WPI Launches Master's Programs for Educators in Physics and Mathematics

Math program builds on longstanding offering at WPI; New emphasis on teacher-led assessment and evaluation
April 30, 2013

WPI’s master's programs will provide educators with a better understanding of critical STEM disciplines.

One year after opening the innovative STEM Education Center to improve teacher preparedness in math and science disciplines, Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) prepares to accept its second class of educators into two new master's programs in math and physics specifically designed to meet their needs.

The Master of Science in Physics for Educators (MPED) and Master of Science in Mathematics for Educators (MMED) provide practicing secondary teachers with a better understanding of critical STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) disciplines.

Both programs are designed to improve preparedness of secondary school teachers so that they can better educate and engage their students in those key areas.

"K-12 educators play an essential role in shaping the interest of future employees in STEM fields," said Martha Cyr, executive director of the STEM Education Center at WPI, and a nationally recognized authority on K-12 educational outreach. "Currently the United States economy is driven by STEM disciplines, but there aren't enough qualified people trained for these positions for U.S.-based companies to hire. Our degree programs will help teachers take their students to the next level of preparation for these careers of the future."

The math offering builds upon WPI's Master of Math for Educators program, which started in 1976 and is still in place. Educators who participate in the new math program must complete 15 credit hours of math content, nine credit hours of assessment and evaluation of courses, and a six-credit math project. The assessment and evaluation courses are the new component in the program and reflect the current educational practices that support teachers to more effectively and efficiently know how their students are learning.

"We'll teach ways to assess and evaluate teaching methods so that changes may be made on the fly instead of waiting for end-of-year evaluations to determine effectiveness," said Cyr.

The master's programs will draw upon WPI's unique position as a leader in STEM education and will include the same project-based method of learning that has defined WPI for more than 40 years.

The U.S. Department of Education's 2011 Teacher Shortage Areas Nationwide List noted critical shortages in math and science throughout the United States, particularly in urban and rural settings. As a result, many secondary teachers are being asked to teach subject matter with which they are not familiar. The overarching goal of the new master's programs is to support educators in these subjects as they strengthen their content knowledge and ways to teach the content, which will lead to students who are better prepared in these fields.

The programs, which are currently enrolling students, will focus on the skills and methods educators can use to deliver material effectively to their students. More important, the programs will place special emphasis on subject matter and content to ensure that teachers understand the topics and are able to impart that knowledge in their classrooms.

The STEM Education Center at WPI, which opened last spring and assists with the programs along with the department associated with each subject area, focuses on three primary areas – Certification and Degree Programs, Professional Development, and Innovations in Teaching. The center uses the entirety of WPI's vast educator resources, coordinating all of its K-12 efforts for STEM educators and administrators into one central location.

"The work of the STEM Education Center, including the master's programs for educators, is only the beginning of a limitless partnership between WPI and primary and secondary teachers in Massachusetts," said Cyr. "We're committed to creating programs and opportunities that will continue to provide training and classroom resources for teachers."

WPI also provides one of the largest and most comprehensive university-based K-12 STEM outreach programs. Over the past 10 years WPI staff and faculty have engaged more than 115,000 girls and boys and 5,300 educators through STEM-focused programs that are targeted at students in elementary, middle, and secondary schools; programs that seek to engage girls and students from underrepresented minorities in STEM disciplines; and programs that provide training and classroom resources for teachers.

For more information visit WPI’s STEM Education Center.