- Year 2016
- NSF Noyce Award # 1340048
- First Name Gail
- Last Name Richmond
- Discipline Teacher Education
James Jackson, Michigan State University, firstname.lastname@example.org
Kraig Wray, Michigan State University, email@example.com
One of the most significant issues facing education is the departure of teachers from the profession in large numbers. This is especially the case for science teachers working in high-poverty schools (e.g., Ingersoll & May, 2012) and who have other career options. This attrition leaves students who may need the most support with new and less skilled teachers and administrators unable to develop stable, long-term vision and planning.
How best to prepare and support novice science teachers so that they are well equipped for the challenges of teaching and remain in the profession, orchestrate the best opportunities to students for learning, and provide stability to the school and to the larger community are goals which drive this work.
We are pursuing these goals by examining ways that agency develops and professional identity is shaped as teacher candidates (TCs) navigate through their teacher education programs and into their early years of teaching in challenging school contexts. We analyzed the data using inductive case-based methodology (Glesne, 1992), modified constant comparative method (Corbin & Strauss, 2008), and by writing of analytical memos (e.g., Maxwell, 1996).
The results from this study lend support to the idea that continuity between teacher preparation program and internship placement is important. Even more, when the mentor or school context are aligned in parallel with the values of the TC or allow the TC to act in a way that fosters growth in what they value, agency can be developed. Integral to this identity development is the opportunity to be positioned in a way that the TC can act on their values and find success when confronted with challenges.
Two TCs in this study had different values they held strongly, were able not only to develop but to enact strategies which had outcomes for them and for their students and experienced agency in their work. One factor contributing to their success were the contexts in which they were placed and the communities within which they positioned themselves, which were consonant with their values. There were other TCs in the program who held similar values but did not experience similar agency, and this situation had significant consequences for their successful completion of the program. It is when positioned in opposition to their context that agency development is prevented. The teacher must then amend their values to align better with the context, leave the context for one that is more parallel to their current values, or continue to work for change.
This study contributes to our understanding of the influence context may have on agency and on teacher retention. While it has been established that teacher identity is developed through experiences, is fluid in nature, and has a bearing on one’s agency (e.g., Lasky, 2005), the context in which a student teacher is placed and the mentor with whom they work have an impact on the extent and pattern of agency development. Preparing TCs to address the challenges of teaching and providing them with the opportunities to experience repeated success with respect to their implementation of teaching strategies in the service of what they value most highly can provide them with the foundational agency necessary to develop and sustain resilience when presented with experiences that challenge their intentions.
Multiple opportunities to experience success in enacting specific practices most often leads to repeated implementation of these practices; and continued success can lead to feelings of agency. As science teacher educators, we can work with other stakeholders to create such opportunities for TCs. When values are in alignment with repeated success, this contributes to one?s identity and provides a foundation for the resilience so necessary for teachers across the career-span, and especially for those teaching in particularly challenging settings.