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GIFT

 

GIFT Research Team: Paul Simmonds, Julianne Wenner, Donna Llewellyn, and Megan Frary. Photo by Carrie Quinney


GIFT Summary

GIFT stands for Graduate Identity Formation through Teaching and is a three-year funded project through the National Science Foundation’s Innovations in Graduate Education (NSF IGE) program. The research team, led by Wenner, is a collaborative effort between Boise State’s College of Education (Wenner), College of Arts and Sciences (Simmonds), College of Engineering (Frary and Simmonds) and the Institute for STEM and Diversity Initiatives (Llewellyn).

In the GIFT educational model, graduate students in STEM disciplines serve as content experts, teaching preservice elementary teacher candidates STEM content on an adult level. The teacher candidates transform this content into 15-minute mini-lessons that are aligned with science and engineering standards for elementary students at local Title I elementary schools. GIFT uses teaching – defined in the broadest sense as the application of disciplinary knowledge and clear communication of that knowledge to others – to promote professional identity formation among STEM graduate students. Funding will allow the GIFT team to scale up the original collaborative project (see our article for more information) to collaborate with graduate students in physics, geosciences, biosciences, and mechanical/biomechanical engineering.

For more detail on the project, please see the NSF award summary here.

Boise State’s press release about GIFT in the Update can be found here.


FAQs

What are the Benefits of GIFT for Graduate Students?

Based on our pilot data, we have seen the benefits to graduate students to include increased confidence in their content knowledge, an increased feeling of expertise and/or a step toward battling imposter syndrome, and an understanding of how they might use their expertise to give back to the community. Quotes from past graduate students concerning their experiences with GIFT include:
  • Pedagogy does not only apply to teaching; instead I think of it as a way to communicate information in a way that people will learn. In that way, I am interested in learning skills that will help me communicate my research and its importance. I think I can use some of the techniques I’ve learned to help people to understand what I’m talking about.
  • I actually knew a quite a bit more than I originally thought…I am more confident in what I’ve learned.
  • I’ve been ‘lucky’ enough to live with the idea of impostor syndrome for a few years now… [But] the majority of this partnership has been me being the “expert”.
  • Knowing how to give a presentation is one thing, but it does not really teach you how to have a conversation. The back and forth of [teaching] … [is] making your mind more agile by doing backflips on the spot, [and] coming up with questions.
  • I feel that now I have a solid foundation for my teaching, and if a class or other teaching responsibility were thrown at me, I would have the starting ideas and resources to rise to the responsibility.
  • Working with the teachers was great, because I enjoyed explaining to them how science works. When they started to understand what I was saying they started asking more questions and they eventually felt so comfortable with the subject…I now appreciate the gap we have in school when it comes to science education. We do not have enough teachers who are comfortable explaining basic concepts, and people like us need to step in and fill that void.
  • I now truly have a greater respect for elementary teachers, and I can say with confidence now that they must be paid more money!

I'm A Graduate Advisor. How Can My Graduate Student Participate?

If you currently advise a graduate student at Boise State in a STEM field and would like your graduate student to participate in GIFT, please contact Julianne Wenner at juliannewenner@boisestate.edu. From there, we can figure out the best way to include your student.

I'm a Graduate Student. What Should I Know About Participating?

In addition to being a graduate student currently taking coursework in your field, we also ask graduate students to enroll in GCOLL 516: Exploration of Pedagogy, which is a one-credit course that will support you in teaching the teacher candidates in an engaging and appropriate manner. If you are part of GIFT, nearly all GCOLL 516 coursework will be tied to your GIFT activities. There are a few brief meetings with teacher candidates outside of course meeting time, and you will be required to visit the elementary school on the day that the teacher candidates teach their lesson to the elementary students.