- Year 2023
- NSF Noyce Award # 1661400
- First Name Sherry
- Last Name Southerland
- Discipline STEM Education (general)
Miray Tekkumru-Kisa, Rand Corporation; Joseph Travis, Florida State Unviersity
Danielle Rhemer, Florida State University
STEM teachers are leaving the profession of teaching at a high rate (Barnes et al., 2007; Marder, 2022; Walker, 2019). This issue is especially acute for novice STEM teachers in high-needs settings (Wright et al., 2019). Teacher preparation programs have begun placing more and/or less emphasis on supporting teachers in their professional development by attending to subject knowledge, pedagogical knowledge, and time in the field (Allen, 2003). These characteristics are thought to influence which teachers have the knowledge and skills to remain in the field; however, findings are highly variable related to their influence on persistence (Stuart & Tatto, 2000). Other work focuses on the relationship between teacher quality (i.e., VAM scores) and attrition (the mirror opposite image of persistence). In this work, we combine these lines of research to explore the interactions between Noyce teacher preparation programs, instructional quality (teacher practice and vision related to rigor), and persistence. We examine these interactions through the lens of 14 mathematics and science teachers’ early career experiences (instructional quality and persistence) and the Noyce preparation programs (defining characteristics) they attended to understand the relationship between teacher preparation, instructional quality, and persistence.
What role do teacher preparation programs, based on their defining characteristics, have on a novice teacher’s ability to design and enact rigorous instruction (if any)? What role (if any) does a teacher’s ability to design, enact, and envision rigorous instruction have on their persistence in teaching?
To understand the role that teacher preparation programs have on instructional quality, we identified the overall characteristics of the Noyce teacher preparation program (including the program structure, the amount of field hours, coursework requirements, supports for novice teachers, and the program foci) that our teacher population participated in. To characterize the quality of instruction undertaken by these teachers, we analyzed the rigor of designed classroom tasks submitted from their novice teacher years, corresponding student work, and their expectations for students thinking in these tasks (Tekkumru-Kisa et al., 2021). We compared these scores with their current vision of high-quality instruction as expressed in interviews conducted four years after their initial task data was collected. Rigor scores were examined by the program to identify if Noyce preparation program characteristics had an impact on a teacher’s instructional quality. Rigor scores Instructional quality metrics (rigor scores for practice and vision) were then compared to the teacher’s long-term employment choices and examined for patterns in persistence.
Each of the teachers in our study had the ability to design and enact instruction with a moderate to high degree of rigor, suggesting that novice teachers can plan, enact, and expect rigor in their teaching and that the five programs in this study produced teachers capable of quality math and science instruction. However, we found no links between instructional rigor and teachers’ persistence. Likewise, no patterns were found between the number of required field hours, the program emphasis (e.g., social justice, equity, or discipline-specific pedagogy), or the required content courses and teachers’ persistence. However, four of the five teachers in this study who left the classroom were prepared in undergraduate teacher preparation programs, while most of the teachers in our study who persisted (8 out of 9) were prepared in post-bachelor programs.
Our findings suggest that teachers trained in post-bachelor programs stay in the profession more often than those who graduate from undergraduate teacher preparation programs. Further research is needed to determine if this difference is due to applicants seeking undergraduate versus those seeking post-bachelor degrees. Additionally, research is needed to determine the nature of support needed for graduates of undergraduate teacher preparation programs to ensure their graduates persist.