School of Education STEM educators addressing critical need for teachers
Donna Gibson

For students interested in teaching as well as science or math, the School of Education’s Master of Teaching program includes specific training in several STEM fields, such as biology education, earth science education and mathematics.

This STEM education group develops research, courses, and opportunities for our students, preparing them for effectively teaching science and math in their own classrooms.

Among the School of Education faculty included in this group are Drs. Katherine Dabney and Stephen Tucker.

“Every teacher prep program needs to know how to teach teachers, I think our program is particularly strong in that way,” said Tucker, a former math elementary school teacher himself.

Dabney, meanwhile, teaches courses in science methods to pre-service elementary teachers. Her experience teaching science in elementary schools led her to want to help shape future STEM educators.

“I learned firsthand that opportunities missed or lost within early education of science and mathematics were the ones that persisted, making later attainment of a high school diploma a challenge as well as entrance into the workforce,” Dabney said.

In Dabney’s classes, her students focus on a wide range of elementary science classroom instructional techniques and projects including: science identity, daily reports, local science community resources and lesson plan development in the local schools.

Another focus in the STEM group is mathematics. Stephen Tucker teaches graduate courses in mathematics methods for pre-service elementary teachers and foundations of mathematics education research for doctoral students. The overlap of learning math through technology helped attract him to VCU’s Department of Teaching and Learning.

“Since my research is how kids learn math using technology, my current research project is with preschoolers and figuring out how they learn early number sense through interacting with technology,” said Tucker.

The research project involves an app where preschoolers have to touch the screen with the right amount of fingers to show how many dots there are on the screen. The learning part for the students is watching the screen change from from 3 dots to 2 dots and them being able to make the difference between holding out 3 fingers and 2 fingers rather than 5 fingers.

Along with master’s degrees, the School of Education also offers certificate programs in STEM fields, as well as instructional technology and online teaching, allowing students to work with a wide array doctoral students across different departments at SOE.