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LA MSTI Profile

Louisiana Math and Science Teacher Institute


The Louisiana Math and Science Teacher Institute (LA-MSTI) is a Partnership that includes the Louisiana State University & Agricultural and Mechanical College (LSU) as Lead Institution, the East Baton Rouge Parish School System and the Iberville Parish School System as Core Partners, and the Louisiana Department of Education and numerous other school districts in the Baton Rouge area as Supporting Partners.

The LA-MSTI establishes a special track for secondary-teachers within the Master's of Natural Sciences (MNS) degree program in the LSU College of Basic Sciences. It is based on a new, challenging and unique content-focused curriculum that develops science and mathematics Teacher Leaders for grades 7 - 12. The Partnership also creates new job categories and career paths for these Teacher Leaders, in which they work among their teacher-colleagues and with local and state educational leaders to improve student learning.

Ninety-six Teacher Leaders are supported by the Partnership as NSF Fellows. The Fellows are experienced mathematics and science teachers who are sponsored by the districts that employ them. Sponsorship entails creating new job assignments with significant responsibilities in coaching, mentoring or other capacities that leverage the disciplinary content knowledge, pedagogical content knowledge, and leadership skills developed in the MNS. The sponsorship model offers an innovative formula for district-university cooperation, resulting in enhancements to the teaching profession and increased student achievement. It allows both organizations--the district and the university--to focus their capabilities in complementary ways, respecting the traditional roles of the institutions, avoiding overlapping authority, and at the same time, promoting positive change in both.

The academic program includes 30 semester-hours of graduate credit and a master's thesis. The program is completed over a period of 26 months, requiring six weeks of coursework during each of three consecutive summers. Frequent contact is maintained during the two intervening academic years, but is scheduled to avoid interfering with teaching duties. Candidates attend in cohorts that promote collegiality and they develop a genuine professional community. The thesis includes scholarship in secondary mathematics and/or science education and is publishable in scholarly journals in these fields. The program develops Teacher Leaders who can teach Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and dual enrollment courses and the courses that lead up to them, to make challenging courses and curricula available to all students. It also equips Teacher Leaders to assist other teachers in offering these courses and expanding access and opportunity for all students. The leadership component includes a 3-credit-hour graduate-level leadership seminar, with academic year follow-up focusing on coaching, school improvement, and data management.

The research component of the project involves LSU Department of Psychology faculty, who investigate the following questions: 1) How can the psychological theories of expert performance and deliberate practice help to conceptualize the qualities of effective mathematics and science teachers, understand how exemplary teaching practices are acquired and inform the design of programs that promote them? 2) How is knowledge that supports effective teaching produced, controlled and propagated in teacher networks? The researchers seek findings that will inform the design of academic programs for teachers and their work-assignments in schools. They aim to initiate an independent, self-sustaining research program that will produce knowledge about professional development using the methodology of cognitive science.

An exceptionally strong evaluation component works in cooperation with the researchers to support the development of fundamental knowledge of the social and cognitive aspects of structure and change in school organizations, yielding knowledge that is broadly applicable to improving the quality of educational programs and institutions and providing access for all students.