iSMART Makes the Honor Roll

iSMART Faculty
iSMART team members from left: Anita Vyas (graduate student in Information Technology), Whitney Grese Hanna (graduate student in Math Education), Dr. Shea Culpepper, Dr. Jennifer Chauvot, Dr. Imani Masters Goffney and Dr. Sissy Wong at the annual meeting in the KIVA Farish Hall.

UH’s Graduate Education Online Program made U.S. News & World Report's Online Graduate Education Programs Honor Roll, making UH one of only 14 universities nationwide placed in this category.  This achievement reflects particularly well on one program, Integrated Science Math and Reflective Teaching for Texas Middle School Teachers (iSMART).

“Innovation and technology are essential to the future of the Education,” said Robert H. McPherson, Dean of the College of Education. “The goal is to transform the perception and practice of online learning,”

Directed by Professor Jennifer Chauvot, iSMART  is an online master’s program designed to improve middle school science and math instruction.  Teachers from around Texas are presented opportunities to incorporate the two subjects and to develop the leadership skills of other educators who collaborate online.  The program debuted in 2009 thanks to a grant from the Greater Texas Foundation.

“We are very pleased to have been recognized in this way,” said Chauvot. “We're tremendously grateful to the Greater Texas Foundation for their support, and of course, to the hard working teachers who, as participants, make it all possible.”

U.S. News & World Report uses several factors to determine the top online education degree programs. These components include admissions, faculty credentials, accreditation and student engagement, and student services and technology. Programs that ranked in the top third in three of the four indicators were placed on the Top Online Education Degrees honor roll.

Out of more than 150 colleges and universities who participated in the Graduate Education Online rankings, UH ranked #3 in Students Services and Technology, #3 in Admissions Selectivity, and #32 in Student Engagement and Accreditation. 

 “One strength of the delivery of our courses is the weekly synchronous class meetings where teachers across the state interact and engage,” said Chauvot. ”Our course content is directly relevant to their science and mathematics classrooms. ‘Online, but not alone’ is one of our new sayings.”  

“Dr. Chauvot and her colleagues at the University of Houston are setting a high bar for quality in online programs” said Wynn Rosser, Executive Director of the Greater Texas Foundation. “We're pleased to know the iSMART students are valuing their experience.”

iSMART is a 2-year program for Texas middle school science and math teachers who want the convenience of an online program but wish to sustain the rigor of traditional coursework.  Because of funding from the Greater Texas Foundation, the program is essentially free to qualified participants.

The program simulates a face-to-face classroom in an online environment through the use of digital and Web 2.0 technology, thus changing the face of online learning.  Coursework focuses on the integration of science and mathematics while building in-depth content and pedagogical knowledge as well as leadership skills, all through reflective collaboration with online classmates.  During the program, participants work on analyzing and writing curriculum, examining theories of learning and models of science and mathematics integration, studying children’s thinking about math and science, and will use video to reflect on their own teaching practice.

Of each cohort of 25 students, approximately half of those admitted are science teachers and half are mathematics teachers.  Ideally, students work in pairs, one math teacher and one science teacher, at one school.  However, not all students who are admitted to the program will be part of a pair within one school.  The online nature of the program allows cohort members to be spread out geographically across the state of Texas.

“Our faculty are very forward thinking,” McPherson said.  “Everyone associated with iSMART should be proud of this prestigious honor and the hard work it acknowledges.”

The college has at least one other online program in its early stages, the Administration and Supervision – Higher Education program.  However, this one was too new to be considered for the 2012 review.

Visit the US News site for more detail regarding the rankings: http://www.usnews.com/education/online-education/education

Please visit the College of Education iSMART program for more information and how to apply.