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Science-teaching success reaps new reward

A Northeastern University researcher, whose work improving teaching and learning in Boston public schools was highlighted in Science magazine, has won a second-stage grant from the National Science Foundation to continue his efforts.

Christos Zahopoulos, executive director of the Center for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Education at Northeastern, said the $2.1 million Phase II Math/Science Partnership award from the NSF will expand his work with Boston science teachers to help them understand fundamentals about energy in an interdisciplinary fashion.

That learning translates directly to student achievement, Zahopoulos said.

“The students at high-participation schools in 2007 had large science achievement gains on eighth- and 10th-grade MCAS,” the state-mandated testing system, said Zahopoulos, an associate professor in the College of Engineering and in the College of Professional Studies’ education department.

The new grant for the Boston Energy in Science Teaching (BEST) project builds on the success of the $14.1 million Phase I Boston Science Partnership grant. It will apply the Collaborative Coaching and Learning in Science educational model to the university setting, to support faculty discussions on interdisciplinary research and teaching at both graduate and undergraduate levels.

Researchers will look at content-based and concept-based professional development for teachers, and evaluate the impact each has on student achievement and engagement.

Science magazine in August highlighted Northeastern’s program for math and science partnerships as one of the nation’s best.

The Northeastern-based BEST is a partnership with the University of Massachusetts at Boston, Roxbury Community College, the Boston Public Schools and the nonprofit Education Development Center, which designs and evaluates innovate models of education.

Zahopoulos, through the STEM Center, also leads a state-funded master of education degree program in middle school science at Northeastern, for teachers from Boston and surrounding school districts. In addition, he directs the North Shore Science Partnership, which provides math and science support to up to 100 teachers from high-need school districts in Greater Boston.