- Year 2022
- NSF Noyce Award # 1758433
- First Name Kerry
- Last Name Cresawn
- Discipline Biological Sciences, Chemistry, Geosciences, Mathematics, Physics
Kerry Cresawn & Angela Webb, James Madison University, Alex Shafer, Henrico High School
The benefits of PLCs for teachers include advancing teachers’ knowledge base (Andrews & Lewis, 2007) and increasing student learning (Wiley, 2001). PLCs have also been shown to remove psychological barriers of isolation for new teachers (DuFour et al.,r, 2008; McDonnough and Henschel, 2015). While PLCs are a “major trend in the design of teacher professional development programs” (McDonnough & Henschel, 2015, p. 145), there is less information about the use of PLCs in pre-service teacher education. Bond (2013) applied Hoard and Tobia’s six-dimension model of PLCs with pre-service secondary teachers and reported similar benefits of emotional support through connecting to peers in similar situations. Informed by the findings of these groups and others, the JMU Noyce team has been exploring the role of community in the pre-induction and induction preparation of Noyce scholars through the pandemic and post-pandemic era. The JMU Noyce PLC consists of Noyce scholars, Noyce alumni, and faculty. We use a dual-approach of addressing participants immediate concerns and frustrations and structured PD for long-term success. In this presentation, we describe the PLC structure and report findings of an exploratory study to uncover if and how the PLC influences eligible students’ interest in applying to the program and whether the expectations of “community” from our new scholars align with their experiences after being in the program for 1-2 years.
1. Does the promise of community influence eligible students’ interest in applying to be a Noyce scholar?2. What expectations do incoming scholars have of the professional learning community?3. Does the JMU Noyce program deliver on those expectations?
The JMU Noyce faculty team is made up of faculty from all four science majors, mathematics, secondary education, and K-12 STEM outreach. A subset of this group collaborated on planning a discussion series modeled after the Just-in-Time Teaching premise. The selected topic was based on concerns expressed by our current scholars and teachers or shared by their Noyce professional mentors after observations. For each discussion, a panel or individuals with scholarly expertise and/or teachers with demonstrated success in the area of concern were invited to facilitate a one-hour, virtual conversation with scholars, teachers, and faculty. Between 1/2020 and 4/2022, we hosted eight of these sessions, which will be described in the poster presentation. In addition to the concern-responsive series, we hosted two multi-day professional development opportunities informed by the expertise of our secondary education Noyce faculty and current recommendations in induction year preparation. Semi-structured interviews of seven new scholars and 11 current scholars or alumni (teachers) were conducted by the program’s external evaluator in September 2021. The researchers used inductive coding methods to do a thematic analysis of the 18 de-identified transcripts. This was done by examining responses to two questions: (1) “What attracted you to the Noyce scholarship program?” and (2) “How has the Noyce program influenced or supported you to date?”
Through inductive coding of the interview transcripts, the researchers identified a common theme of the Noyce PLC being both a more attractive feature of and having a greater influence on scholars’ experience than the $14,00/year scholarship. In addition, new and current scholars/teachers described the same features of the JMU Noyce PLC in their responses: most notably connecting with like-minded peers in similar situations, and feeling supported by Noyce peers, faculty, or mentors. In addition to supporting Bond’s (2013) findings of support and connecting with others in the same stage of career preparation, our results suggest that these particular experiences of current scholars and teachers are being conveyed to eligible students and that this plays an important role in their decision to apply. For this presentation, we will report themes that reflect the researchers’ interest (if and how new scholars discuss “community” in describing why they applied to the program and how experienced scholars described their experience as members of the PLC). We will share quotes to provide voice to the participants and provide further evidence to support the themes (Creswell, 1998). We plan to continue using these findings to improve recruiting and in developing new interview protocols to understand why particular features of the Noyce community are perceived as beneficial and how this plays into scholars’ identity development as secondary STEM teachers.
The concern-responsive model of the JMU Noyce PLC arose as a result of the significant and unprecedented challenges that school K-12 and post-secondary school closures placed on our first cohort of Noyce teachers who started their first semester of teaching in a virtual classroom without prior opportunity to prepare for these challenges. Like many new approaches developed as a pivot during the pandemic, we decided to sustain this approach even as the pandemic was becoming more controlled with vaccine development. It became clear to Noyce faculty that the challenges shared by our Noyce teachers were different, but no less, as their students were starting to return in person to school. The positive feedback we received from the teachers after each PLC discussion encouraged us to implement the same concern-responsive model with our graduate and undergraduate scholars, recognizing they would have different concerns. One of the challenges we face is the small number of students on the secondary science and mathematics teaching track at JMU (33 in 2022). In addition, the percentage of eligible students that apply each year is less than 25%. One potential outcome of this study is improved recruiting efforts by better communicating the benefits of the JMU Noyce PLC as described by our scholars and teachers. Further study would be necessary to determine if and how the most impactful elements of this model can be scaled up for all pre-service secondary STEM teachers.