- Year 2017
- NSF Noyce Award # 1439842
- First Name Jan
- Last Name Yow
- Discipline Other: Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Math
Christine Lotter, firstname.lastname@example.org, Ed Dickey, email@example.com, Bert Ely, firstname.lastname@example.org, Matt Irvin, email@example.com, University of South Carolina
Jan A. Yow & Christine Lotter, University of South Carolina (firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com)
The need to improve secondary education in the United States is great. The US ranks 17th out of the 36 industrialized nations for science and a below-average 25th for mathematics (Seitvogel, 2010). This need is exemplified in South Carolina in the areas of science and mathematics, as the state ranks 40th in the nation. In South Carolina, 40% of youth live in rural areas, one of the largest proportions of rural youth in the US and double the national average. SC also ranks fourth amongst the fifty states on the Rural Education Priority Gauge (a cumulative measure of rural growth, student learning outcomes, student diversity, and financial issues); showing the state’s high need for rural educational support (Strange, Johnson, Showalter, & Klein, 2012). Furthermore, there is a lack of research in mathematics and science teacher leadership (Wenner & Campbell, 2017).
The goal of the South Carolina Science and Mathematics Teacher Leaders Project (SC-SMTL) is to develop science and mathematics teacher leaders in rural districts in our state. SC-SMTL key activities include annual two-week summer Instructional Leadership Academies, online graduate content courses, National Board Certification completion support, and instructional coach training. MTFs implement inquiry-based teaching practices (Anderson, 2007; Silver, Kilpatrick, & Schlesinger, 1990) coupled with both Project Based Learning (Krajcik, Czerniak, & Berger, 2002) as well as Place Based Learning (Sobel, 2004). MTFs are mentoring student teachers, co-teaching methods courses, presenting at conferences, delivering community STEM nights, and planning a professional development week for colleagues as the culminating event of project.
Based on our review of the rural STEM education literature and research on impactful professional development (Sample McMeeking, Orsi, & Cobb, 2012) as well as our extensive experience working with rural districts near USC, we designed a conceptual framework and professional development program to prepare mathematics and science leaders and assure the success of their students. Our framework focuses on the four areas of greatest need in rural areas, especially those in South Carolina: reducing teacher isolation, increasing instructional quality, increasing retention, and creating instructional leaders. The professional development described above address each of the four needs.
Four key outcomes have taken place in four growth areas for our participants and the project team: (1) MTFs are expanding their teacher leadership conceptions to include influences beyond their classrooms, (2) MTFs are extending their roles as advocates for their students, (3) We are gaining a more informed-view of what content focused teacher leadership looks like, and (4) We are learning that rural teacher leadership may be more natural but challenging.
Our model that addresses the professional development of rural science and mathematics teachers simultaneously preparing preservice teachers has potential for addressing two critical problems: 1) the need for high-quality STEM teachers and 2) the need for effective teacher professional development in locales that lack access to required expertise. This approach can be replicated in other parts of the U.S. where isolated and resource-poor school districts struggle to find and develop high quality STEM professional development. Rural school districts in South Carolina serve populations ranging of up to 90% African-American so improving the quality of instruction in schools participating in this project has a significant impact on learning for underrepresented groups. Two dissertation and two manuscripts are currently under development to share key findings.