UMBC’s Jonathan Singer supports South Korean science teachers through Howard County partnership

Published: Mar 7, 2019

UMBC’s education department has built strong, lasting partnerships across Maryland’s public school districts, from Baltimore County and Baltimore City to Howard County and Anne Arundel County. This winter an exciting new partnership has developed to support even more teachers through professional development, and it’s having an international impact.

The Howard County Public School System (HCPSS), in partnership with the South Korean Iksan District Office of Education, recently invited Jonathan Singer, associate professor and chair of education, to provide professional development to visiting secondary science teachers from South Korea.

Singer’s training utilized a curriculum designed by UMBC researchers, called INSPIRES, for Increasing Student Participation, Interest, and Recruitment in Engineering and Science. INSPIRES was previously developed and tested, with National Science Foundation support, by Julie Ross, former dean of the college of engineering and information technology, principal investigator; and co-principal investigators John Singer and Christopher Rakes, assistant professor of education. Jacqueline Krikorian, project coordinator for INSPIRES, joined Singer in presenting the material to the South Korean teachers during their time in Howard County.

L-R: Douglas Handy, BCPS; Jonathan Singer; Christopher Rakes; Julie Ross; and Christine Schumacker, BCPS, in 2016. Photo by Marlayna Demond ‘11 for UMBC.

The Howard County professional development began by showing the teachers how to integrate three key ideas into instruction: content, context, and the design process,” explains Singer. “It was important to provide a conceptual understanding and strategies to show how this practice is a shift from traditional teaching.”

Building partnerships, sharing ideas

HCPSS has played a unique role in connecting South Korean teachers with educational resources in Maryland. Over the last seven years, several K-12 teachers have traveled to Howard County to shadow public school teachers, with support from their district and state government. During each visit, teachers pair with a Howard County educator in a similar grade level and subject area to share ideas, professional learning opportunities, and best practices.

Singer (front row, middle) with visiting teachers from Korea.


“The goal and purpose of this program is for teachers from Korea to gain a U.S. perspective on teaching science in innovative and creative ways,” says Min Woo, international student and family services specialist for Howard County Public Schools.

This is where UMBC comes in. Historically, the group has traveled to New York for additional professional development at Teachers College, Columbia University, following their time in Howard County. But HCPSS leaders who had experienced the positive results of the INSPIRES curriculum for local teachers thought it could be a great fit for the South Korean teachers as well. Mamie Perkins, former deputy superintendent, and Carl Perkins, former principal of Centennial High School, encouraged partnership coordinator Sunghwa Jung to reach out to Jonathan Singer to explore the possibilities.

Planning ahead

“Working with Dr. Singer was a great start. His research and the tasks he prepared benefited the Korean science teachers greatly, helping them to reflect on their own teaching practices,” said Jung. “I hope to improve our professional development through our partnership with Dr. Singer and his team.”

The partners have found the INSPIRES pilot to be successful, and they expect it will be part of future visits. UMBC’s work with teachers of the Iksan District represents the university’s second partnership with a South Korean academic institution. UMBC also has a student exchange program with Seoul National University.

Banner image: President Freeman Hrabowski with Jonathan Singer at the 2018 Celebration of Teaching event. Photo by Marlayna Demond ’11 for UMBC.

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