“If you have a common vision and your goal is ultimately to impact students in a positive way about science, then there is no barrier or difficulty that you can’t overcome.” (Dorland Norris, Deputy Superintendent, Champaign Unit 4 School District).
The EnLiST MSP Project fostered several collaborative initiatives among the University of Illinois and partnering school districts. One of these collaborations brought an unprecedented number of content and pedagogy experts to work alongside teachers in the Champaign Unit 4 School District with the aim of expanding the district’s science offerings by developing up to four new innovative courses. The partnership fostered a multifaceted and inclusive relationship that adapted to meet the needs of the district, which created an optimum environment for collaboration. Dorland Norris, the Unit 4 Deputy Superintendent, lauded the role of the partnership in developing this curriculum, which exemplified a shared vision to transform science teaching that ultimately results in improved student learning and achievement. The courses are designed to capture the interest of a wider population of students and serve the needs those who are undeserved by existing courses.
Through the EnLiST partnership efforts, Norris continued, the mindset of the Unit 4 teachers has been altered concerning the development of new courses. Now, she said, teachers are going beyond the ‘ways things were always done,’ and pushed forward to incorporate the knowledge of experts, ask questions, and become more engaged in the overall development process than simply following the traditional school culture. Norris added, “It really shifts the thinking as it relates to just opening a textbook and starting at chapter one, page one and moving through it. This process is not that at all; it’s a paradigm shift in how to approach learning, which is, I think, outstanding and very much needed in our educational system today.”