- Year 2016
- NSF Noyce Award # 1340069
- First Name Dennis
- Last Name Sunal
- Discipline Chemistry, Mathematics, Physics
Cynthia Sunal, University of Alabama, firstname.lastname@example.org
Jeremy Zelkowski, University of Alabama, email@example.com
Jim Gleason, University of Alabama, firstname.lastname@example.org
Kevin Shaughnessy, University of Alabama, email@example.com
J. W. Harrell, firstname.lastname@example.org
Sharon Vincent, email@example.com
Marilyn Stephens, University of Alabama, firstname.lastname@example.org
Research has addressed the severe shortages of math and science teachers (Ingersoll, 2003, Seastrom, 2004) and the negative impact it is having on U.S. students as evidenced by their lack-luster math and science scores on the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) exam (OECD, 2012), but little is known about how to get early STEM majors to become STEM teachers. To address the problems associated with shortages in science, technology, engineering and math teachers (STEM) we investigate the effectiveness of a summer internship program which includes teaching experiences along with STEM activities and research, as a method of recruiting early STEM majors to teach. The internship is designed to focus not only on STEM content and teaching, but also the developmental aspects of students’ transition and uncertainty from high school to college to career. This study is part of a National Science Foundation funded Noyce Scholarship program.
A shortage of math and science teachers reported by Ingersoll (2003) continues to plague the United States (Goldhaber, 2016) and the predicted record enrollments within the next decade (Statistics, 2010), the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) predicts that this shortage will continue. To compound the problem of the shortage, NCES (Seastrom, 2004) also reports that 60-70% of earth science, chemistry, physics and physical science classes are being taught by teachers without a major or minor in the field, or some even certified in science. The report also states that 30% of science classes are taught by physical education teachers, social studies teachers, or “other” teachers (Seastrom, 2004). Hence, most of the science being taught in the United States, if being taught at all, is being taught by teachers considered to be “out-of-field” to teach science, particularly in the areas of earth science, physical science, chemistry and physics. Out-of-field teaching is defined by the NCES report (Seastrom, 2004) through examination of both the teacher’s state certification status and postsecondary education. This lack of quality instruction, based on PISA scores is having a negative effect on our students’ performance in math and science when compared to the rest of the world.
The goals of the project are to recruit chemistry, physics and math majors to become certified teachers and continue their major in the STEM field. Secondly, it is to retain these teachers in high needs schools once they become certified and begin teaching.
We recruit students for a 3-week paid summer internship that provides them with content specific activities as well as teaching opportunities in formal science education (summer school) and informal science education (museum camps). Recruiting methods include faculty recruiting, presentations, posters, job fairs.
Several methods have been utilized to recruit early STEM majors into teaching. They include career counseling where teaching is included in the careers for STEM majors, and information about education programs that are available within their university (Thorne, 2010). A second strategy includes STEM teaching scholarships such as the Robert Noyce Scholarship (National Science Foundation, 2014). Involving faculty members and internships in the STEM and teaching fields at a university makeup a third strategy. This third approach involves changing the culture within the STEM faculties at universities and using these faculty members to help recruit and mentor STEM teachers (Thorne, 2010) including graduate students in the STEM fields. Efforts such as these are being exerted to recruit STEM teachers, but they have not yet filled the shortage or completely alleviated the problem of lack of quality.
Internships alone are not enough to persuade college freshman and sophomores to consider, enter and remain in teaching. The internship must be designed with the uncertainty of career choice and need for both emotional and academic support associated with this transition phase of the students’ life. Tinto’s (1993) theoretical work in persistence in college through building a community, Schlossberg’s Transition Theory and Social Cognitive Career Theory (SCTT) were used in constructing the summer internship program. Tinto’s work with the Freshman Interest Group (FIG) at the University of Washington indicated that collaborative groups of students (learning communities) enabled students to bond and provided both emotional and academic support which led to continued college attendance. Secondly, by bringing several faculty members into the learning community, different perspectives allowed students to explore and discover new abilities that they had not previously considered (Tinto, 1993). This work was used in developing activities for both emotional support and academic support for the interns (Bowling, 2013).
