A social network of university faculty and those preparing to become teachers will soon create online and professional communities in an effort to improve academic achievement, especially in the areas of math and science education for multilingual learners in urban K-12 schools.  Faculty at the University of Colorado Denver’s School of Education & Human Development are leading the effort with support of a $1.9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of English Language Acquisition and its National Professional Development program.

The award was given to the Urban Community Teacher Education (UCTE) team which plans to substantially improve curricula and enhance existing networks and relationships.

“This grant is going to provide the Urban Community Teacher Education (UCTE) program opportunities to improve our efforts in terms of preparing teachers to work effectively with multilingual learners through innovative uses of technology and a particular focus on math and science teaching,” said Kara Mitchell, PhD, assistant professor.  “All members of the UCTE community will be invited to participate in these initiatives as we aim to improve classroom practice across teacher preparation and K-12 to better support high levels of academic achievement for multilingual learners.”

Mitchell is joined by fellow faculty members Cindy Gutierrez, Jacqueline Leonard and Honorine Nocon.

Their work will focus on two key areas of instruction – pre-service and in-service.   Pre-service initiatives will include professional development that accelerates language, literacy and content knowledge, collaborative research aiming to solve local issues around instruction and improved alignment of curricula across licensure programs and internships.   Professional Learning Communities will partner with school districts to assess the local needs surrounding math and science instruction for multilingual learners and assess what is needed to better prepare teachers in these subject areas.   In-service initiatives will focus on creating online communities for professional development where participants will receive instructional support.

Both areas will be connected with an online learning community that is being developed for use by all members of the UCTE community.  This is a social network type learning environment where content can be accessed, stored, and shared.  Smaller communities can be created and online professional development will be supported across the professional lifetime of teacher candidates, graduates and district partners.  Utilizing EdWeb, this online learning community will become an integrated aspect of the UCTE community supporting the work of every member from teacher candidates to university faculty to district partners.

“One issue that we are trying to address with this work is the lack of effective and meaningful two-way communication between researchers and practitioners,” said Mitchell. “There is a great deal of professional knowledge we all posses.  We are striving to create better avenues for sharing that knowledge across the university and K-12 schools in service of improved student learning, particularly for multilingual learners in science and math classrooms.”

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