- Year 2019
- NSF Noyce Award # 1660736
- First Name Gregory
- Last Name Rushton
- Discipline Biology, Chemistry, Geosciences, Math, Physics
S. Justin Polizzi, Middle Tennessee State University, email@example.com; Brandon Ofem, University of Missouri-St. Louis, firstname.lastname@example.org; Margaret Schroeder, University of Kentucky, email@example.com; Gillian Roehrig, University of Minnesota, firstname.lastname@example.org; Keith Sheppard, Stony Brook University, email@example.com; Michael Beeth, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, firstname.lastname@example.org
S. Justin Polizzi, Middle Tennessee State University, email@example.com; Brandon Ofem, University of Missouri-St. Louis, firstname.lastname@example.org; Gregory Rushton, Middle Tennessee State University, email@example.com
Empirical data on the outcomes and effectiveness of Noyce teacher induction programs are needed to inform workforce policies. The ‘Network Retention in Noyce Communities of Practice’ project is a collaborative research effort to understand differences and similarities across five thriving Noyce teacher induction programs. Induction programs are often viewed as a bridge between teacher preparation communities and in-service teacher communities, yet current methods to examine induction have not drawn upon the rich information present in Social Network Analysis (SNA). We are using SNA to understand how Noyce programs facilitate teacher communities of practice over time, and how those communities influence teacher identity, self-efficacy, and disposition toward remaining in the profession. Relationships between professional supports and outcomes learned from this research project will benefit teacher educators, educational and human resource researchers, and policy makers.
The overarching goals of the project are to understand the social mechanisms through which teachers become embedded in teaching communities, and how those communities impact retention in the teaching profession. To this end, we have assembled a team of researchers engaged in teacher preparation and induction with both Noyce scholarship recipients and non-Noyce teachers. The key research activities include investigating the support structures at each Noyce site, analyzing network maps of teacher communities of practice, and establishing interactions between teacher community structures and how teachers are positioned to remain in the profession.
Our approach is founded in social network theory, which holds that the aggregate pattern of relationships between individuals has implications for the individuals in that social network, as well as the structure itself. The relationships between individuals serve as pipes through which resources, information, and influence flow, so different positions within a network can confer benefits, opportunities and/or constrains for individuals occupying those positions. The overall network structures can also influence feelings of belonging, a culture of norms, and access to novel information. In particular, we focus on the exchange of information within teacher communities of practice, or groups of people who interact to improve a shared craft, as a key factor mediating access to the profession and disposition toward retention in the field.
We have generated empirical evidence for the positive role of communities of practice in STEM teacher development. One key finding is that male and female STEM teachers are generally embedded in different types of community of practice networks, with different effects on teacher self-efficacy. Females have more role models and energizing contacts in their networks, along with higher teacher self-efficacy beliefs, while males have lower self-efficacy beliefs that improve by being connected to a more dense, well connected teacher network. Another key finding is that perceived network bridging, defined as connecting groups that would not be connected otherwise, is associated with higher disposition to remain in the teaching profession. Path analysis indicates that perceived network bridging works by influencing teacher identity, which ultimately has the larger effect on disposition to remain. In the next year we plan to qualitatively study these interactions and administer survey round 2.
The impacts of this project can be more broadly applied across education and workforce issues. Within education, we have intentionally chosen research constructs that are represented in national survey databases. We have selected program features from the annual Noyce Participant Survey, and professional retention constructs from the Teacher Follow-up Survey and Beginning Teacher Longitudinal Study, so that findings from our research can be applied to national datasets in future studies. SNA findings can also impact workforce studies in the organizational sciences. Human resources is a field in its own right in the management literature, and scholars have spent much time studying recruitment and retention in a wide range of organizational contexts. Therefore our research is being disseminated in both education and management outlets. We have recently been accepted to present at the Academy of Management Conference, and our work is gaining attention in communities outside of education.