2009-2010 UMass Dartmouth Graduate Catalog [Archived Catalog]
STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics)
The STEM Department is an interdisciplinary department focused on the integration of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. It is responsible for serving K-12 educators seeking an initial or professional license as teachers of Math, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, or General Science and provides STEM courses in the appropriate tracks of the MAT (Master of Arts in Teaching) Program. The department endeavors to strengthen the quality of STEM research and education, as well as advance the University’s STEM related partnerships.
Mathematics Education PhD
The PhD program in Mathematics Education at UMass Dartmouth is the result of many years of research and development originally pioneered by Professor James Kaput. Its goals and mission are synergistic with the operation of the James J. Kaput Center for Research and Innovation in Mathematics Education, namely, to foster the spirit of innovation. It is this essence that we wish our doctoral students to be part of and learn from in their educational experience at UMass Dartmouth.
Over the last 10 years, UMass Dartmouth has focused on building faculty strength in Mathematics Education in order to develop a core research area and provide the basis for a signature doctoral program capable of advancing mathematics education as a field of inquiry and addressing the acute shortage of highly qualified mathematics education researchers in our higher education institutions and relevant knowledge-based industries.
The goals and purposes of the PhD program in Mathematics Education are firmly in line with the mission of the University: “The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth distinguishes itself as a vibrant public university actively engaged in personalized teaching and innovative research, and acting as an intellectual catalyst for regional and global economic, social, and cultural development.” It advances the university’s mission by creating an environment to conduct research through collaboration with industry, research and academic institutions, and practitioners of innovative mathematics education research at the national and international level by utilizing best teaching practices in educating its students.
The Vision Statement for UMass Dartmouth includes an aspiration: “UMass Dartmouth aspires to create additional Masters and Doctoral programs, with commensurate support, in addition to enhanced technological capabilities for the delivery of our educational and outreach programs.” In its doctoral emphasis, its research basis that brings substantial support, and its innovative interest in pedagogy and instructional methodology, the PhD program in Mathematics Education contributes substantively to accomplishing this vision. Furthermore, the educational approach of the program is founded in the high principles envisioned in the opening paragraph of the university’s Vision Statement: “Within a climate that is inclusive, open, and diverse, UMass Dartmouth will be the university of choice for students seeking high quality liberal arts and science programs as well as professional academic programs that build a foundation for civic responsibility, individual skills, and professional success.”
Applicants from a broad background of disciplines relevant to mathematics education are encouraged to apply. As a field of research, mathematics education draws on an eclectic blend of disciplines. Because of the rich interdisciplinary nature of the field, the proposed program is intentionally designed to be inclusive of applicants with many backgrounds. It is also important to stress that the design of the program is tightly focused on a cohort model. Students will be expected to follow a well-defined program that focuses their study each year for preparation and production of the dissertation via specific courses and electives. The cohort model aims to strengthen coherence of the overall program of study. On admission, students will need to show evidence that they understand the expectation of the program and how this approach will strengthen their research skills over time. Indeed, we expect this diversity to enrich not only the overall experience of all doctoral students in the program, but the potential contribution students can make to the research aims of both the program and the Kaput Center.
Applications will be accepted from individuals holding appropriate bachelor’s degrees or master’s degrees (or the US baccalaureate equivalents from a foreign institution). Applicants are expected to have a background in mathematics education and teaching, or related fields including but not limited to mathematics, psychology, cognitive science, learning sciences, computer science, engineering, and educational research.
Applicants are strongly encouraged to contact participating faculty to explore how they might benefit from the program and outline potential research interests and career trajectories before submitting the application. The results of these contacts should be included in their final Letter of Intent.
Applicants might be conditionally accepted to the program with certain additional requirements to be completed before advancing to doctoral student status (end of year 2). These might include additional courses in mathematics/mathematics education (up to 12 credits) and/or teaching internships. Such coursework will focus on the creation of smart mathematical knowledge that adopts a K-20 approach in the development of mathematical ideas and builds students’ understanding of the use and application of this knowledge in mathematics education. These will be outlined by the Program Director on acceptance to the program.
In general students with an overall undergraduate grade point average of 3.0 or higher will be considered for admission. Applicants must present official undergraduate and graduate transcripts from all schools attended. Students without a Masters will likely be expected to complete additional courses unless existing evidence of exemplary research and development skills can be demonstrated.
- Applicants should present results of a Graduate Record Exam (GRE). The Admissions Committee and the Program Director will pay particular attention to the applicant’s score on the new GRE analytical writing section of the general examination because of the emphasis placed on strong writing skills in the program. Only official scores from the Educational Testing Service will be considered acceptable.
