When St. Kate’s received a $240,000 grant from the 3M Foundation in 2004 to develop a STEM minor, it quickly became clear that teaching college-level science, technology, engineering or mathematics classes for non-STEM majors presented an opportunity for collaboration.
The STEM minor is open to all students but is designed especially for elementary education majors. So, the development team came up with a novel idea: Why not have a STEM professor and an education professor teach the courses together?
The result has earned kudos and generated curiosity from educators nationwide. The courses convey college-level STEM concepts to students who may not have naturally felt drawn to science, and professors say they’ve become better teachers by working with colleagues from other disciplines.
"Working with an engineer has given me a new approach to problem-solving. For an engineer, there is not problem, it's an opportunity," says Mary Hedenstrom, Associate Professor of Education, who co-teaches the Engineering in our World undergraduate course.
Jill Welter, Assistant Professor of Biology, has co-taught "Environmental Biology" with a number of Education faculty, and currently teaches with Natasha Yates, Associate Professor of Education. The course has proven so popular that even non-STEM minors elect to take it to fulfill their science requirements.
"It took a lot of work and cooperation to achieve what we have here, but the end product has been really effective," Welter says. "I’m using a variety of the teaching methods that I’ve picked up during the STEM courses in my regular biology classes."
In order to team teach effectively, faculty members have to coordinate class outlines, syllabi — and footwork.
Portions originally published in “The Science of Education,” SCAN: the Magazine of St. Catherine University, February 2010.