New UMassOnline Master's Degree Addresses Nationwide Need for More Certified Science Teachers in the Coming Decade

New UMassOnline Master's Degree Addresses Nationwide Need for More Certified Science Teachers in the Coming Decade

SHREWSBURY, MA - An innovative online master's program to develop well-trained, highly qualified science teachers for elementary and middle schools is now offered by UMassOnline.

The new Master's Degree in Education for Science Teachers, developed with a National Science Foundation grant, is taught by education, science and engineering faculty of UMass Amherst and UMass Lowell. It features hands-on, inquiry-based online science and science education courses.

"Many school districts nationwide are facing critical shortages of science teachers at the middle school level," said Dr. Anita Greenwood, Faculty Chair at UMass Lowell Graduate School of Education. "At the elementary level, science is now a prominent part of the curriculum - supply and demand is a real issue."

Experts say the U.S. will need 2.2 to 2.4 million teachers in the next 10 years, creating 150,000 to 250,000 job opportunities for elementary and middle school teachers. Many of these openings will require certified science teachers.

A 2002 National Center for Education Statistics report found 49 percent of middle grade science teachers lack a science major and almost 19 percent are not certified in the field of science.

"The UMassOnline program engages teachers in their own inquiries, which they then discuss online with their peers," says Kathleen Davis, associate professor of science education at UMass Amherst. "It's a powerful way to learn about the nature and content of science."

Students use science kits to do experiments at home, then share their experiences in "discussion boards" online with university faculty and fellow students.

Says one student, Dan Weston: "One might think that since electricity and magnetism are such hands-on topics that distance learning would not dovetail with it. But I have found the opposite to be true. The texts, materials, websites, and discussions seem to be working very well, better than I would have thought possible. I continue to be amazed by the quality and rigor of the online courses in this program."

UMassOnline CEO David Gray says, "Through UMassOnline, the university is able to extend its tradition of excellence beyond the geographical constraints of its five campuses and provide much needed educational opportunities in high demand fields such as science education. We hope our efforts contribute to closing the supply-demand gap in this field. It's a matter of national urgency."

For more information visit Master's in Education for Science Teachers

Date: 03/01/06