- International students should present a minimum Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) score of 550 (paper version) or 213 (computer version). Only official TOEFL scores from the Educational Testing Service will be considered acceptable.
- Three letters of recommendation from individuals familiar with the applicant’s academic ability and potential to conduct research at the doctoral level will be required.
- Applicants will also be required to submit a Letter of Intent (Statement of Purpose). This Letter is an important element in the application packet. It has two related roles:
Indication of an applicant’s qualification and motivation for the program including their personal and career goals. This should relate to the interdisciplinary nature of the doctorate and discuss recent research and development experience (academic, commercial) and any publications, formal presentations, grants, or patents
Indication of how the applicant will fit into the program by outlining potential interests and any particular faculty they would wish to work with
- Individual circumstances can be taken into account and extraordinary qualifications can lead to a waiver in the above requirements. Each applicant will be considered on a case-by-case basis. We encourage all applicants to present as much relevant information to support their application and outline all strengths relevant to the pursued study of research.
An admission decision is accompanied by an appropriate program of courses for the applicant. The interdisciplinary nature of our program gives special importance to the advising relationship in forming a specific academic program to meet each student’s specific goals. Applicants may be offered admission with a number of additional courses identified as conditional requirements that they will need to take to fill in for gaps in preparation or knowledge. Each admitted student is assigned to a faculty advisor who is identified in the letter of admission.
Transfer of Credits/Advanced Standing
Students who have previously completed graduate course work in mathematics education may transfer up to 12 credits following the UMass Dartmouth graduate transfer policies. Decisions will be made by the Program Director. The transfer credit may replace core or elective units from the preparatory or introductory years. Capstone courses, qualifying exams, and dissertation research credits will not be accepted for transfer.
UMass Dartmouth will announce admissions decisions dates for Fall and Spring semester entrance. Although applications may be accepted by the campus after those dates, available spaces in the program may have already been committed. The same dates will serve as preferred deadlines for financial assistance consideration, after which applicants will risk significant reductions in the availability of assistantship support. We reserve the right to offer admission and assistantships before and after the announced deadlines.
Students whose cumulative GPA drops below 3.0 (on a four-point scale) after 15 or more semester hours of earned credit or who are making insufficient progress are subject to consideration of dismissal. The program will monitor students’ progression, and will impose whenever appropriate a “probation period”, offering up to one academic year to recover their cumulative GPA score to 3.0 or higher. If they do not succeed during this time, students will be dismissed from the graduate program. Individuals who have been dismissed may be allowed to re-enter the program at a later time if they reapply for admission and show new evidence of academic credibility.
A limited number of assistantships are available on a competitive basis. Applicants desiring teaching or research assistantships should present this need in their Letter of Intent outlining clearly why they desire the particular assistantship and how they would benefit from it. Additionally, the applicant should identify any relevant qualifications or expertise that would facilitate the award of specific types of assistantships.
Other assistance, such as loans or work-study, may be available to the applicant. Please refer to the chapter in the graduate catalogue on “Expenses and Financial Assistance”.
The PhD in Mathematics Education aims to build on the success and potential of existing research programs at UMass Dartmouth, particularly those situated in the Kaput Center, and to contribute to the campus’s mission to “develop graduate programs in areas of importance for our region” and “support sub-disciplinary graduate programs where departments already have strength … and when there is a demand for graduates.”
The primary purpose of the program is to produce stewards of the discipline, as defined by The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching in its Initiative on the Doctorate: “to educate and prepare those to whom we can entrust the vigor, quality, and integrity of the field.” Moreover, its explicit interdisciplinary approach is intended to address specific challenges identified by the Carnegie Initiative (Walker, Golde, Jones et al., 2008). These challenges involve new technologies in “altering and accelerating the way new knowledge is shared and developed” (p. 2), a vision of a global marketplace for scholarship, and recognition that “much of the most important, path-breaking intellectual work going on today occurs in the borderlands between fields, blurring boundaries and challenging traditional disciplinary definitions” (p. 2). Our program pays particular attention to how curricular and research components can be integrated systematically to connect students’ learning to faculty scholarship and thereby provide authentic learning experiences that produce graduates with strong research skills. We are guided by a metaphor of apprenticeship as a “theory of learning and a set of practices that are widely relevant” (p. 91); the activity of apprenticing encompasses and strengthens all curricular and research components of the program.
