ASU researcher receives nearly $1.4 million to conduct education project

Project TEAS aims to increase elementary school teachers' confidence across all core subjects

From the Pythagorean theorem to Edgar Allen Poe, elementary school teachers are expected to teach their students a variety of different subjects, and one ASU project aims to make this task easier.

The Teachers’ Effectiveness Across Subjects project is a four-year project currently in its first year and is intended to improve confidence and bolster training for educators who teach multiple core subjects.

Leigh McLean, an assistant research professor in the T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics, was recently awarded almost $1.4 million by the U.S Department of Education  to pilot Project TEAS.

McLean, the project's director, said elementary school teachers in particular could benefit from the project.

“Elementary teachers are unique in that they are expected to teach across all subjects,” McLean said. “We know that people have very different reactions to different subjects across the board, and when teachers felt a certain way about each subject it may transfer to the students.”

McLean also said that while there is validation in having her work funded, she is most excited for the impact her study will have. 

“The ultimate goal is to improve educational outcomes, and aside from exciting personal things, the big idea is that we’re trying to improve education,” McLean said. 

She also said that because teaching is an occupation where many fingers are pointed, the project aims to help by giving teachers training in all areas of teaching. 

Richard Fabes, professor and school director in the T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics, said in an email that the grant takes a “significant step” in providing insight on the subject. 

“Understanding how to support teachers and schools help students be successful is critical to our communities and the future of our society,” Fabes wrote in the statement. “To do this effectively, we need to have a better sense as to how the demands of teaching different subjects impacts teachers' effectiveness and sense of worth.” 

Fabes added that the project reflects the school’s mission to assist in success for youth, children and families. 

Project TEAS will involve teachers and students across six school districts through surveys and videos of classroom sessions.

Mi Yeon Lee, an assistant professor for the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College who specializes in educating future teachers in mathematics, said teaching subjects like mathematics is especially difficult for those who aren’t comfortable with the subject.

“In my classroom, I see a lot of people raise their hand when I ask who wants to teach social studies or English, but very few who want to teach math,” Lee said. “Especially in areas like math and science, confidence is so important.” 

Lee said the project could help teachers who aren’t comfortable with certain subjects give their future students a better chance at enjoying the subject. 

“Reasoning is very important in math, but something I think is so important when it comes to teaching math particularly is learning from the student as well,” Lee said. “If the project gives teachers better understanding or confidence in a subject that will help both teachers and students."

Reach the reporter at and follow @ReinhartKatelyn on Twitter.

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