- Year 2018
- NSF Noyce Award # 1439866
- First Name Heather
- Last Name Johnson
- Discipline Other: Science and Math
, Vanderbilt University
The recruitment and retention of Black teachers is a nation-wide challenge for the field of teacher education. Research has pointed to the positive benefits of more teacher diversity: students of color need positive role models that look more like them; teachers of color hold higher expectations; and more teacher diversity can positively enrich students of all races and cultures with different backgrounds (Chazan, Brantlinger, Clark, & Edwards, 2013; Clark, Badertscher, & Napp, 2013). Despite the positive influence that teachers of color can have on students, ?teachers of color remain significantly underrepresented relative to the students they serve? (The Albert Shanker Institute, 2016, p. 18).
Very few teacher education programs have reached their goal to “increase diversity.” Even Noyce programs nationwide struggle with their commitment to recruit and retain racially and culturally diverse STEM majors into teaching (Summit, 2016). As we experienced this challenge ourselves, we conducted lived-experience interviews with our Black Noyce scholars in order to answer the following research question: What factors affect the Noyce recruitment of Black teachers? And, in particular: 1. How do Black Noyce scholars at Vanderbilt report their lived experiences? 2. How do these experiences inform recruitment and retention efforts? 3. How do issues of race and privilege influence Black Noyce scholars’ lived experiences? 4. What can we learn from the lived experiences of Black Noyce scholars to inform future Noyce recruitment and retention efforts?
Methods: We used a qualitative approach to research the lived experiences of our Black Noyce scholars. The interviewer followed a semi-structured interview format with broad, open-ended questions for participants to share their personal experiences, with clarifying and probing questions to elicit more information. Participants: The scholars for this study were in the first Vanderbilt Noyce cohort. Both scholars completed their undergraduate degrees at Fisk University, an HBCU. Interview Focus: The interview questions revolved around the following themes: • background on their journey to Fisk and their decision to major in science; • university satisfaction; • their social and academic adjustment to Vanderbilt; • attractiveness of Noyce; and • program retention.
The participant narratives paint a picture for how Ramona and Alvin earned their STEM major at an HBCU and then transitioned to a PWI for graduate studies in education. While these are two of many stories in the extant literature, analyses of Ramona and Alvin’s lived experiences revealed four themes that have implications for the recruitment and retention of Black scholars situated at PWIs. These four themes include: (a) the need for more visible partnerships between the HBCU and PWI for recruitment purposes; (b) the identification of mentors for scholar success; (c) the investigation for understanding how Black scholars become role models for their students; and (d) the institutionalized racism that still challenges Black scholars at a PWI.
To successfully recruit STEM majors from an HBCU to pursue a teaching career, Noyce programs, especially those located at PWIs, need to do a lot more work to get involved in the communities and cultures of the populations we wish to join our cohorts. Alvin and Ramona have offered suggestions for how to make one Noyce program and the teaching profession, more generally, an appealing trajectory for Black STEM majors. For urban schools to have high-quality Black STEM talent in the pool of candidates, Noyce programs have to take these recommendations seriously in order to have more success with Black recruitment and retention in the teaching profession.