- Year 2022
- NSF Noyce Award # 1949892
- First Name Patricia
- Last Name Waters
- Discipline Biological Sciences, Chemistry, Geosciences, Mathematics, Physics
Daniel Moore, SMCC; Emily Lesher, SJC
Daniel Moore, Southern Maine Community College
For more than two decades, the US Department of Education has identified chemistry as an area of teacher shortage in Maine, and science more generally since 2004. Mirroring a national pattern, students in Maine Schools serving minority populations are taught by an aging white teacher workforce. The Growing Future STEM Teachers in Maine (GFSTM) project seeks to address this shortage by growing students from within high-need districts to return to their communities as the next generation of science and math educators. In addition, this project seeks to add to the body of knowledge examining perceptions of STEM teaching, particularly those held by the growing community college student population.
To understand perceptions of careers in secondary STEM education, the research questions guiding this study are: How do the perceptions of teaching in rural and urban high needs schools differ as a function of a) community college versus four year college students; b) urban versus rural upbringing of the student, and how do they evolve as they experience the various Noyce interventions? Understanding the role perception has for each type of student is vital as the need for teachers increases and the number of students who begin their post-secondary education at community colleges also increases.
This research draws on the theoretical frameworks of grow your own teacher models and place-based education to understand perceptions of careers in secondary STEM teaching. Specifically, this project seeks to contribute to the growing body of knowledge concerning the capacity of place-based education to increase motivation, engagement, and content relevance associated with retention of students and teachers in rural areas. To understand perceptions of STEM teaching, a survey adapted from getthefactsout.org was administered during our capacity building year. Results from the survey directly influenced development of Noyce interventions employed in our Track 1 grant to recruit and prepare STEM teachers.
Results from our survey yielded insights into the upsides, downsides, and enticements to enter STEM teaching. Being a role model and making a difference were viewed as upsides of teaching. Among community college students, respect from students and society were viewed as downsides of teaching. Loans and scholarships are encouragements for those ‘open to teaching’’ while course flexibility and formal teaching experience was the greatest incentive for those ‘somewhat interested.’ Informed by these results, the GFSTM project employed three innovative pedagogies to increase the number and diversity of qualified STEM teachers: career exploration workshops, a teaching experience short course, and professional learning community. The career exploration workshops expose interested undergraduates to STEM education professionals, the TESC deepens Noyce scholars’ content and pedagogical knowledge, and the professional learning communities allow Noyce graduates to systematically review their practice. GFSTM has recruited 12 scholars, 4 have come from SMCC. Of the Noyce Scholars, 6 have participated in a TESC, 3 completed our online educational foundations course, and all have participated in a Career Panel.
The GFSTM Project will increase the number of certified STEM secondary education graduates prepared to enter high-needs school districts in rural and urban areas and will meet regional workforce needs. The grow your own model could have significant impact given the diversity of populations to which it will be applied, including rural vs. urban, white vs. immigrant, and white vs. Native American. Many of the preparation activities are designed to provide high-quality field experiences and to act as recruitment activities for the next generation of students. The continued examination of perceptions of community college students and teaching will provide mutually beneficial relationships that can become a model to guide other institutions with similar situations and challenges.