New interdisciplinary science degree to boost science teacher numbers

Posted by Jayme Blaschke
University News Service
August 27, 2014

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board has authorized Texas State University to offer a new degree program to help address the shortage of qualified science teachers and boost the number of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) graduates from Texas schools.

The Coordinating Board approved a Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Science degree, which will include the Composite Science Teacher Certification. The Texas State University System Board of Regents previously approved the proposed degree during its May 22 meeting in Huntsville.

The creation of the B.S. in Interdisciplinary Science was a collaborative effort among the College of Education, Department of Curriculum and Instruction, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Department of Physics and Department of Biology. The new degree helps address two needs: Produce high school science teachers with broad training and deep content knowledge who are qualified to teach any science to alleviate the chronic shortage of science teachers in the state; and the demands of business and industry for more and better prepared STEM graduates at the high school and college level.

"We looked at model science teacher preparation programs across Texas. Our program is unique in that it trains teachers to have a deep content knowledge in each of the science disciplines. We need to train teachers to have a thorough understanding of science, and that means they need a rich content background in their university coursework," explained Julie Westerlund, an associate professor of biology and a leader in the development of the degree. "From this training, the teachers will be in a better position to do projects with students and supervise student science fairs. The foundation of a good science education in the high schools is inquiry-based science.  

"Science should be taught by doing science, not by memorizing science vocabulary," she said. "Teachers that can do inquiry-based science are those who understand science on a deep level. Our program at Texas State is all based on training teachers to do science in the schools."