- Year 2019
- NSF Noyce Award # 1852889
- First Name Christine
- Last Name Thomas
- Discipline Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Engineering, Geosciences, Math, Physics
Natalie S. King, Georgia State University, email@example.com
Natalie S. King, Georgia State University, firstname.lastname@example.org; Christine Thomas, Georgia State University, email@example.com
Science and mathematics teacher educators nationwide are being faced with the challenge of how to effectively prepare pre-service teachers to not only enter into the teaching profession, but to remain. Unfortunately, this crisis is not new, particularly as it relates to secondary science and mathematics educators where qualified individuals often seek employment in non-teaching positions, change careers, and leave the profession due to job dissatisfaction, personal reasons, or retirement (Ingersoll, 2001; Moin, Dorfield, & Schunn, 2005; Shymansky & Aldridge, 1982; Sutcher, Darling-Hammond & Carver-Thomas, 2016). School factors that often contribute to teachers leaving the profession are unrealistic expectations from administrators, inadequate resources, difficulty managing the classroom, out-of-field teaching assignments, and unpreparedness to teach assigned science and mathematics content (Nehmeh & Kelly, 2018). School districts in low-income urban environments disproportionately shoulder many of these challenges leading to increased teacher attrition rates (Howard, 2003; Rinke, 2009). Many schools in urban contexts have higher proportions of Black/Latinx students, who face a unique challenge of having a cultural mismatch between their lived experiences at home, and the White middle class normative culture that exists in their formal schools (Parsons, 2008).
How can we attract, train, and retain highly qualified and diverse STEM teachers in high need schools?
The conceptual framework that collectively informs this project is Penuel and Gallagher’s (2017) Research-Practice Partnerships [RPP] framework. RPPs provide a lens to explore the design, development, and implementation of strategies to improve teaching and learning through the collaboration of researchers and practitioners (Coburn & Penuel, 2016; Penuel, Allen, Coburn, & Farrell, 2015). RPPs are long-term partnerships between researchers and practitioners that are organized to study problems of practice and find solutions to improve schools and districts (Coburn & Penuel, 2016). These partnerships vary in structure and the types of problems that they address. Within the field of education, RPPs have primarily studied partnerships between institutions of higher education and school districts (Penuel & Gallagher, 2017). RPPs position researchers and practitioners as partners and collaborators in educational change. Hence, district leaders are Co-Principal Investigators on this project and included in all aspects of the proposal development to define the problem of practice, approaches for recruitment, and induction activities. The problem of practice explored in this project is how to attract, train, and retain highly qualified and diverse STEM teachers in high need schools.
The key outcomes of the project are to 1) recruit and prepare STEM Professionals who are committed to teaching, and remain as highly-effective teachers in high-need secondary schools, and 2) engage STEM Professionals in robust and innovative professional learning experiences for their development as teacher leaders.
The relatively homogeneous and static demographic of the teaching workforce does not adequately reflect the dynamism and racial and ethnic diversity of U.S. students (Darling-Hammond & Bransford, 2007; US Department of Education, 2016). Notably, research suggests that many teachers often underestimate the potential of students of color to excel in the STEM disciplines (Brickhouse, Lowery, & Schultz, 2000). These negative perceptions have a tendency to discourage students from realizing their true potentials and perceiving themselves as STEM talent. Furthermore, Black/Latinx students in urban settings often experience cultural and historical mistrust in educational settings and are disconnected from the science curriculum that ignores their funds of knowledge (Kane, 2012; Moll, Amanti, Neff, & Gonzalez, 1992; NSF, 2017). Although researchers have analyzed various challenges and strategies to decrease the impact of these resisting factors, increasing teachers’ capacity to create equitable STEM learning spaces within urban settings continues to remain a challenge (Coffey and Farinde-Wu, 2006; Fraser-Abder, Atwater, and Lee, 2006; Kokka, 2016). The aforementioned realities reify the need for STEM teacher educators to explore innovative ways to prepare and develop culturally competent STEM teachers who can thrive even in the most challenging working conditions. Our project explores effective strategies and best practices for STEM teachers to create and maintain positive classroom communities. We share our approaches to engaging the local community in their quest to create spaces that are conducive for learning.