- Year 2023
- NSF Noyce Award # 2150110
- First Name Jennifer
- Last Name Antoniotti-Neal
- Discipline STEM Education (general)
Kentucky produces less certified STEM teachers than needed to fill vacancies in middle and high school teaching positions. This project looks at ways to identify specific collaborative efforts to improve current practices at small, rural colleges that focus on recruitment for athletics, instead of academics. These efforts focus on how to utilize existing faculty, staff and partners to increase recruitment and retention efforts to create an effective plan of action. This project seeks to identify and then target the best outcomes to put in place to build capacity to seek a Track 1 proposal in the future.
Lindsey Wilson College (LWC), located in rural Kentucky, proposes a Capacity Building project entitled “Building Together: Partners Creating Strong STEM Educators” (Building Together) to position the college for submission of a Track 1 proposal to the Noyce program. LWC offers programs to become a STEM educator in two areas—mathematics and biology. Building Together investigated multiple institutional needs surrounding these programs. Project activities included establishing a new STEM Education Curriculum Committee to revise and align current course practices with state and national standards, including DEIB pedagogy; improving marketing to prospective STEM educators, specifically targeting Hispanic and other underrepresented groups; enhancing an existing articulation agreement with a local community college, and assessing the need for a new STEM education Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program. These activities helped LWC to achieve three project objectives: (1) to improve coordination among STEM and education faculty, ensuring STEM education curricula reflect current state standards; (2) to implement new strategies and partnerships that will increase enrollment of STEM educators; and (3) to determine whether a new MAT program in STEM education is needed and feasible. Central to the current project and the future Track 1 project are partnerships with two local educational agencies (LEAs) with which LWC has existing relationships, Russell County Schools and Adair County Schools. These two high-need LEAs report that 71.8% and 71.7% of their students are economically disadvantaged, so the need for high-quality STEM teachers in this area of Kentucky is clear. LWC also partnered with Somerset Community College, a nearby community college with which LWC already has an articulation agreement, to increase enrollment of STEM educators and to gain valuable perspective on its STEM education programming by beginning work on a 2X2 Middle and Secondary Education agreement for Biology and Mathematics students currently enrolled in SCC programs.
With respect to knowledge generation, Building Together yielded critical insights on the consistency of LWC’s STEM education curricula with revised state academic standards that lead to educator licensure in Kentucky. The work of the committee ensures the college’s STEM education candidates are optimally prepared for the subject matter assessments required for licensure. Building Together produced valuable information on the need for a new Master of Arts in Teaching program for STEM educators at LWC. Severe teacher shortages in Kentucky and anecdotal feedback from LEA administrators suggested the need for such an option, but a comprehensive needs assessment formally investigated the need for, and the feasibility of, developing a new program in at a small, rural, private college. Addressing these needs will position the college for submission of a Track 1 proposal to the Noyce competition in the near future.
Although student interest in LWC’s two biology and mathematics majors is substantial, student interest in becoming teachers in these STEM subjects has historically been minimal. Building Together was designed to build institutional capacity and knowledge to overcome various barriers to student entry into STEM education. The project will continue to build the capacity to recruit new STEM educators both internally from LWC and externally from LEAs and local community college partners, thereby increasing the number of STEM education candidates. Building Together also investigated the need for a new graduate-level pathway to becoming a STEM educator, which may broaden options for those interested in STEM education and grow the STEM education workforce. Most importantly, the project will produce important updates and refinements to LWC’s STEM education curricula, providing STEM education students with highly effective preparation for subject matter assessments and, ultimately, to become qualified teachers in STEM classrooms. Next steps are to increase the number of “Grow Your Own” Teaching Career Pathways at local high schools with area partners to create dual-credit pipelines, in conjunction with our area community college, to attract a diverse group of math and biology teacher education candidates.