Major grant to aid McGill University professor's efforts to improve school science teaching
McGill University professor, Dr. Brian Alters, has received a three-year Lucent Technologies Foundation grant totaling $650,000 to improve the teaching of science in primary and secondary schools. The grant is one of only eleven awarded from the 97 proposals received by the Foundation from universities around the world. Professor Alters is Head of Science Education in the McGill Faculty of Education and is the Director of the new Evolution Education Research Centre developed at McGill and composed of four Harvard and four McGill professors.
Forty years after Sputnik rocked North America's complacency about science education, the level of scientific literacy among young people as well as the general population remains distressingly low. From the recent Kansas decision to remove the theory of evolution from the State's school curriculum to the widespread shortage of technologically competent manpower to fill currently available jobs, evidence shows that little, if any, progress has been made to address this crucial issue. Now, thanks to a $650,000 grant from the Lucent Technologies Foundation, Professor Brian Alters, head of Science Education in the Faculty of Education of McGill University, is setting his sights on improving this situation.
One of only eleven successful proposals from ninety-seven submissions worldwide, Professor Alters' project will be a partnership between McGill, and six nearby school boards representing approximately 180 public schools in the Montreal area. Because of the demonstrated importance of hands-on activities in learning about science, the project will focus on the development of such activities through the collaboration of graduate education students, graduate science students, and practicing elementary and high school teachers. Working in small groups, they will be instructed in current science education learning theory and teaching methods at McGill University and will use the university's science teaching laboratories as the site to develop and construct the activities before field testing in the schools.
Dr. Alters believes the three-year project will have a wide and stimulating outreach. "It will involve 60 graduate education students, 60 graduate science students, and 180 elementary and secondary teachers representing over 80,000 students," he explained. "The anticipated outcome is an improvement of K-12 teaching that will excite students about learning science."
In addition to leading the new, highly ambitious project, Professor Alters serves as Director of a recently created McGill centre dedicated to evolution education research. The Evolution Education Research Centre will provide a necessary unifying structure where members of various departments, faculties, schools, and universities can combine their expertise on the issue of evolution education research. The eight members of the Centre, four professors from McGill University and four from Harvard University, have expertise in biological evolution, educational psychology, evolution education, geology, molecular biology, paleontology, philosophy of science, philosophy of education, and science education.