Teacher Training Internships

Teacher Training Internship, a graduate course that serves as a link between graduate students/research faculty, and local high school students.
N.A. Ingoglia, Professor of Pharm/Phys & Neuroscience, Director of the Sloan Minority to the PhD Program, Graduate School of Biomedical Science – UMDNJ, Newark NJ 07101

In 2006, the graduate school at the Newark campus of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey approved a graduate course, entitled Teacher Training Internship. This course (two or three credits, 60-90 hours) allows our masters and PhD students to go to local high schools to assist science teachers in the classroom and help HS students learn science and stimulate their interests in science careers. Our graduate students have all performed at a high level in college science courses, are frequently from similar ethnic backgrounds as the HS student, and in most cases are only five-ten years older that those students. These factors tend to facilitate their interaction with HS students. In this course, graduate students explain science concepts to HS students, assist in setting up experiments for the science teacher, help grade papers and homework and generally support the science teacher in any way they can. This close tutorial relationship allows HS students to speak openly with our students about subjects ranging from their own lives and personal challenges, to seeking advice about their college applications and possible career choices. During the course, graduate students consult with the science teacher to identify HS students who excel academically and generally are excited about science. These students are chosen to visit our research labs, meet with our graduate students and research faculty and invited to participate in ongoing ‘shadowing’ and summer research programs. The goal of this program is to first help HS students learn science and second to expose talented students (especially those from traditional underrepresented minority and economically disadvantaged groups) to biomedical research labs and to encourage them to consider careers in academia or industry.

While it is premature to present outcome data on this program, there are signs that this may be an effective approach to encouraging wider participation in biomedical science fields. First, graduate student participation has grown from two in 2006 to 10-15 per semester in 2008-2009. We attribute this rise to two factors: 1) word of mouth that this is a good course from former students and that they will get a lot out of it, and 2) for those in our master’s program who are hoping to attend medical or dental school, it is a way to simultaneously gain academic credit and do community outreach. Second, with the approval and encouragement of the superintendent of the Newark school system we originally offered this partnership to all of the schools in the Newark district. To our disappointment, only three of the schools followed up with us. Of the three, the most vibrant program is with Science Park HS (SPHS), a magnet science school that is situated across the street from our campus. The presence of our students in biology and chemistry classrooms has been so well received at SPHS that several new departments (the most recent is the math department) have requested our students in their classrooms as well. We hope that success with the program at SPHS will lead to other schools in the district requesting our students for their classrooms.

What is most satisfying about this course is that all participants benefit from it; our students get much needed teaching experience – most have reported that they have been emotionally affected by these HS students and that in some way, education will be part of their career plans; science teachers get much needed help in the classroom and frequently learn about emerging topics in biomedical science (stem cells, new treatments for cancer) from our students who are currently taking those courses; and most important, the HS students get help learning and succeeding in their science curriculum and frequently become personally connected with a student only a few years older, with whom they can identify, and who is in a science career path.

May 2008