- Year 2019
- NSF Noyce Award # 1852670
- First Name Allison
- Last Name Jablonski
- Discipline Biology, Chemistry, Geosciences, Math, Physics
Bill Lokar, University of Lynchburg, firstname.lastname@example.org; Andrew Bruce, University of Lynchburg, bruce.AA@lynchburg.edu
Allison Jablonski, University of Lynchburg, email@example.com; Bill Lokar, University of Lynchburg, firstname.lastname@example.org
STEM Education Need – Virginia has teacher shortages in secondary mathematics, special education, and middle education (U.S. Department of Education, 2017). The need for more highly qualified STEM teachers is illustrated by the collaborative regional effort—including UL, CVCC, and local school divisions—in planning a “Grow Your Own Teachers” program. High turnover is an issue; Lynchburg City Schools employs 87 secondary STEM teachers and averages a 20% turnover rate annually in these positions. Amherst County Public Schools has 17% and 8% annual turnover rates for math and science teachers, respectively, and Amherst officials state that the applicant pool is extremely limited. In addition, STEM teachers are often not prepared to work with the diverse needs of today’s classrooms. The head of the science department at a Lynchburg City high school observed that new STEM teachers have had little exposure to special needs students, lack the skills to teach these students successfully, and find it difficult to present complex concepts in manners that work for struggling learners. Around 13% of local students have an identified disability, and the majority are included in general education classes. Institutional Need – Despite the strong demand in central Virginia for highly qualified STEM teachers, UL’s STEM education programs are under-enrolled. The primary causes of this under-enrollment are a lack of focused recruitment activities to date, especially early in a STEM student’s academic career; the lack of clear pathways to completion of STEM and education requirements; and financial issues. These issues mirror national trends in declining enrollment in teacher education programs, due to better financial prospects outside education and the length and difficulty of making it through teacher education programs in STEM areas. To address these causes, UL has identified the need to increase its marketing and outreach activities, to provide financial relief to students, and to partner with CVCC to create new and well-defined educational pathways that will allow interested students to become secondary STEM teachers with minimal student debt and in a reasonable amount of time.
(1) Does participation in the Noyce workshops significantly alter knowledge and beliefs of preservice and in-service STEM teachers about teaching students with disabilities? A survey instrument will be administered to the workshop participants before and after every workshop to assess their preparedness to work with students with disabilities, knowledge of methods for teaching and interventions, perceptions of whether they can help students with disabilities learn, and knowledge of resources to use while in the field. (2) How does interaction with students with disabilities during field experiences alter pre-service STEM teachers’ beliefs about these students? The teacher candidates will be surveyed after their field experiences to collect these data. (3) How do the in-service Noyce scholars, in their first year of teaching, rate their level of preparation and job satisfaction, and how do their results compare to those of other teachers who did not participate in the Noyce program? What skills, beliefs, or knowledge do in-service STEM teachers consider most important for working effectively with students with disabilities? Dr. Bruce will develop survey instruments and will collect data in support of all questions.
UL’s Noyce program will introduce extended advising, enhanced field experiences, mentoring, and workshops that help teacher candidates become effective teachers in high-need classrooms. UL Student Advising – First- and second-year UL STEM majors will be advised about the Noyce program and secondary education opportunities by their academic advisors. If interested, they will be guided in their coursework to ensure they can complete the four-year STEM education program. Upon entering the Noyce program as juniors, the Noyce scholars will be assigned an advisor from the education faculty in addition to their STEM faculty advisor. Workshops on Preparation for the Diverse Classroom – STEM educators need specialized preparation to work with students with disabilities and students from a culture different than their own (Garza & Harter, 2016; Kahn & Lewis, 2014). Providing pre-service STEM teachers with meaningful experiences and skills in these settings should lower teacher attrition. To address this need, UL’s Noyce program will develop a series of interactive workshops for the scholars, alumni of the College of Education, and other education students to prepare them to work effectively with students from both culturally diverse and differently abled populations. Eight workshops will be developed, with two held each semester. This will allow the Noyce scholars to attend all eight workshops during their two years in the program. Each workshop will employ a structured inquiry model by first providing some background information and a realistic problem. From these, workshop participants will generate and investigate questions, analyze data, draw conclusions, and report their findings, all with the guidance of the workshop coordinator. The following workshops will be offered: (1) Understanding the Power of Expectations. (2) Dealing with Serious Behavior in the Classroom. (3) Universal Design for Learning. (4) Using Technology Effectively with Struggling Learners. (5) Engaging Students in Active Learning. (6) Cross-Cultural Competency. (7) Teaching Economically and Culturally Diverse Students. (8) Getting the Best from All Students. Field experiences in local classrooms will emphasize the concepts and lessons learned in the Noyce workshops on diversity and special education and the planned curricular revisions. To maximize the effectiveness of these learning experiences, every effort will be made to strategically place the scholars with effective STEM teachers in partner school divisions that exhibit a high demand for teachers with these competencies. UL faculty will collaborate with local school division partners to identify effective supervising teachers. Peer Mentoring – Becoming an effective teacher is a gradual process of triumphs and failures moving toward increased competency and effectiveness. In recognition of this gradual process, UL will continue to engage and provide feedback to Noyce scholars who have graduated and moved on to in-service teaching.
Because this is a new project, we will be measuring outcomes such as the success of Scholar recruiting, Scholar demographics, and baseline data on Scholar attitudes related to teaching students with disabilities.
This project has the potential to impact the recruitment of students seeking K-12 STEM licensure and providing teachers prepared for teaching students with disabilities to our local school districts. We can also impact the retention of those teachers.