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University of Missouri

A Lifelong Quest

An innovative teaching program lands a big grant.

QuEst

Teachers work with local students to explore sound during the 2012 QuEST summer institute.

Deborah Hanuscin realized she was onto something when teachers started putting off knee surgeries and skipping ocean cruise vacations in order to attend the QuEST program, an innovative summer workshop at the College of Education aimed at improving elementary science teaching. Now the associate professor in the Department of Learning, Teaching and Curriculum has a $2.6 million National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to research the program’s effectiveness in K–6 schools around Missouri.

QuEST, which stands for Quality Elementary Science Teaching, goes beyond typical workshops by providing a week-long camp at which teachers practice educational techniques immediately after learning them.

We wouldn’t dream of giving someone a driver’s license without ever putting them behind a wheel, but we often hold workshops on new teaching approaches without providing opportunities for teachers to practice them,” Hanuscin said. “The QuEST program embeds a teaching practicum in the workshop. The first week, the teachers are learners. The second week they get to apply what they’ve learned by teaching students.”

Hanuscin and Delinda van Garderen, associate professor of special education, started QuEST in 2008 with grant support from the Missouri Department of Higher Education. The program focuses on physics because it is typically elementary teachers’ weakest area, Hanuscin said. If shown effective, the QuEST model for professional development could be implemented for teacher training in other subjects in the future.

The NSF grant will allow Hanuscin and colleagues to collect data about the impact of the program.

Research will explore how controlled teaching experiences support the learning of teachers and, in turn, their students,” Hanuscin said. “If our research finds this program to be successful, the QuEST model could be replicated elsewhere to the benefit of greater numbers of teachers and students.”