Grawemeyer Hall

Two University of Louisville professors hope their summer spent educating educators has a ripple effect on students throughout Kentucky public schools.

Professors Stephanie Philipp from the College of Education and Human Development and Olfa Nasraoui from the J.B. Speed School of Engineering earlier this year won a three-year, $600,000 Research Experience for Teachers (RET) grant from the National Science Foundation to train the educators.

Ten teachers from Jefferson, Carroll and Bullitt counties are on Belknap Campus through the end of July learning about big data and data science, plus getting practical help developing lesson plans to teach the concepts to their students. 

Stephanie Philipp, CEHD Department of Middle and Secondary Education

“The teachers in our cohort are a diverse group with a diverse population of students,” said Philipp, who teaches in CEHD’s Department of Middle and Secondary Education.

Philipp and Nasraoui are also focused on introducing computer science to groups historically underrepresented in the field: women, people of color and those with disabilities.

“This is a form of professional development that Kentucky teachers seek out but, in a time of limited resources, have trouble finding,” said CEHD Dean Ann Larson. “With this grant, the university continues its longstanding tradition of supporting local educators through science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) partnerships and career and workforce readiness opportunities in STEM fields for high school students, including underrepresented groups.”

The project will have an impact beyond STEM teachers, said Nasraoui, who is professor and endowed chair of e-commerce in the Department of Computer Engineering and Computer Science and director of the Knowledge Discovery & Web Mining Lab.

“Its impact will be significant as these teachers go back to their classrooms and pass on the knowledge to their students. Thousands of students will be exposed to these concepts,” she said.

Olfa Nasraoui, professor, Endowed Chair for E-Commerce, Computer Engineering and Computer Science

Kevin Walsh, associate dean of research and facilities in the Speed School, said the grant was “a huge win” for UofL and local high school students.

“NSF only awarded nine such grants throughout the entire country.” Walsh said. “Big data science is such an important field these days, as it is being used to solve real-world problems in numerous fields.”

Philipp added the project will support “active, long-term collaborative partnerships between teachers and university faculty and students to enhance the knowledge and capacity of teachers through participation in authentic research experiences. We also predict that the university faculty will learn more about how high school teachers support students to think computationally and prepare students for college and career.”