- Year 2022
- NSF Noyce Award # 1949990
- First Name Michelle
- Last Name Boucher
- Discipline Biological Sciences, Chemistry, Geosciences, Mathematics, Physics
Thomas Diana, Brad Emmons, Thomas McCarthy
Michelle Boucher, Utica University
Service learning has been an established tool in STEM disciplines to help students see the application of their science in the community and to feel connected to the material. We looked to integrate the service learning approaches in Utica University’s STEM disciplines as part of the cohort building of our STEM education students. The intention was that the outreach events, initially ones that our Noyce scholars participated in but gradually ones that they planned themselves, would build their intellectual tools and confidence not only in their own STEM field but also as emerging educators.
We have had difficulty with STEM student retention in the education program. We hoped that using service learning and other community building tools, such as panels with STEM teachers in the community, would increase student connection to not only education but education in STEM fields. We also hoped to measurably build their confidence as future STEM educators.
For our first year with a Noyce cohort of two, we build a framework that would foster independence and self-confidence in our students through their involvement with service learning. In the summer before their first year, they partnered with our 2021 Summer Institute for incoming first-year students and assessed their weekly presentations. Noyce scholars became familiar with the program students, the assessment tools of the program (rubrics, active learning design), and with surveys we used to assess Summer Institute student progress. The fall was spent unpacking what they learned in the summer and applying their new understanding to both the classes they were currently in (what sorts of active learning do they see in their own classes?) and for outreaches they would design. The spring was spent helping design outreach events for Young Scholars where the Noyce students helped run events and helped teach not only Young Scholars students but also other students helping run the event. The Noyce scholars progressed from working as laboratory assistants to outreach directors. After these events, the Noyce scholars had the opportunity to discuss questions with a panel of local teachers, where they could find answers to questions and ideas that arose as they were functioning as peer-teachers in the outreach classroom. The first-year ended with helping design an independent active-learning module for the 2022 Summer Institute.
We found that our students became more confident through this process. At the beginning of the Summer Institute, they were uncomfortable assessing the incoming first-year students. By the end of the program they were offering suggestions in the rubrics. In the fall they had difficulty imagining assessing different educational styles in the classrooms they were in; by the end of the fall they could not only clearly identify which instructors were using which technique in the STEM classes they were taking, they also identified which techniques they wanted to use in their own classrooms. By the end of the spring, our cohort was comfortable taking the lead in the outreach classrooms and had complex questions to ask of our community teacher panel. These two students are looking forward to becoming mentors to the incoming Noyce cohort, so that we have multiple levels of mentorship.
While we only had a cohort of 2 students in our first year, we are looking forward to applying these opportunities to our next cohort of 5 students. Each of these students has self-identified as being nervous about taking leadership roles in the classroom as well as having the confidence needed to be comfortable in their roles as educators. We intend to use our first cohort of Noyce scholars as mentors in the learning community we are establishing and continue to use participation (and ultimately leadership) in outreach and active learning events to help all our Noyce scholars continue in and graduate from the program.