The doctoral program is synergistically linked to the Kaput Center through common goals and approaches. Much more than a collection of projects, the Center is an intellectual community that fosters “intellectual risk taking, creativity, and entrepreneurship” (see Walker et al., 2008, p.11) and, in the spirit of the Carnegie Initiative’s formation of scholars, offers incubation through which a doctoral program can provide “real partnerships between faculty and students, habits of respect for and interest in one another’s work, and the lively exchange of ideas in which new knowledge is formed and transformed” (p. 11). The research of the Math Ed faculty within the Center provides a core strength for the doctoral program and establishes its uniqueness through avenues of authentic learning with other academic institutions and non-academic partners.
The PhD program in Mathematics Education is designed to embrace the future with scientific education as the sustaining foundation of what has been called the century of information and knowledge. Globally and nationally, we have the critical ability to transfuse scientific and technological developments into our educational realities. Heretofore lacking in technology-rich environments and teachers trained in effective pedagogies, today’s school culture requires the gradual but deep re-orientation of its practices to gain access to powerful ideas of mathematics and to new habits of mind including exploring, modeling, handling of information, and the ability to systematize. It is possible to cultivate powerful ideas that generate different levels of mathematical thinking both at the level of the classroom and at the level of the global educational system, to create an open system responsive to the multidimensional influences of its social and cultural environment.
Our graduates will be highly competitive in today’s marketplace for educational scholars within a wide range of actual employment classifications. The primary career trajectories that our program specifically focuses on supporting are:
- Scholars Entering Higher Education and, in particular, the Professoriate (including 2-4 year colleges)
- Research Scientists in Research Institutions/Think-Tank Centers
In addition, graduates of the program could successfully enter into more applied research careers, which include but are not limited to:
- Advanced agency or industry settings focused on improving educational attainment
- Research and Development in the design and implementation of advanced learning technologies and associated resources.
We anticipate that many students will come from the ranks of teaching practitioners (e.g., at elementary, secondary, or 2-4 year college levels) as well as education-related fields (e.g., software and curriculum design, research centers). As they proceed through our program, many will advance to different careers or career levels, while others will return with a new expertise and productivity to an existing career.
Need for Program
The need for doctoral programs in Mathematics Education is well documented. In the last several decades, a convergence of research—embodied in international perspectives on mathematics education (see Wirszup & Streit, 1987, 1989, 1993), the rise of cognitive science and social, situated learning perspectives over behaviorism (e.g., Gardner, 1985; Greeno, 1989)—and a growing consensus for reform in teaching and learning K-16 mathematics—as outlined in documents such as the Curriculum and Evaluation Standards (NCTM, 1989) and the Principles and Standards for School Mathematics (NCTM, 2000)—has led to the emergence of mathematics education as a field of inquiry in its own right. In a recent study by Reys (2006), 90% of institutions reported hiring at least one mathematics education faculty person during the last 5 years. However, doctoral degree production in Mathematics Education has not met demand; a study published in 2001 showed that, at that time, the number of doctorates awarded had not increased significantly (Reys & Kilpatrick), leading to particular implications, for example, for the supply of mathematics education faculty available to administer doctoral programs (Reys, 2000, 2002). Furthermore, in 2005-2006, over 40% of Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs) were unsuccessful in hiring mathematics education faculty (Reys, 2006). In brief, there is, still, an inadequate national infrastructure of doctoral programs and faculty to sustain them (Reys, Teuscher, Nevels, & Glasgow, 2007).
The PhD program in Mathematics Education at UMass Dartmouth addresses an urgent national problem by preparing graduates for essential careers in a variety of scientific institutions, industries, and federal agencies, as well as the education sector. Moreover, because the program focuses on interdisciplinary perspectives in mathematics education research, we expect our graduates to be highly competitive in today’s marketplace for educational scholars in the field of mathematics education.
The doctoral program will provide students with the knowledge and skills to:
- Re-construct, appropriate, and develop mathematical knowledge
- Explore different approaches that emerge from the study of the research literature in the field of mathematics education and related disciplines
- Write original research that represents their own contribution to knowledge
The PhD program is designed to build the intellectual skills that our graduates will need in order to utilize new and future technologies and communication infrastructures. It will provide students with multiple opportunities to enhance traditional scholarly training through participation in such practical academic endeavors as publishing and organizing lectures and colloquia. It will prepare students to use critical thinking skills to deal with the adaptation, adoption, and transformation of knowledge and information and to formulate and design solutions to complex educational problems.
The program is designed to create a focused track of study over 4 years to build skills in the following critical areas:
- The nature of scientific inquiry in mathematics education and related disciplines, including the cognitive sciences and the learning sciences
- Appropriate methods of research design regarding data collection and analysis, particularly focused on contemporary qualitative and quantitative methods
- The production of new researchable questions, especially on the boundaries of particular disciplines (e.g. learning sciences)
- The ability to design and conduct a research study with unique findings to advance the field of mathematics education