NOVEMBER 2, 2020 — Project Notice the Positives (abbreviated as Project Notice+), a new project within UTSA’s Department of Interdisciplinary Learning and Teaching, is investigating how future educators can develop professional noticing skills in the classroom while further developing a child’s problem solving and literacy skills.

The exploratory project, which is being spearheaded by Crystal Kalinec-Craig, Samuel DeJulio and Alexa Proffitt, is taking place within two existing programs: Support & Enrichment Experiences in Mathematics (SEE Math) and Roadrunner Readers.

“Project Notice+ is essentially trying to help foster and nurture more elementary candidate teachers to notice children’s assets and to notice their strengths specifically in math and literacy,” Kalinec-Craig said. “SEE Math and Roadrunner Readers are a series of activities that our elementary teacher candidates do with children out in the communities. It’s grounding our teacher candidates in a funds of knowledge approach, in situating their practice and what kids already know and can do, to resist deficit thinking, to embrace their whole selves.”

“We want to reinforce the ways in which this work in particular is meant to be for the community and with the community and not done upon the community.”

The researchers will follow three cohorts of teacher candidates across the last three semesters in their EC-6 teacher education program. The teacher candidates will start in the SEE Math program before moving onto the Roadrunner Readers program, allowing them to practice asset-based teacher noticing of children’s thinking, Kalinec-Craig said.

“These programs will bridge the work that they’re going to be doing in their field placements in the future semesters and years in their profession,” DeJulio said.

The project will also build off the existing math and literacy knowledge the children have, particularly those who are of Mexican and Central American backgrounds, and support their positive self-concept in these two areas. 

“The reason why we’re focusing on children who are of Mexican American and Central American descent is just because we know that these are the classrooms that we want to be in,” Kalinec-Craig said. “We also know that it’s reflective of our UTSA teacher candidate population. When children see themselves reflected in their teacher, the research shows that there’s more opportunities for them to then see themselves in terms of a more asset-oriented way.”

The goal of Project Notice+ is to create a foundation for these teacher candidates, which will allow them to thrive as elementary school teachers and serve as a model for other institutions, Proffitt said.

“We want to embed this idea that you are an interdisciplinary educator as an elementary teacher, and how we want to do that is making sure you are meeting the foundational needs, understanding children’s assets and not deconstructing children’s deficits,” Proffitt said. “I think that’s something we hope to be able to solidify, so some of the other institutions who are preparing teachers can learn from this research.

With the findings from the project, other teacher candidate programs may be able to further impact the growth of future teachers and students in their classrooms, the researchers said. Furthermore, Project Notice+ will help grow the number of educators of Mexican descent returning to work in their communities. 

“We want to reinforce the ways in which this work in particular is meant to be for the community and with the community and not done upon the community,” Proffitt said. “That’s something that we need to reinforce in our research practices and practices as institutions of higher ed. Hopefully, this can serve as a model for that.”