Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis

UCASE welcomes international group focused on science and technology education

Release Date: 
Mar 3 2011

The Urban Center for the Advancement of STEM Education (UCASE) at IUPUI hosted a group of educators and administrators from across the world on February 28 and March 1, all coming to learn more about teaching science and technology in their country’s schools.

UCASE Director Kathy Marrs conducted a session with the visitors about best practices, while IUPUI Computer, Information, and Leadership Technology Department Professor Charlie Feldhaus took the group to the McKenzie Center for Innovation and Technology in the Metropolitan School District of Lawrence Township.

The group stopped in Indianapolis as a part of a program organized by the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The International Center of Indianapolis coordinated the local stop on the program.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for those of us interested in STEM teacher preparation and teacher professional development”, said Marrs, who hosted the U.S. Delegation at IUPUI on Monday. “Many students, faculty and parents in the U.S. have a growing appreciation of the importance of a globally-connected citizenship, and by getting to know about and share ideas of teacher preparation between countries, we can think about ways to work together to develop an internationally-minded generation of students.”

The group included representatives from countries from across the globe, including Bahrain, Liberia, Russia, and Uruguay. Marrs said the delegation was particularly interested in how UCASE has successfully brought together divergent areas of IUPUI to work towards improving STEM education for K-12 students. “They wanted to find out about UCASE and how we partnered as a campus to bring together these disciplinary faculty—from education, science, engineering, and technology,” Marrs said. “They were really interested in that partnership and how we really worked in practice.”

Founded in 2006, UCASE is a joint effort among the School of Science, School of Education, and School of Engineering and Technology at IUPUI. Through a combination of program development, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education research, and graduate and undergraduate scholarships, UCASE fosters the goals of increasing the numbers of highly qualified K-12 STEM teachers, and expanding knowledge of teaching and learning.

The State Department wanted to provide the international visitors an opportunity to meet with U.S. counterparts to learn best practices. The whole visit focused on STEM education, particularly in the areas of professional development for teachers, public-private partnerships to promote science education, and the role of state government in promoting and developing science curricula.

Marrs said the delegation, which also visited The Indianapolis Children’s Museum and public broadcasting station WFYI, asked about how to best bring together divergent agencies and departments to work toward improving STEM education.

Several indicated a problem with preparing teachers is that in their countries, teacher preparation and applied work are too broadly separated. “Their situation is either you’re all content or you’re all pedagogy and teacher education,” she said. “And it’s very difficult to find a way to get one person with both experiences.”

The delegation members were also interested in how to teach science and technology skills that could also be put to very practical use, such as developing sustainable housing and clean water systems. Marrs said they also wanted to find out more about bringing more girls into STEM education.

The visit marks a move into an international perspective on STEM education for UCASE, something Marrs said brings an important element of global education to the center’s work. She said she’s pleased that the still relatively young UCASE has begun attracting such attention.

“I’m really thrilled that they made a visit to IUPUI and UCASE,” Marrs said. “Given their limited time in the states, they were only able to visit a few sites in Indianapolis, and it was an honor for us to serve as their host university. I think that they had heard about our reputation as a center truly working together between all the schools.”