- Year 2022
- NSF Noyce Award # 1660658
- First Name Sailyn
- Last Name Buxner
- Discipline Biological Sciences, Chemistry, Engineering, Mathematics, Physics
John Keller, University of Colorado; Larry Horvath, San Francisco State University; Dermot Donnelly-Hermosillo, California State University, Fresno; Deidre Sessoms, California State University, Sacramento; Stamatis Vokos, Cal Poly SLO
Sanlyn Buxner & Dan Moreno, University of Arizona; John Keller, University of Colorado; Larry Horvath & Elsa Bailey, San Francisco State University; Dermot Donnelly-Hermosillo, California State University, Fresno; Deidre Sessoms, California State University, Sacramento; Stamatis Vokos, Cal Poly SLO; Martyna Citkowicz, Melissa Yisak, Bo Zhu, Eleanor Fullbeck, Charlotte Chen, & Max Pardo, AIR
Supporting preservice teachers in doing authentic STEM research is an ongoing national need as a supplement to their teaching credential programs. Research has shown that teachers struggle in teaching research and implementing authentic STEM practices that they themselves may lack experience with. There have been numerous programs to support in service teachers engaging in research that have reported strong outcomes for teachers and some positive outcomes for their students. The STEM Teacher and Researcher (STAR) program was designed to fill this need for preservice teachers. The STAR program has arranged placements for preservice and early career teachers in research experiences in national labs across the US. In addition to summer research experiences, the STAR program provides weekly pedagogical workshops led by master teachers to support participants’ understanding and meaning making to help them integrate research into their future classrooms. Fifteen years of STAR alumni has allowed us to conduct a research study of the impact of the STAR experience on teachers and their students.
The purpose of this study was to determine the impact of a STAR research experience on teachers’ classroom practices as a way to investigate teacher effectiveness. The overall study was guided by the following research questions:1. Student Perceptions—Compared to students of non-STAR teachers, how do students of STAR teachers differ in their perceptions of STEM classroom practices, engagement, perseverance, STEM career awareness, and the value of learning STEM subjects?2. Classroom Practices—Compared to other teachers in their schools and/or districts, how do STAR teachers talk about classroom practices and student learning?
This study collected data from teachers and students in 16 classrooms, eight STAR and eight non-STAR. The non-STAR comparison teachers were selected because they taught related subjects in the same school or district as the STAR teachers. Data included student perceptions as well as teachers’ narratives. Students’ perceptions were gathered through surveys and included constructs related to their teachers’ classroom practices, and student engagement, as well as questions on their own STEM career awareness, perception of value of learning STEM subjects and student perseverance. The study employed a quasi-experimental, matched design to examine differences in these constructs between the study sample of classrooms of STAR alumni and non-STAR matched comparison groups. The survey was administered to students during both the beginning and the end of the 2018–2019 academic year. During the pre-administration of the survey, students were asked to rate their prior STEM learning experiences; during the post-administration, students were asked to rate their experience with their current STEM teacher. A matched comparison analysis was conducted amongst student survey respondents. In addition, phone interviews were conducted with each teacher to obtain teacher narratives about their classroom practices. All transcripts were coded with the final codebook and emergent themes were analyzed with attention to STAR and non-STAR teachers.
Students of STAR teachers reported stronger gains in STEM career awareness, value of learning STEM subjects, and student perseverance. Subgroup analysis revealed that the STEM career awareness increase for students of STAR teachers was consistent in non-high-need settings regardless of Noyce status. The same was true for non-Noyce teachers. Students of STAR teachers reported stronger gains in perceptions of the value of learning STEM in aggregate and for non-Noyce teachers. Students of STAR alumni had stronger gains in student perseverance in aggregate, for teachers in high-need schools and for non-Noyce teachers. Lastly, an analysis of students in high-need schools revealed stronger frequency of self-reported classroom practices for non-STAR teachers. Findings from the interviews of STAR alumni revealed that STAR alumni promoted career awareness by emphasizing STEM learning as having value in any career or discipline beyond high school and valued the role of scientific thinking in general. Additionally, STAR alumni were able to draw upon their own experiences doing research and their own connections for resources related to STEM careers. Comparison non-STAR teachers were more likely to talk about preparing students for specific STEM careers and relied more heavily on online resources or other sources to support career connections. The next study is looking at how STAR may impact teacher retention.
This study represents one of the first efforts by a preservice teacher research experience program to extend assessment beyond teacher self-report to include data from students in order to provide evidence of teacher effectiveness and classroom practices. This study demonstrated that student surveys can be used along with triangulation with teacher interviews to meaningfully discriminate between teachers in terms of student perceptions of classroom learning constructs. In addition to the results described above, ongoing evaluation findings have demonstrated that participants in the STAR Program develop and strengthen an identity as teacher-researchers, which is a central goal of the program. These preliminary findings align with NSF’s own recent strategy for the Robert Noyce Scholarship Program to encourage grantees to provide research experiences for teachers. Our findings are exciting, and hopefully aspirational, for those who actively research teacher research experiences and work with Noyce Scholars and Fellows. Additionally, this work is valuable to STEM teacher educators, as we provide insight into new ways to prepare teachers to engage students in research practices and show evidence of the potential efficacy of this model of teacher professional development and preparation.