Understanding and Describing Mathematics and Engineering Graduate Fellows Participation in a STEM Literacy Seminar: A Case Study
Twenty-nine percent of U.S. students score "below basic" in eighth-grade mathematics, with twenty-six percent of students "below basic" in reading (NAEP, 2007). One example of students' low ability in mathematics is the fact that only 38% of U.S. students could calculate a 15% tip on the price of a typical restaurant meal (Stigler & Hiebert, 1999). Many factors affect student learning, but this study focuses on teacher professional development, teaching future professors who will likely teach future classroom teachers, in a graduate seminar that combines research in "how people" (Donovan and Bransford, 2005) with reform-based mathematics (Hiebert, 2003), and content literacy in an emerging field called "quantitative literacy." (Steen, 2001). People who are "quantitatively literate" can read and write, talk, listen, view and make reasoned application of their learning in traditional classroom activities, project-based tasks, and everyday life. This case study was part of a PhD dissertation seeking to describe and understand the case of graduate mathematics and engineering students in a STEM literacy seminar, while bringing engineering-based projects to teach mathematics into secondary classrooms. The author as a research-practitioner (Ball, 2000) designed and taught the STEM Literacy seminar, in collaboration with Dr. G.H. "Jerry" Maring and Dr. Denny Davis. Data were analyzed using the constant-comparative method, and included fellows' written assignments, interviews, and video-taped seminar sessions to consider how graduate students respond to the new conception of classroom teaching related to quantitative literacy. Preliminary findings indicate fellows' adoption of new learning for classroom practice.