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Randolph College Recognized for Work With Area Teachers

LYNCHBURG–The Virginia Math and Science Coalition has recognized a Randolph College program designed to help elementary and secondary teachers learn more effective ways to teach science as a 2012 Program That Works. The College was one of only six programs in the state to receive the award during a special ceremony in Richmond on May 22.

The award recognized the College’s Science and Math Links: Research-Based Teaching Institute, which is organized by Peggy Schimmoeller, a Randolph education professor, Peter Sheldon, a Randolph physics professor, and Tatiana Gilstrap, a Randolph environmental science professor.

The Virginia Mathematics and Science Coalition is an alliance of education, corporate, and public policy leaders who work together to revitalize mathematics and science education in prekindergarten through graduate school. The coalition grants the Programs That Work awards to effective student and teacher educational programs it considers exemplary and for which there is evidence of a positive impact on student or teacher learning.

The coalition’s selection committee recognized the significant work that had been invested in the design and implementation of Randolph College’s program as well as its impact on education.

“The science and mathematics education initiative works so well because it is truly a collaborative effort between the education department and the sciences department at the College,” said Schimmoeller. “Randolph College faculty members work in tandem to offer meaningful learning opportunities to area teachers.”

Randolph College has received funding for the Science and Math Links program from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) since its beginning three years ago. SCHEV recently awarded the College funding for a fourth year.

The Randolph program, which has grown steadily, trains elementary and middle school teachers to better teach science with an emphasis on hands-on and inquiry-based methods. The program includes intensive assessment of how the training affects teachers’ attitudes toward science, the attitudes of their students toward science, and the learning of science measured using the students’ standardized test scores.

“We started with basic science and math content and hands-on ideas in the first year and have expanded to include science literacy, reading, and some special programs,” said Sheldon. “We continue to expand to include more teachers and administrators in the workshop.”

The Randolph initiative involves local school divisions, the Jubilee Family Development Center, the Central Virginia Governor’s School for Science and Technology, and Agriculture in the Classroom.

“We strive to reach as many children as possible in a variety of settings,” Schimmoeller said. “We want students and teachers to feel confident in their ability to do and to understand all areas of scientific investigation. Scientific understanding allows our children to make informed decisions when they live, work and vote in the future. Central to this community effort is eliminating barriers for women and minorities to enter science fields.”

Randolph’s program has improved the quality of instruction offered by its participating teachers. After participating in the program, the teachers use more hands-on and inquiry science discovery in the classroom and survey data also show positive results in attitude and achievement.

“We are very proud of what we have done,” Sheldon said. “When we began our collaboration in 1999, our goal was to improve attitude and achievement for students in science in secondary school.”

Students, he added, sometimes make up their minds as early as high school, about whether they will enter a career involving science. “We decided that to make the most impact, we needed to start as early as possible to dispel the myths that ‘science is hard,’ or ‘science is done by white males in lab coats,’” Sheldon said. “We are so happy to be funded by SCHEV for these four years so that we can really work to make our intended impact.”


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