UF EQuIPD Grant
EQuIPD: Engaging Quality Instruction through Professional Development
Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects are taught to Florida students as early as elementary school, but more teachers and more rigorous training are needed if we are to support the state’s continuous bid to become a reputable high tech economy that relies on an exemplary high-tech work force. The Florida Department of Education put science, especially in middle schools, on its Top 10 list for Critical Teaching Shortages in 2016. In 2017, FLDOE added computer science & literacy and mathematics to the list.
The University of Florida is addressing this gap with a “Supporting Effective Educator Development” (SEED) grant recently awarded to Dr. Nancy Ruzycki by the U.S. Department of Education. With the participation of 11 school districts in Florida and members of the Florida High Tech Corridor, as well as the involvement of other UF departments and colleges, she will lead the effort to improve the pedagogy of STEM learning among K-9 students.
The project, “Engaged Quality Instruction through Professional Development” (EQuIPD) will involve 11 urban to rural counties within Florida, including Hillsborough, Palm Beach, Hardee, Hendry, Okeechobee, Glades, DeSoto, Highlands, St. Johns, Sarasota and Manatee counties. These districts account for over 30% of elementary schools on Florida’s lowest 300 list and contain 12 schools listed as persistently underperforming (FLDOE, 2017). Schools in the EQuIPD project will benefit directly from targeted teacher professional development programs that will ultimately increase the number of highly qualified STEM elementary and middle school teachers in these schools, resulting in improved student learning activities and outcomes.
“Our EQuIPD model has three objectives,” states Dr. Ruzycki. “First, EQuIPD will train teachers in ‘system thinking’ – how to incorporate inquiry, computational thinking, technology integration and engineering design into problem-solving. Second, we want to help teachers in grades K-9 develop lesson plans for using technical instruments, including sensors and probes, to demonstrate data collection and analysis. Third, EQuIPD will address the issue of how STEM learning affects the technology work force. Teachers will have the opportunity to align with STEM industries in their region through program-sponsored field trips, which will help them meet industry people and network with them."
- This is a 3-year grant, with the option for a further two years of funding from the US Department of Education, if performance objectives are met in Years 1-3.
- The primary focus of the grant is to enhance Grades K-9 teacher pedagogical content knowledge related to STEM, particularly in the areas of technology and engineering. The professional development will encompass use of sensors and probe-ware, data analysis, and computational thinking.
- The project uses a Train-the-Trainer model in which teachers undergo intensive training in the first two years. They then provide training to colleagues in the third year of the grant, with control teachers as a priority group.
- Another project focus is Teacher Quality. Teachers will be provided the opportunity to earn teaching credentials (as CTE certifications) as well as micro-credentials in such areas as CTE, STEM teaching, systems thinking, and engineering design. Grant personnel will work with the districts in translating micro-credentials earned by the teachers into professional development hours that can be used to re-certify teacher licenses.
- Related to the enhancement of teacher quality, the EQuIPD project targets enhancing the science and mathematics content knowledge of participants. Additionally, the project will create a supportive local community of practice for teachers by training instructional coaches and by connecting teachers with local STEM industries/business partners.
Stages of EQuIPD
Stage 1: Teacher participants will be preferentially recruited from elementary schools on the Lowest 300 list (FLDOE) and from persistently low-performing middle schools. From the applications received, the external evaluators will randomly select the intervention and control teachers (100 intervention and 150 control). After the teachers are recruited, project staff from UF will visit the schools to assess current technology available to teachers and will speak with district personnel concerning training needs. In Stage 1, baseline data will be collected and teacher observations will occur. Three regional Instructional Coaches will be hired and trained in this stage as well. The stage culminates with a 5-day Summer Institute for the teachers in the intervention group.
Stage 2: Teachers will work with the Instructional Coaches twice per month and will implement strategies/technologies learned in the summer training. They will participate in follow-up sessions (2 per semester) as well as field trips to local STEM entities. The training will focus on video analysis of lessons, helping teachers become more analytical of their lesson designs and more cognizant of classroom complexities (in short, to use systems thinking when planning effective lessons). Teachers will again participate in a 5-day Summer Institute.
Stage 3: In the final stage of the project, the focus shifts to dissemination. The teachers in the intervention group will act as facilitators of professional development sessions to disseminate their learning to colleagues. Control teachers will be provided priority placements for these sessions.
If you are a classroom teacher and would like to sign up to receive more information about the grant, please fill out the EQuIPD Grant Interest Form.
If you are a classroom teacher and would like to apply to be a participant in the grant (and your district has signed on as a partner), please visit the UF Grant Teacher Application site.
Note: If you are selected as either an intervention or a control participant, the stipends you receive from the grant will be your only reimbursement, all travel and meal expenses are the responsibility of the participant and will not be reimbursed by UF, HEC, or your district.