Schlossberg’s Transition Theory (1995) describes the framework for “moving in”, “moving through” and “moving out” as individuals and in this case, students move from high school into community college or four-year college experience and into the workforce. This framework consists of the four “S”s situation, self, strategies, and support. Situation refers to the student’s experience with other transitions, timing, and the length of the transition; self describes the students’ demographics such as age, sex, race, income, self-efficacy, etc.; strategies include how the individual copes with the transition; and support refers to the individuals or institutions that the student turns to for help during the transition time (Chickering, 1995). Schlossberg’s theory helped the researchers to understand the uncertainty in career paths during the first two years of college and provide developmentally appropriate activities during the transition time from home to career including career counseling from the career center.
Based on Bandura’s Social Cognitive Theory, Social Cognitive Career Theory (SCCT) (Lent, et al., 2002) consists of three interconnected models that explain interest development, choice-making, performance and persistence and considers factors such as gender, culture and diversity in making career choices (p. 557). Lent (2002) describes career adaptability as a “collection of behaviors that can be learned” and can be supported by personal traits, support systems, and self-efficacy (p. 561). In our study we designed the internship to support self-efficacy by providing research experiences within the students’ chosen STEM field, as well as improving teaching self-efficacy by providing teaching opportunities under the supervision of experienced teachers. Interest development and choice-making were enhanced by providing students a wide variety of STEM research activities through field-trips and guest speakers, and career counseling to discover strengths and interests. Whole group activities were planned that allowed interns to interact with each other, teachers, and college professors in a relaxed setting where learning, and social persuasion could positively impact the students’ self-efficacy (Lent R. & Brown, S. D., 2013).
This mixed methods study will address the overarching question of what factors are related to university teacher certification programs in recruiting sustaining, and certifying new teachers in chemistry, math, and physics. A diverse group of students in chemistry, math, and physics will be recruited from community colleges and 4-year universities. Sub-questions related to the principal goal of the project are: 1) How successful were the variety of recruitment methods used? What were important factors? 2) What was the impact and success factors in recruiting from non-standard sources? 3) What were the interns pre-post attitudes towards teaching as a career? 4) What were the interns pre-post self-efficacy towards teaching? 5) How successful were the variety of internship experiences? What were important factors? In this multiphase design, there will be two phases conducted over a five-year period. Phase I – Year 1, three-week internship will address the needs of the first time intern each year for years 1-5 and Phase II- Year 2, five-week internship will address the needs of returning interns for a second year of internship for years 2-5 (Creswell, J. W., & Plano-Clark, V. L., 2011). Phase I interns will participate in STEM activities and teaching experiences while Phase II interns will participate in increased teaching experiences, and a long-term project with a STEM faculty member in their field of study. The types of data to be collected in each phase includes both quantitative and qualitative measures to be collected concurrently. The quantitative measures are as follows: 1) STEBI (Science Teacher Efficacy and Beliefs Instrument) – to measure self-efficacy towards teaching. A similar instrument is also administered to the math interns. 2) CLASS (Colorado Learning Attitudes and Science Survey) – to measure attitudes towards math and science and 3) STEM Career Survey – to measure interest in careers and 4) Satisfaction survey. Qualitative measures will include a set of semi-structured interview questions targeted towards participants in Phase I and Phase II. This process will be repeated for Phase III, IV, and V with theory testing and evaluation of internship program. The reason for using a multi phase design is to utilize the qualitative data for adapting the internship activities based upon the context of the interns and then to test the recruitment and internship outcomes through the quantitative measurements. The sequence of qualitative and quantitative data occurs across different settings with the changing internship participants and activities each year. Collection of both qualitative and quantitative data will inform the researchers of needed ongoing program modifications as well as provide information for future recruitment and internship activities.
1) Satisfaction with the internship was greater than 90%.
2) The internship had a positive impact on influencing STEM majors to consider and enter teaching in target fields.
3) Chemistry and physics majors in education certification increased from 0-1 to 6-8 per year.
4) A significant increase was found in math certification students’ ability to teach higher level (AP) math courses in high school.
5) Most interns were recruited by faculty members and poster advertisement.
6) Currently there are 7 physics, 3 chemistry, and 7 math scholarship recipients.
7) Many of the interns would not have participated in the summer internship due to financial reasons had they not been provided the stipend payment.
The broader impact of the project is that these teachers can begin to bridge the gap in science literacy in the high needs schools and serve as mentors to novice teachers.
High needs schools have been impacted because we are beginning to graduate highly qualified chemistry, physics, and math majors to fill their needs. This in turn impacts the students by having teachers who are certified in field to teach them.
Implications for further study:
** Long term implications of factors affecting recruitment and certification of STEM teachers
** Support of pre-service teacher education
** Induction program to support new in-service teachers