Conference focuses on alternative certification for science teachers

The STEM Education Institute and the School of Education held a national conference titled “Science, Technology, Engineering and Math—Alternative Certification for Teachers” (STEM-ACT) on May 5-7 in Arlington, Va.

Funded by a $200,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the conference identified key issues relating to the alternative certification of science teachers as a basis for developing a more systematic approach to the study of these efforts. Conference organizers addressed how to incorporate the results of more than 30 years of research on science teaching and learning into alternative certification programs.

The principal investigators for the grant are Physics professor Morton M. Sternheim, director of the STEM Education Institute, professor Allan Feldman of Teacher Education and Curriculum Studies, and associate professor Joseph Berger of Educational Policy, Research and Administration.

The conference brought together experts from around the country “for constructive dialogue about the current state of knowledge regarding the impact and effectiveness of alternative teacher education in science,” said Feldman. The conference was intended to provide an overview of existing policy on alternative certification of middle and high school science teachers; synthesize research about the needs, methods, and outcomes of alternative certification for science teachers; examine models of alternative certification programs; and identify an agenda for further research.

The conference featured around 30 presentations from researchers, policymakers and practitioners from around the country, with additional presenters from Canada and Australia.

The keynote address was delivered by Ken Zeichner, associate dean and professor of curriculum and instruction at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Zeichner is a nationally renowned expert on teacher certification and has won numerous national rewards for his work including the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education’s (AACTE) award for distinguished contributions to research on teacher education.

Other featured presenters included Angelo Collins, executive director of the Knowles Science Teaching Foundation, Emily Feistritzer, president and chief executive officer of the National Center for Alternative Certification (NCAC), and Antoinette Mitchell, vice president, unit accreditation for the National Council for Accreditation for Teacher Education (NCATE).

“The intellectual merit of the conference is that it will provide a forum for the exploration of what is known about alternative routes of certification for science teachers and help identify an agenda for future research,” said Sternheim.

Organizers said the conference should help define an impact on policy as well as practice in the crucial area of preparing science teachers. “By bringing together experts in science education, teacher education, and educational policy with educational administrators and policymakers, the conference will help to shape the national conversation on the pros and cons of alternative and traditional certification programs for teachers of science,” said Berger.