Boeing grant to support Hybrid Algebra Lab

USC Rossier School of Education assistant professor Laila Hasan

Teachers work independently more than 80 percent of the time, which means they often do not have the benefit of receiving feedback or sharing strategies.

USC Rossier School of Education assistant professor Laila Hasan plans to change that.

With the help of a $50,000 grant from The Boeing Co., Hasan is developing the Hybrid Algebra Lab, an online program to help high school algebra teachers provide peer instruction, share best practices and improve teaching strategies.

Algebra was chosen because of its emergence as an “academic gatekeeper,” Hasan said.

“Students who fail to master the higher-level, abstract-thinking skills required in algebra I are far more likely to drop out of school, so it’s imperative that their teachers are able to help them achieve mastery of the subject,” she said.

The program will launch this fall with 12 math teachers from USC Family of Schools members Manual Arts High School, Foshay Learning Center and 32nd Street School/USC MaST Magnet. The program eventually will be offered to middle school teachers as well.

“I believe this generous donation from the world’s largest aerospace and jetliner manufacturing company underscores the commitment that USC and Boeing have to STEM [science, technology, engineering, math] education,” said Thomas S. Sayles, senior vice president for USC University Relations.

“In essence, Boeing is investing in its potential workforce, which benefits our community, Boeing and the university.”

Video cameras will capture the teachers during classroom algebra instruction, and webcams will transmit the video to their peers. These “critical friends” then will provide constructive feedback during a series of online sessions led by a USC Rossier professor.

During the online sessions, teachers will share strategies and discuss student work and algebra problems using a problem-probing and mathematical inquiry process designed to provide a better understanding of the underlying complexities of various teaching concepts. Participants also will convene in virtual rooms, where they will discuss ways to improve the program.

For further instruction, teachers will access a customized learning portal from home, which, according to Hasan, can create a more productive learning environment.

“Teachers are more inclined to participate after hours if it is convenient and in a comfortable setting,” Hasan said. “We want to remove any obstacles and create a situation where they can be critiqued and learn how to critique others.”

Tamika Lang, community investor for Boeing Global Corporate Citizenship, said: “At Boeing, we value knowledge exchange among peers, especially in environments that take advantage of technology to create effective systems. USC’s Hybrid Algebra Lab is a model that can accelerate teacher professional development and ultimately help ensure the success of students.”

Kathy Hernandez contributed to this story.