- Year 2022
- NSF Noyce Award # 1239991
- First Name Paul
- Last Name Adams
- Discipline Biological Sciences, Chemistry, Mathematics, Physics
Janet Stramel, Emma Reif, Keagan Shubert, Nathan Stark, Kirisma Vignery, & Nicole Voss, Fort Hays State University
A Rural Field Experience, in which pre-service teachers are totally immersed in the rural school setting and rural life, has been successful in attracting and retaining mathematics and science teachers in rural schools. This poster will describe the week-long Rural Field Experience that is having a lasting effect on recruiting and retaining teachers.
The goal of this project is for FHSU to become a model for recruitment, retention andpreparation of STEM teachers working in rural districts. Research questions to be answeredinclude: 1) Are the recruiting policies for attracting STEM teachers to FHSU effective? If so, what elements of the process are the primary reasons? If not, what can be done to attract more STEM teachers? 2) Is FHSU retaining STEM teachers once they enroll within the program? If not, why are they leaving? 3) Are the STEM teachers graduating from FHSU staying as STEM teachers, or are they leaving the field? If so, why are they moving to another field?
Since the 1980s, a shortage of mathematics and science teachers was recognized (Levin,1985; Rumberger, 1987). In the rural context, Collins (1999) finds rural school districts face challenges recruiting and retaining in specialized subject areas. Additionally, Monk (2007) found several challenges facing rural school districts, including teachers who often teach out of their core certified field and rural school districts in “remote” locations making it difficult to attract applicants without connections to the area.Rural teachers maintain close community ties, and 80% of teachers stay within 13 miles of their home community. The “grow your own” system is likely in rural schools (Lavelley, 2018). Researchers argue that rural school districts face challenges in recruiting and retaining high quality teachers especially in difficult-to-recruit subject areas such as science and mathematics. Darling-Hammond (1999) found that “high quality” teachers are one of the most important factors to improve student achievement. Rural school districts tend to have difficulties recruiting and retaining teachers in mathematics and science (Brownell, Bishop, & Sindelar, 2005). Factors such as salaries, teaching demands, and opportunities make it difficult for out-of-area applicants to compete with their urban or suburban counterparts.
We have gathered qualitative data that indicates that the Rural Field Experience and Seminar is a valuable component of the rural field experience. One Noyce Scholar explained their experience, “They provided me the opportunity to interact with high school students from an adult perspective, which I believe helps teach me professional methods of interacting with students.” When asked what the most important component of the Noyce Program, one Noyce Scholar explained, “The most important to me was talking with experienced teachers. I like that when we brought up a subject, the teachers didn’t just say ‘we will cover that later.’ They stopped and took time to talk about what we wanted to talk about also.”According to the Noyce Scholars, the Rural Field Experience is the most important component of the overall experience with the Noyce program. Participants stated that the field experience made them feel like they were actually teaching in the school system. Scholars benefited from the teacher and student interactions and were able to see how smaller schools function. Some commented on the “quality time to share experiences with each other during the week, and how exhausted they are after following this schedule.” Noyce Scholars benefited from the teacher and student interactions and were able to see how smaller schools function.
The rural field experience appears to be formative in reinforcing the career choice for teaching in a rural school. Overall, the following components of the program were especially meaningful to all participants: 1) the opportunity to hear and interact with award-winning teachers, 2) the opportunity to observe typical teachers, having unrestricted access to their daily routines, 3) out-of-class opportunities to attend funded trips to conferences and workshops, and 4) the relationships they formed with new teachers they met who will be their future peers. Most participants found the Rural Field Experience to be “hugely” beneficial. The opportunity to take a full week to “shadow” several teachers interacting with their students was an invaluable experience that changed their perspective and understanding of a rural teacher, and positively reinforced their desires to be part of the Rural Field Experience. The rural field experiences meets the needs of Noyce Scholars, but also provides a foundation for which to expand mathematics and science education in western Kansas. Although many of the Noyce Scholars come from rural schools, they also learned what it is like to teach in a small rural school.