Q&A: Group Aims To Link Arts and Sciences With Teacher Education
Project 30, a national initiative of higher-education institutions interested in strengthening teachers' knowledge of their subject matter and how to teach it, last month became a permanent organization, now known as the Project 30 Alliance.
The Carnegie Corporation of New York has provided funding to support the group and to allow two of its officers to write a book about reforming the arts and sciences components of teacher education.
Jon Engelhardt, the dean of the college of education at the University of Texas at El Paso and the secretary-treasurer of the alliance, discussed its work with Assistant Editor Ann Bradley.
Q. What is the significance of Project 30's becoming a permanent organization? Was this envisioned when the group was formed?
A. [Project 30] began as a funded project to bring 30--it turned out to be 32 organizations together around a common theme, which was to look at the role of [the] arts and sciences in the preparation of teachers. As this project began to move through the institutions, it be- came very apparent that... three years was only sufficient to get a good start. What was really needed was some way to continue this project for number of years. There was the sense that what we were doing was the tip of iceberg, and that there was a lot more work to be done out there.
Q. Will your organization be limited to these initial members?
A. The membership is and will be open to others. Actually, we are having discussions about how that will occur right now, but primarily it will require a commitment on the part of the institution to the kinds of goals that Project 30 has--the interaction of the arts and sciences with education around the content preparation of teachers, the formulation of a team from the institution, and a statement of what the institution wants to accomplish.
Q. Have you had much interest from groups that want to join?
A. We had at least 12 or 13 institutions that showed up at our organizational meeting... expressing anywhere from casual to very sincere interest-considering the number of original members, that's a lot.
Q. Do you believe your message about linking arts and sciences preparation with teacher education is getting through, then?
A. I don't think it was ever the intent to get a message through to others. It was more the intention to bring together people who had that commitment and to encourage others who might have those inclinations to join in. By example, it does get through to others. We want to make sure that others are aware of what we're doing and get them to engage in the same kinds of intellectual discussions.
Q. What lessons have you learned from your work thus far that you intend to apply in the future?
A. One major lesson is, I think, that this is a whole lot harder than it sounds. It takes time and a lot of discussion and talk to shift people's perspectives or to gain new perspectives.
Q. In general, are people still at the talking stage or have they begun to make significant changes in their teacher-preparation programs?
A. All of us started at different places in the journey. Some were ready to take off with monumental changes; others were in a position where the best thing that could occur would be to actually begin to have real conversations between education and the arts and sciences faculties.
Q. What have been some of the highlights of the work at member institutions?
A. San Diego State has an initiative that brings together school practitioners in a team with arts and sciences and education faculty. They teach a class together. What happens is, everyone ends up realizing that everybody else has something very significant to contribute-that the teacher knows a whole lot more than he has been given credit for, that the education faculty have a view that's very important, and that the arts and sciences [faculty members also| have a view that's important for the preparation of teachers.
A couple of schools had a student exchange, where predominantly black institutions and predominantly non-black institutions exchanged students back and forth. It was to try to sensitize both in terms of the environment, but the focus was not pedagogical preparation, but the multicultural theme of the project.
At the University of Georgia, they wound up working together to develop a new kind of content expertise for teachers going into the primary grades in math and science.
Vanderbilt is developing interdisciplinary courses. Rather than
taking a separate course in each science or in separate areas of math,
they are coming together to develop more integrated content courses
designed primarily for teachers. Underlying this kind of belief is
that, if courses are designed to be good for teachers, they are
probably good for everyone at the college level.