Ball State University has paired up with Project Lead The Way to create an exciting new opportunity for students, faculty and staff to help drive innovation in education.

Project Lead The Way (PLTW) is a nonprofit organization that provides transformative learning experiences for PreK-12 students and teachers through pathways in computer science, engineering, and biomedical science. For the 2019–2020 academic year, PLTW is teaming up with Teachers College (TC) to pilot its inaugural PLTW Launch Pre-Service Teacher Training Program.

What is it? 

The PLTW Launch Pre-Service Teacher Training Program will introduce students pursuing a bachelor of arts degree in education to PLTW’s activity, project, problem-based (APB) learning approach and PLTW Launch, its Prek-5 STEM program. PLTW Launch curriculum provides PreK-5 elementary students with early opportunities to develop a passion for and confidence in STEM subjects, while empowering them to adopt a design-thinking mindset through compelling real-world activities.

Upon completion of the training, elementary education pre-service teachers will earn a PLTW Launch Classroom Teacher certification. This sought-after credential allows future educators to enter the workforce already qualified to teach PLTW Launch, a top-rated elementary school STEM program.

PLTW serves more than 11,500 schools nationwide, and PLTW-credentialed teachers are highly recruited. By already earning their PLTW Launch credential, graduating teachers will be more marketable and better prepared to enter the classroom. Additionally, the hands-on APB approach is distinctly effective and applies to various content areas, enriching the classroom experience for both teachers and students.

Muncie Community Schools (MCS) will benefit from this partnership, as well. Ball State students enrolled in EDEL 299x: STEM Content and Pedagogy courses will have the opportunity to implement their APB training in K-5 classrooms across Muncie Community Schools while earning their credential. MCS students will be exposed to an exciting new way of learning and gain access to quality STEM programming.

Launch on a local level

In the 2018–2019 academic year, at Burris Laboratory School, 12 elementary teachers and one administrator completed the PLTW Launch Classroom Teacher Training and integrated modules into the curricula.

Three K-5 teachers (Michelle Harris, Jennifer Stacy, and Nicole Zirkle) also completed the PLTW Launch Lead Teacher training and will co-facilitate the PLTW Launch Faculty Training Pre-Service Teacher and Pre-service Faculty Trainings hosted in 2019–2020 by Teachers College.

At the secondary level, Burris is also expanding its high school PLTW Computer Science courses to include a PLTW Engineering course for high school and PLTW Gateway courses for middle school.

We are eager to take these experiences and build upon them locally and nationally.

Helping grow the concept

As a leader in teacher training, Ball State will help other colleges and universities across the nation to implement their own PLTW pre-service programs.

Beginning in September, Teachers College will be hosting three-day faculty training experiences for universities from across the country. A team of BSU faculty, Burris Lab School teachers, and PLTW representatives will facilitate the on-campus PLTW Launch Faculty Pre-Service Training, as well as four follow-up virtual meetings.

Once completed, these higher education faculty will take the knowledge and skills learned through the PLTW Launch Faculty Pre-Service Training to their home universities and integrate the PLTW Pre-Service Teacher Training within their own programs. PLTW’s Launch Faculty Pre-Service Training will “seed” the availability of Launch Classroom Teacher Training to pre-service teachers nationally.

A research opportunity, too

The Teachers College will also have the opportunity to contribute to research on a national scale.

Dr. Jerrell Cassady, Department Chair of Educational Psychology and Co-Director of the Research Design Studio, will lead a team of researchers from BSU who will work with PLTW education researchers to better understand and increase the research regarding the cognitive underpinnings of PLTW’s activity-, project-, problem-based model and why it is effective with learners across all demographics, including historically underrepresented groups.

For more information

The partnership between Ball State Teachers College and PLTW is creating remarkable opportunities for Ball State faculty, staff, and students to become catalysts for innovation in education. For questions or comments regarding this partnership and how to get involved, please email Dr. Krista Stith.