expressed needs of teachers, and of their students, in New Haven. Colleagues talked about the rewards and responsibilities of participating as a Fellow, and ways that participation can support teacher development at any stage of one’s career. The Yale faculty members leading the seminars each made brief presentations, followed by informal questions and discussion.

Seminar descriptions, applications, and principal review forms are available from the Institute’s teacher Representatives and Contacts in the schools. Printed copies of the Institute’s 2012 Brochure (including the schedule) are also available in schools.

Applications, and completed principal review forms, are due to the Representatives by 12:00 noon on January 31. Seminars begin on March 6 (except for one seminar that begins a week early). The Institute encourages interested teachers to speak with their school colleagues who are Representatives and Contacts.

Some 1819 curriculum units that Fellows, in collaboration with Yale faculty members, have written for New Haven students since 1978 are available here. These materials address subjects from history, literature, art, language, reading and writing instruction to math, science, and health. The units are intended to challenge and motivate students, consistent with district curricula. All members of the community are invited to use these curricular resources for educational, non-commercial purposes.

A 2011 news release addressed the curriculum units Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute Fellows wrote last year, in the context of the district’s school reform plans and evaluation findings about the Teachers Institute approach, online at: http://www.teachers.yale.edu.

One-third of the 2011 Fellows participated in the Institute for the first time. Of the 16 schools the Fellows represent, three schools had four Fellows each; five schools had at least three Fellows each; nine schools had at least two Fellows. Betsy Ross, Cooperative Arts and Humanities, and Davis Street had four Fellows each. James Hillhouse and John Martinez had three Fellows each. Edgewood, Metropolitan Business, Sound, and Wilbur Cross had two Fellows each. Other schools with 2011 Fellows are Career, Clemente, East Rock, King/Robinson, Nathan Hale, New Horizons, and Wexler-Grant. Three of the Fellows – from Betsy Ross, Davis, and Edgewood – were also in national seminars, among National Fellows from 21 school districts in 10 states.

Teacher leadership is fundamental to the Institute approach. In addition to participating as Fellows – including writing units for students – in seminars that university faculty members lead, teachers shape seminar offerings through school Representatives. In the fall, teachers representing their New Haven schools canvassed colleagues to identify topics on which the program should offer seminars in 2012. Seminars respond to teachers’ requests for what is most useful to them and compelling to their students in addressing the district’s curricular needs.

Science, Technology, Engineering, Math (STEM)

Regarding science and mathematics in particular, a 2010 Report to the President on K-12 STEM Education, released by the White House, cited the Teachers Institute in the following way (on pages 101-102 of the pre-publication version of the full report):

“A variety of programs attempt to bridge the gaps between public schools and the STEM professional community, but not all such programs provide teachers and schools with resources that are useful in their classrooms. Nonetheless, several programs demonstrate the potential for such connections to benefit K-12 schools. For example, Teachers Institutes, which began in 1978 in New Haven and have since expanded to cities across the country, pair universities and school districts, allowing teachers to identify the topics on which they would like to collaborate. University professors then guide these teachers through inquiry-based learning in a STEM subject area. … It is important that we find way to harness these sources of partnership and expertise in a committed, sustained way relevant to K-12 teachers and students.”

In describing the 2012 seminar he will lead, Paul R. Van Tassel has acknowledged National Research Council’s Framework for K-12 Science Education: “The seminar could potentially touch on aspects of all four of the core disciplinary areas – i) life sciences; ii) physical sciences; iii) earth and space sciences; and iv) engineering, technology and the applications of science – that the ... Framework for K-12 Science Education specifies that all students should understand by the time they finish high school. That framework identifies concepts that have explanatory value across much of science and engineering, such as cause and effect and stability and change.  The framework also treats key practices that students should learn, such as asking questions and defining problems, analyzing and interpreting data, and constructing explanations and designing solutions.”  As the framework notes, these practices should be integrated with study of the disciplinary core ideas and applied across grades.  The seminar that William B. Stewart has proposed, too, could address a range of these concepts and practices across grades, particularly within the area of life sciences.

National Initiative and Periodical

In 2004 the Institute undertook the Yale National Initiative to strengthen teaching in public schools, a long-term endeavor to influence public policy on teacher professional development.  The Institute publishes a periodical, On Common Ground: Strengthening Teaching through School-University Partnership – Number 14 of which was published in fall 2011 and is online.


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