Teachers Institute Begins A New Year

Henry Ehrenberg Photos
New 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 account was contributed by the program’s Josiah Brown.

Seminars in History, Literature, Biology, and Architectural Engineering

On Tuesday, January 15, 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 2013 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 2013 the Institute is offering four seminars to participating New Haven Public School teachers:

• “Environment, Energy, Building,” led by D. Michelle Addington, Gerald Hines Professor of Sustainable Architectural Design;

• “Literature and Information,” led by Jessica Brantley, Associate Professor of English;

• “Immigration and Migration and the Making of a Modern American City,” led by Mary Ting Yi Lui, Professor of History and of American Studies;

•  “Asking Questions in Biology: Discovery versus Knowledge,” led by Paul E. Turner, Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

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 2013 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 29. Seminars begin on March 5. The Institute encourages interested teachers to speak with their school colleagues who are Representatives and Contacts.

Thirty-Five Years of Partnership; Curricular Resources Available

Some 1856 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.  All members of the community are invited to use these curricular resources for educational, non-commercial purposes.

A news release addressed the curriculum units Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute Fellows wrote in 2011, 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

In 2012, the Institute marked its 35th year.  Four seminars were offered, resulting in the following volumes of curriculum units that teachers prepared as Fellows: 

• “Understanding History and Society through Visual Art, 1776-1914,” from a seminar led by Timothy J. Barringer, Paul Mellon Professor of the History of Art;

• “The Art of Biography,” led by John Lewis Gaddis, Robert A. Lovett Professor of History;
• “Anatomy, Health, and Disease: From the Skeletal System to Cardiovascular Fitness,” led by William B. Stewart, Associate Professor of Anatomy;

• “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 curriculum units – added to the collection here – include appendices with references to academic standards they implement in the teaching of reading, writing, mathematics, science, history, art, Spanish, and French, as well as English.  The units that Fellows developed across the four seminars are intended to challenge and motivate students, in the context of district curricula. In 2012, many of the Fellows explicitly cited Common Core standards to which their units relate.

Of the 15 schools the 2012 Fellows represented, three schools had five Fellows each; four schools had at least three Fellows each; eleven schools had at least two Fellows. Cooperative Arts and Humanities, Davis Street, and Roberto Clemente had five Fellows each. Hill Regional Career had three Fellows. Betsy Ross, James Hillhouse, John Martinez, Metropolitan Business, New Haven Academy, New Horizons, and Wilbur Cross schools had two Fellows each.  Other schools with 2012 Fellows were Edgewood, King/Robinson, Polly McCabe, and Wexler-Grant. Two of the New Haven Fellows – from Davis and Edgewood – were also in national seminars, among National Fellows from 16 school districts in nine states.

Teachers Shape Seminars – with Students, Professional Development, Curricula, and Academic Standards in Mind

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 2013. Seminars respond to teachers’ requests for what is most useful to them and compelling to their students in addressing the district’s curricular needs.

At the January 15 Open House, school Representatives spoke to the relationship between Institute seminars and curriculum units and the teacher development and evaluation (TEVAL) system that New Haven Public Schools are implementing.  Fellows discussed not only how their work through the Institute can address TEVAL requirements but also how Institute participation can help teachers as they adapt to new academic standards: the Common Core standards for mathematics and for English language arts and literacy in history/social studies, science and technical subjects.  A Representative who teaches chemistry at the high-school level spoke of promising connections to the emerging Next Generation Science Standards, too.

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[s] to harness these sources of partnership and expertise in a committed, sustained way relevant to K-12 teachers and students.”

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.  The Yale National Initiative held its eighth Annual Conference in October 2012.

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