Division of Legislative Services > Legislative Record > 2007

HJR 25: Joint Subcommittee Studying Science, Math, & Technology Education

July 16, 2007

The Joint Subcommittee Studying Science, Math, and Technology Education held its second meeting of the 2007 interim in Richmond with Delegate John Cosgrove as chair.


The Virginia Tech Department of Engineering - Inventing the Future of Engineering Education
Dr. Hayden Griffin, Department Head of Engineering Education, Virginia Tech, gave the joint subcommittee an overview of Virginia Tech's Engineering Education Department. He informed the joint subcommittee that Virginia Tech's program is one of two in the country and currently has 15 faculty members. Dr. Griffin explained, that based on empirical research, it is necessary to capture a student’s interest in science and technology by 3rd grade, because it is likely a child has already developed attitudes or attributes in favor or against STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) subjects by that time.

Dr. Griffin presented a general outline of the graduate program in engineering education. The first course was offered in the spring of 2004 and Virginia Tech currently has 11 approved courses ranging from Foundations of Engineering Education, to Presenting Engineering Research, and Advanced Engineering Research Methods. A Virginia Tech graduate student with an undergraduate degree in engineering or science may earn a graduate certificate in engineering education by taking 13 credits of graduate work in engineering education. The certificate is viewed as important in assisting students "stand out" from the crowd of traditional engineering graduates. Finally, Virginia Tech has recently proposed a doctoral program in engineering education, which was approved by the Board of Visitors in March and is on the agenda for approval at the SCHEV meeting on September 11, 2007. The program will be the second doctoral program founded in the United States and hopes to have an enrollment of approximately 25 students, with six degrees awarded each year.

Dr. Griffin noted his desire to reach out to prekindergarten and K-12 grade teachers by way of in-service courses in engineering. He has drafted eight one-credit distance learning courses in basic engineering concepts with a goal to introduce them sometime during 2008 so that teachers at every grade level will feel comfortable introducing engineering concepts in the classroom.

Content Standards in Physics, Chemistry, and Engineering
Mr. Jim Batterson, Special Assistant on Loan from NASA to the Commonwealth's Secretary of Education spoke to the members about the analysis completed by three different panels formed to look at the physics, chemistry, and engineering curriculums in the Commonwealth. The panels are comprised of practicing scientists and engineers, who met for two days at the National Institute of Aerospace in Hampton to discuss the "gaps" in content in each of the three educational areas. There were nine members on both the physics and chemistry panels, and 14 members on the engineering panel. Mr. Batterson reported to the joint subcommittee on the preliminary findings of the panels and noted that the final reports from each panel will be published by the end of the summer.

The panels were asked to identify what 80-90% of high school graduates need to know about physics, chemistry, and engineering in order to participate in political, social, economic, and technological businesses in the 21st century.

The engineering panel found that there is no STEM program in Virginia, because the "E" for the engineering component is missing. Engineering is generally taught through career and technical education courses, which are not required for all students. The panel believes that the engineering design process offers a different perspective from the scientific method, and that it should be required content to be taught in the Commonwealth. The panel advocates wide-spread implementation of the Children's Engineering Guide for grades K-5, as well as Project Lead the Way, an engineering program currently utilized in only 14 of 132 school divisions in Virginia.

The chemistry and physics panels recommend that more labs and demonstrations should be assessed and integrated into the physics and chemistry courses. Also, the panels believe that teachers should have more leeway in developing course content, emphasizing that course content is changing rapidly and teachers need the flexibility to eliminate some existing modules. Similarly, because it is difficult to keep current textbooks, the panels believe that teaching contemporary applications and emerging technologies of physics and chemistry is essential and could be accomplished by an open-source electronic bulletin board developed by the DOE.

Concerns and Recommendations Regarding Math and Science Education
Mr. Speaker Pollard, a partner with Christian and Barton, LLP, and a board member of the Virginia Mathematics and Science Coalition gave the members an overview of the Coalition's work on the issue, and its recommendations for improving math and science education in the Commonwealth. His comments focused on challenges related to the strengthening of mathematics and science education, including a means to alleviate the current shortage in math and science teachers and a need to develop well-prepared and qualified math and science teachers and implement new technology, media, and models of teaching.

Mr. Pollard noted that Virginia is facing an increasing shortage and attrition rate for math and science teachers. He emphasized that it is essential that any strategy considered must include ways to strengthen the work force in these two subject areas, as the implementation of any improved curricula is completely dependent upon a teacher's ability to teach the subject, as well as interest students in math and science.

Mr. Pollard closed with a detailed explanation of the Coalition's recommendations for improving math and science education, such as:

  • Update research of problems.
  • Improve teacher preparation and professional development.
  • Support preparation and implementation of math specialists.
  • Consider a science specialist endorsement with economic incentives.
  • Review and revise SOQ/SOLs.
  • Review and revise licensure requirements.
  • Consider funding, investment, and development of a coordinated strategy.

Next Meeting
The joint subcommittee plans to have two meetings during the 2007 interim. The next meeting will be held in September in Northern Virginia at a location to be announced and the final meeting will be held in Richmond in November.

The Hon. John A. Cosgrove

For information, contact:
Nikki Seeds, Patrick Cushing, DLS Staff


Division of Legislative Services > Legislative Record > 2007

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