Stepping Up in STEM Education

THE ALARM HAS SOUNDED. America has fallen behind emerging economic powers in the developing world in preparing its children for the technology-driven economy of the 21st century. In the diverse bellwether state of Florida, lawmakers have identified the need to build world-class talent in science and mathematics as a top priority for developing a skilled and educated workforce.


UF’s College of Education is a first responder. Our faculty scholars have devised aggressive strategies to strengthen STEM education in our own backyard and across the state and nation. Here is a glimpse of those initiatives:


In 2012, after nearly half of Florida’s ninth-graders failed a required Algebra 1 end-of-course exam, the college’s Lastinger Center sought a solution. They came up with Algebra Nation, an interactive, Web-based resource that gives users access to some of the state’s best math teachers and e-learning resources. It was such a hit with teachers and students that the Florida Legislature in 2013 allocated $2 million for UF to create Algebra Nation 2.0 and integrate this upgraded, user-friendly app in school districts across the state. The program continues to grow and grow—in quality, services and usage. Read more about this initiative 

Through the Lastinger Center, UF education faculty scholars have developed an intensive, yearlong University of Florida Certified Instructional Coaching program that capitalizes on peer-to-peer collaboration. By embedding professional development into the daily routine of teachers, skilled UF coach-facilitators prepare master teachers in science and math as certified coaches who collaborate with other teachers throughout their district to advance teaching practices and raise student achievement. Read more about this initiative 
Screen-Shot-2014-02-07-at-2.22.16-PM-300x81Through its award-winning Florida Master Teacher Initiative, the college’s UF Lastinger Center for Learning has developed a job-embedded teacher development model focused on struggling schools’ needs in science and math instruction—with partnering schools in several Florida districts. The program allows practicing teachers to earn graduate degrees in curriculum and instruction and teacher leadership while remaining on the job and at no cost to them. The program seamlessly blends on-site and online coursework, supported by UF professors-in-residence based at the schools. Teacher-students devote a portion of their studies to vital specialization areas such as math or science education and early learning. Read more about this initiative 
The college’s heightened emphasis on STEM education is evident in the volume and scope of its grant-funded research projects and innovative programs devoted to the disciplines of Science Education, Mathematics Education and Education Technology. UF education faculty currently hold STEM education-related grants with a combined value of more than $17.7 million. Vital funded projects range from collaborative STEM Ed reform efforts for individual Florida school districts to paid summer internships for UF STEM teachers-in-training.

Read more about this initiative 
Many of the college’s STEM education reform activities are interdisciplinary efforts involving UF faculty researchers from multiple colleges across campus and even other universities; most initiatives involve partnerships with school districts and community organizations to directly benefit thousands of students and their teachers.  Read more about this initiative 
The backbone of the college’s STEM education efforts is its core academic programs in teacher preparation and its advanced degree programs in the STEM disciplines. Students can earn an M.Ed. in secondary science and environmental education and become eligible for Florida teaching certification through its nationally ranked ProTeach teacher preparation program. Students also can earn an M.Ed. in an alternative teacher certification program in mathematics education (with a statistics education option). For practicing educators, the college provides advanced degree programs in science education, mathematics education and education technology.Read more about this initiative 
UFTeach is a pillar of the college’s STEM education reform strategy, created to ease the critical shortage of science and math teachers in the middle and high school grades. It’s a collaboration with UF’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the goal is to recruit top undergraduate majors in math and science and prepare them to teach effectively. UFTeach provides students with a specialized education minor degree in their STEM discipline.  Read more about this initiative
The right teacher can make all the difference. Armed with an engaging, research-proven curriculum, UF education faculty are creating cadres of highly trained Science Teacher Leaders at middle schools around the state who can educate and energize other teachers in their home districts with a new kind of science. Read more about this initiative 

“This type of awareness and insight cannot be easily gained in the traditional settings in which teachers learn.”

Dimple Flesner, associate director of UFTeach and co-principal investigator of STEM EduGators

Robotics in the schools: a pathway to science/engineering careers

roaring-riptides-roboticsFIRST Robotics Competition, a public charity created to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders, was introduced in 2012 to P.K. Yonge, UF’s K-12 developmental research school. FIRST challenges teams to custom-build and program a robot—in just six weeks—to perform prescribed tasks against an international field of competitors. The experience helps students gain technical knowledge and skills in science and engineering and experience life lessons on the value of collaboration and innovative thinking. P.K. Yonge’s Roaring Riptide team in 2015 won the South regionals and placed high in the international FIRST Robotics world championships.

Read more about the team