- Year 2023
- NSF Noyce Award # 1660615, 2151061
- First Name John
- Last Name Pecore
- Discipline Chemistry, Geosciences, Life Sciences, Mathematics, Physics
Kwame Owusu Daaku, Aletheia Zambesi
John L. Pecore, Jennifer C. Stark, Kwame Owusu Daaku, Aletheia Zambesi (all UWF), and Melissa K. Demetrikopoulos, IBP
When looking back at the teaching interest and teaching identity of 71 science and mathematics students enrolled in an introductory education course from 2017-2022, nearly all these students were positively inclined to teach and could see themselves as teachers. Despite these favorable attitudes, less than half of the students subsequently enrolled in the STEM methods course and continued the path to teaching.
Consistent with similar programs (Cade et al., 2019), nearly half of STEM majors who take an introductory course continue in a teacher education program. There is a clear need to develop strategies, in addition to the Noyce scholarship, to recruit early science and mathematics majors into teacher preparation programs, support their retention, and enhance their desire to teach in high-need schools.
Two end-of-course surveys administered at different times during the teacher education program measured teaching interest and teaching identity. One survey was administered early in the program at the end of the introduction to education course, and the other in the middle of the program at the end of the STEM methods course. Participants responded to the items in both sections using a five-point Likert scale. The survey items were vetted by a panel of experts and pilot-tested prior to their use in this study. Both the teaching interest and teaching identity scales had strong internal reliability.
A composite score was calculated for each survey scale (i.e., teaching interest and teaching identity) by taking the sum of the items. Descriptive statistics were calculated for individual item and composite scores, and t-tests (assuming equal variance) compared mean composite scores between the two end-of-course surveys. The teaching interest and teaching identity composite mean scores were moderately high for both teaching interest and teaching identity, and composite mean scores were not significantly different between the two groups. This indicates that students had similarly favorable levels of interest and identities.
There were three main themes related to the decision for student who did not continue: Time, Fit, and Confidence. Some students commented that it was difficult to find time to spend time teaching in schools. They were concerned that completing the teaching pathway would delay graduation. Other students realized that teaching is not their passion. Additional students commented having less confidence in their teaching classes than in their STEM subject classes. Even though students acknowledged these challenges, diverse school placements while in the program supported learning about being a secondary classroom teacher.
the opportunity to consider a STEM teacher identity is often quite recent and likely undeveloped. Focusing the introduction to education course to develop a growth orientation could assist students to set goals and recognize their own progress toward becoming a confident STEM teacher. Additionally, addressing student concerns about the time to completion by improving communication with prospective students could address the time toward degree completion concern.
Outreach efforts can focus on understanding the attitudes of both STEM department faculty and students about the teaching profession. Promote a positive narrative about teaching through presentations at faculty meetings and student organizations and informal conversations with colleagues at university meetings could increase the general support by STEM student peers and faculty.