- Year 2016
- NSF Noyce Award # 1136377
- First Name Lisa
- Last Name Borgerding
- Discipline Science Education
Joanne Caniglia, Kent State University, firstname.lastname@example.org
Lisa Borgerding, Kent State University, email@example.com
A shortage of highly qualified secondary science and math teachers exists across the United States (Bobbitt, Cunningham, & Gillespie, 2008). The need for science and math teachers is especially grave in high poverty, high minority, urban and rural public schools that have reported the highest attrition and migration of math and science teachers (Ingersoll & Perda, 2010). Many programs have been developed to address this shortage including loan forgiveness, recruitment grants and scholarships, new teacher induction support, and alternative certification (Clewell, 2001). This study investigates the role of service learning in a particular recruitment effort that provided scholarships and targeted math/science teaching service learning experiences in high needs contexts to preservice secondary science and math teachers in order to prepare them for teaching in high needs school districts.
While service learning may offer new opportunities to prepare preservice science and math teachers to teach in high needs contexts, few studies examine service learning beyond isolated teaching events. In this study, we attempt to improve upon this literature by following Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) students’ views of their service learning experiences throughout their MAT program and first years teaching. Specifically, we ask, “what are preservice teachers” views of the impacts of service learning teaching on their preparation to teach in high needs school settings? These findings may inform other teacher educators seeking to employ service learning teaching events to augment their teacher education programs.
The key activities that took place in this endeavor were twofold: (1) providing service learning teaching events to Noyce scholars throughout their MAT program year, and (2) conducting research to determine the impacts of these service learning teaching events on preservice teachers’ preparation to teach in in high needs contexts.
Because this research sought preservice teachers’ perceptions of the service learning experiences, we used a qualitative research design (Creswell, 2007) to target these emic views. We approached this project from a social constructionist lens, recognizing that our preservice teachers socially construct knowledge about their preparation to teach in high needs contexts and also that we as researchers socially construct our knowledge of that process through our interactions with our preservice teachers and various data sources. Consequently, we offer this account as one of multiple possible interpretations rather than a singular truth (Burr, 2003).
This Noyce program at a large Midwestern university supports graduate students who hold bachelor degrees in math and science as they engage in an intensive one-year full-time masters program that includes a formal fall 100-hour practicum and twelve-week spring student teaching internship in a single school district. In addition to the regular MAT requirements, Noyce scholars complete between five and seven service learning science/math teaching events (Math/Science Family Nights, Upward Bound teaching, Zoo curriculum development, undergraduate instruction, etc.). Following other teacher education programs (Tinkler, et al., 2015), this study’s Noyce program was specifically designed to utilize service learning to address two related “holes” in the existing MAT program. First, due to difficulties securing student teaching placements, most MAT students are placed in nearby suburban school districts that serve few non-majority students. Second, the fast nature of the MAT program precludes multiple field experiences across diverse contexts. This array of events was chosen to allow preservice teachers to teach STEM content across grade levels, multiple communities, and informal and formal contexts to address MAT program weaknesses. This selection was rooted in previously cited literature highlighting the need to challenge stereotypes about parental involvement and student motivation and provide STEM teaching opportunities beyond traditional school contexts.
The sample consisted of seven preservice teachers (4 math, 3 science) enrolled in a Noyce MAT program. Scholars ranged in age between 22 and 32 at the outset of the study. All scholars were Caucasian, with six females and one male.
The major sources of data consisted of individual interviews throughout the MAT program and the first year teaching. Interviews ranged in length between 15 and 45 minutes and were audiotaped. The authors utilized a semi-structured interview protocol for each interview, targeting constructs such as views of service learning events and concerns about teaching in high needs contexts. Two additional sources of data included a focus group that occurred before the student teaching semester and a Qualtrics-delivered survey administered during the spring semester of the scholars’ second year of full-time teaching.
Data analysis employed a grounded theory approach wherein data were open-coded to develop emergent themes (Strauss & Corbin, 1990).
The grounded theory analysis produced a working theory about the impacts of service learning projects for teacher preparation for teaching in high needs contexts. Three categories pertaining to these impacts emerged: views of particular service learning events, comfort teaching in high needs environments, and the role of service learning for teacher preparation.
In summary, the findings were that: (1) Particular service learning events seemed more or less useful to these preservice teachers, and participants described learning different lessons from the various events; (2) Scholars without high needs teaching experience had many concerns about teaching in these environments based on their own experiences and their service learning experiences; and (3) Scholars described learning four key lessons gained through these service learning experiences. The key lessons learned were: (1) lesson plan ideas, (2) the need for adaptability,(3) the importance of communication and rapport, and (4) recognition of children’s capabilities.
The key deliverables include a model and suggestions for incorporating service learning teaching events into preservice teacher programs.
Next steps for this project have included: (1) better aligning the MAT program with the service learning aims, (2) more directly addressing deficit perspectives on high needs teaching, and (3) continuing research about the co-evolution of these MAT-service learning programs.
The broader impacts of this project have included: (1) better preparation of preservice math and science teachers for teaching in high needs contexts, (2) direct service to the children and community partners with whom Scholars worked for the service learning projects, and (3) the development of partnerships between the university and several community agencies.
Research findings have been disseminated through a national conference (AERA) and a research manuscript currently in review.