PSU faculty awarded $100,000 grant

    Four members of the Portland State faculty were awarded a Carnegie Corporation grant of $100,000 to work on a project focused on incorporating literacy into the preparation of science and mathematics teachers.

    Susan Lenski, Micki Caskey, Swapna Mukhopadhyay, and Ron Narode, who are all PSU faculty, were awarded the grant on Oct. 1. The project will try to incorporate literary strategies that science and mathematics teachers use in their existing coursework.

    ”We’re going to revise existing coursework so that it has a strong literacy strand,” said Lenski, a professor in the Graduate School of Education and head of the project. The group will revise and reorder some of the courses so that literacy plays a larger role in math and sciences.

    ”We will work on a redesign of the preparation of teachers in secondary schools so that they do a better job teaching literacy,” Lenski says. “We also want to work on infusing literacy, science, math instruction, and redesigning the delivery of instruction at PSU for new teachers, so that they have a better foundation in incorporating literacy.”

    The group may also do some tutoring so that new teacher candidates at PSU can learn about student literacy. They will study the issues that struggling readers currently have and how their reading can be improved.

    Lenski’s co-workers on the grant all teach in the field of education. Lenski thought Micki Caskey, an associate professor in Curriculum and Instruction at PSU, would be an asset to the project because of his expertise with older students’ education.

    ”He is an expert on middle-level education and literacy,” Lenski said. The other two grant-workers are Ron Narode, an associate professor in Curriculum and Instruction and science educator, and Swapna Mukhopadhyay, an assistant professor in Curriculum and Instruction and a math educator.

Lenski was invited to submit a proposal for the grant in April. Because they are PSU instructors, she and her colleagues worked to come up with an idea that they could incorporate into the academic programs at PSU.

    Lenski submitted the grant in May, and the Carnegie Board recommended certain revisions throughout the summer. On Sept. 28, the board met and accepted the proposal.

    The group, in order to learn how literacy is incorporated into mathematics and science fields, chose to work with other scientists and mathematicians.

    Bill Becker, a scientist from the PSU College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Bill Cameron, a research scientist at Oregon Health and Sciences University, and Brian Greer, a mathematician who lives in Portland, will be assisting with the project. Greer is also a puzzle master who writes puzzles for London newspapers.

    ”We try and figure out what strategies scientists and mathematicians use to read,” Lenski said. She said the group will study the kinds of texts scientists and mathematicians read and how reading is used in their fields.

    ”From that,” Lenski said, “we’ll use our research base in literacy to develop teaching strategies that are specific for math and science.”

    The group will also develop sample teaching lessons, and will be working at OHSU with the scientists in the Center for Science Opportunities.

    In 2005, Lenski was the co-editor of a book entitled Literacy Teacher Preparation: Ten Truths for Teacher Educators. “I’m working on a couple of books right now,” Lenski said. She has written two books this year: Teaching Beginning Reading and the third edition of Reading and Learning Strategies.