Western Governors University
Western Governors University (WGU) is a private, nonprofit university with more than 63,000 students in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and military service members and their families serving overseas. The mission of WGU is to improve quality and expand access to higher education by providing flexible, affordable, and credible competency-based degrees. WGU currently employs more than 3,600 faculty and staff around the country. WGU has 2,485 students enrolled in STEM teacher education programs. WGU has more than 53,000 graduates; more than 5,250 of them have graduated from the university’s science and math education programs.
WGU is the pioneer and leader in competency-based education, which measures learning, not seat time, and is ideal for busy working adults who need a flexible way to study and learn. Rather than moving through a course at a pace set by an instructor, students at WGU learn at their own pace, moving quickly through material they already know so they can focus on what they still need to learn. Students access their courses and take their exams on a schedule that fits their busy lives, and receive constant support from WGU faculty, who work with each student individually to provide personalized instruction, guidance, and support. To ensure that students graduate with the real-world knowledge and skills needed in the workplace, WGU defines required competencies and curriculum for each program in collaboration with major U.S. employers, industry experts, and representatives from other academic institutions.
WGU offers ten STEM education programs that lead to initial teacher licensure and six graduate degree programs for already-licensed teachers. Many of WGU’s STEM education students are professional engineers or scientists who, for a variety of reasons, want to become math or science teachers. All of these degree programs are aimed at preparing educators to teach science and math in 5th to 12th grade classrooms, with licensure available in all 50 states.
WGU’s Teachers College is accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, and was the first fully-online teachers college to earn this accreditation.
WGU has long been recognized as a national leader in STEM education. A 2014 study conducted by Eduventures found that WGU is the largest educator of math and science teachers in the U.S., conferring 5% of the nation’s baccalaureate degrees and 15% of the nation’s master’s degrees in STEM teaching. In its Teacher Prep Review 2014, the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) ranked WGU’s secondary math education program first in the nation from a list of 2,400 programs, citing its quality, accessibility, and outstanding student teaching experiences. Recently, WGU’s Teachers College scored highest out of 1,100 colleges and education programs reviewed nationally by the NCTQ as a “best value” in teacher education.
Seventy-six percent of WGU’s Teachers College students are classified as underserved in at least one of four categories: first-generation college student, low income, ethnic minority, or rural resident. To recruit more STEM educators into the field, WGU uses public relations campaigns as well as targeted online marketing and advertising that work to inform prospective students of its STEM education programs. The university supports a number of other technology-focused organizations, such as STEMconnector, as well as many local associations aimed at increasing the number of students in STEM.
WGU develops and updates its STEM courses and curriculum regularly in collaboration with program councils that include educators, superintendents, and business leaders from across the country.
WGU staff members and faculty work with businesses and develop key industry partnerships that help further the development and the reach of our STEM education programs. WGU also relies on its National Advisory Board to help direct which education programs are most in need and to define the competencies necessary for students to complete these programs.
In an effort to fill the need for more STEM teachers in the U.S., WGU has partnered with the 100Kin10 initiative, which focuses on training 100,000 STEM teachers by 2021. As part of the science education programs, WGU has partnered with the American Museum of Natural History to offer additional in-depth courses and learning resources.
WGU faculty and staff frequently travel to conferences and events to speak about improvements that can be made to increase the number of quality STEM teachers across the country. Recently, WGU’s Director of Learning Design Maria Andersen spoke at STEMconnector’s STEM Higher Ed Council Summit.
WGU offers 16 science and math education programs. Some of these programs are designed for already-licensed teachers to pursue their graduate degree. Programs that lead to teacher licensure help those already working in a STEM field but are seeking a career as a STEM educator. WGU’s licensure programs also work well for career-changing adults who hold a passion for teaching STEM, but career or education choices had previously steered them elsewhere.
Below are three programs that demonstrate the effectiveness of WGU’s STEM teaching programs. The programs are all online with the exceptions of the demonstration teaching and in-classroom field experience components.
Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics (5-12)
The B.A. Mathematics program prepares students to be licensed as mathematics teachers in grades 5 through 12. The program consists of work in Mathematics Content, Teacher Education Foundations and Diversity, Instructional Planning and Presentation, and Mathematics Education. In addition to some traditional general education requirements, students in this program must also complete courses that focus on the following content:
- College Geometry
- Probability and Statistics
- Linear and Abstract Algebra
- Mathematics Learning and Teaching
- Mathematics History and Technology
- Supervised Demonstration Teaching in Mathematics
In 2014, the National Council on Teacher Quality named WGU’s secondary mathematics education program as the top program in the nation for quality. WGU’s online program stood out as an example of excellent teacher preparation for the classroom among 2,400 college and university programs, including some Ivy League schools.
Master of Arts in Teaching, Science (5-12)
The M.A. Teaching, Science program prepares students at the graduate level both to be licensed to teach science in grades 5 through 12 and to develop significant skills in science curriculum development, design, and evaluation. Students enter this program with a significant background in science and then proceed through study in the Foundations of Teaching, Instructional Planning and Presentation, and Research Fundamentals. Along with the aforementioned areas of study, this program includes course curriculum that focuses on the following:
- Science, Technology, and Society
- Science Teaching and Learning
- Pre-Clinical Experiences in Science
- Supervised Demonstration Teaching in Science
- Research Foundations
Program content is based on research on effective instruction as well as national and state standards. It provides the knowledge and skills that enable teachers to teach effectively in diverse classrooms, and focuses on preparing highly qualified middle and high school teachers with solid content knowledge. This program is ideal for science professionals who wish to become teachers.
Master of Arts in Mathematics Education (K-6)
WGU offers an M.A. Mathematics Education program that prepares already-licensed teachers both to teach mathematics in grades K through 6 and to develop significant skills in math curriculum development, design, and evaluation. Along with a final capstone project and final master’s exam consisting of an oral defense, all students must complete the following courses of study:
- Number Sense and Functions
- Graphing, Proportional Reasoning and Equations/Inequalities
- Geometry and Statistics
- Finite Mathematics
- Research Foundations, Design and Analysis, and Proposals
For all of its science and math education programs, WGU offers a comprehensive library of learning resources vital to broadening each student’s knowledge-base and ultimately to their success in the classroom. The following are only a few examples of the many resources WGU students have access to in these programs:
- Several in-depth courses and supplemental resources provided through WGU’s partnership with the American Museum of Natural History.
- Traditional lab kits provided by Hands-on Labs sent to students, enabling them to work hands-on with experiments and rehearse classroom experiences at home.
- Pearson’s MyMathLab, Thinkwell online videos, and WileyPLUS resources.
Program Results and Successes
According to a 2014 study by Eduventures, WGU confers more bachelor’s and master’s degrees in STEM education than any other institution in the country. WGU has always been focused on educating great math and science teachers, and the strong growth in these programs, along with the top quality and best value rankings by the NCTQ, is evidence of their quality. Since offering these programs, WGU has graduated more than 5,250 science and math teachers. Graduates of WGU’s teacher preparation programs can be licensed in all 50 states, and last year, 100% of WGU Teacher’s College graduates who applied for teaching licenses in their state were successful.
To gauge workplace performance ratings and general satisfaction among employers, WGU commissioned a Harris Poll of 300 employers who have hired WGU graduates. The survey found that:
- 99% said that WGU graduates meet or exceed expectations; 92% said WGU graduates exceed expectations.
- 94% rated WGU graduates’ job performance as good as or better than the job performance of other graduates; 53% rated WGU graduates better than other graduates.
- 96% said that their WGU graduates were prepared for their jobs; 89% said they were very well or extremely well prepared.
In the words of M.A. Teaching, Science (5-12) graduate Julie Laub, “WGU offered me the opportunity to advance my career. I had been an organic chemist, and I wanted to become a teacher. It provided me with an outstanding education to be an effective, efficient, successful teacher. As a result, I’ve been hired by the University of Utah as a lab teacher for one of the professors at the university. And this year I was nominated as Teacher of the Year for Davis High School. So I would say it equipped me very well.”
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