- Year 2023
- NSF Noyce Award # 1852661
- First Name Zachary
- Last Name Casey
- Discipline Chemistry, Computer Science, Life Sciences, Mathematics, Physics
Jonathan FitzGerald, Zachary Casey
This work is critically important because, while the field has been calling for it for years, we remain stubbornly behind in our understandings of the impacts of professional development (PD) for P12 teachers in general (Kennedy, 2016; Randi & Zeichner, 2004), and especially behind in understanding the particular impacts of PD for STEM teachers (Wilson, 2013). Our qualitative study of practicing STEM teachers who have completed professional development experiences with us at Rhodes College in Memphis, TN, USA will offer the opportunity to respond to calls from the field for a greater theoretical understanding of the impacts of PD for STEM teachers in response to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and how these standards aim to transform STEM education on the side of experiential learning.
How do practicing STEM teachers working in underfunded urban schools create meaningful hands-on experiences for their students in line with NGSS? What are the impacts and understandings STEM teachers take with them from laboratory-based PD experiences, rather than more traditional approaches? How do these experiences inform STEM teachers work in urban schools working primarily with working class students of color?
Broadly, while professional development (PD) for teachers is required for continuing certification and licensure requirements in every state, researchers know very little about the actual impacts of such work (Kennedy, 2016; McManimon & Casey, 2018; Wei, et. al., 2010; Randi & Zeichner, 2004). Research focused on how PD ultimately impacts learning outcomes for historically marginalized students is even more scarce (Casey &McManimon, 2020; Hyland, 2005). Because of the challenges in locating causal mechanisms between “teacher learning” in PD and actual P12 student outcomes, the research that does exist has typically focused on qualitative studies using interviewing methods primarily, with some survey methods employed as well (Goodnough, et. al., 2014; Nadelson, et. al., 2013). Our study seeks to understand how P12 teachers have been impacted by the PD we have offered as part of our ongoing Noyce grant. All participants will be adults who are not from vulnerable populations. They will be asked a series of questions regarding their experiences and perceptions of STEM Week and other PD they have participated in during their professional careers.
To achieve this, we have developed a short survey which we have shared with every teacher who has participated in the PD to date. Following this, we will send an invitation for one hour semi-structured interviews (Merriam, 1998). We employ an approach to qualitative data collection and analysis that Kincheloe (2008) and others have called “bricolage.” incorporating a number of multidisciplinary forms of data collection and analysis. Kincheloe writes that bricolage “demands a new level of research self-consciousness and awareness of the numerous contexts in which any researcher is operating” (p. 131). Bricolage necessitates researchers locating their own positionality, with attention to the inherent complexity in any and all interpretive acts. Rather than working towards a single “rationalistic” interpretation of phenomena, bricolage invites nuance and subjectivity.
To this end, we will analyze the transcribed interview data alongside the survey data following Saldaña’s (2009) approach to coding wherein we will begin our analysis by coding individually, looking for themes and areas that occurred in multiple accounts and formats (those areas that participants mentioned in the interviews as well as wrote about in their surveys). These initial codes will then be refined in collaboration between the two of us, following Creswell’s (2013) approach to “intercoder agreement.”
We are in the midst of our data collection for this project, but we are excited to learn with and from these teachers about how their work has been impacted by their PD experiences working with STEM faculty in labs here on campus. The research literature to date offers very little on this particular type of professional development and teacher learning, and we are thus poised to offer greater evidence for what such approaches might offer once we have completed our analyses. We are on schedule to have enough of our work done with this data to be able to present a poster for the annual meeting.
We already have anecdotal evidence that our approach to PD is unique in both its approach and its impact. From working in “real” laboratories, to gaining new insights on working with instruments, to stretching resources to accommodate small STEM budgets in urban school contexts, teachers report they have enjoyed and benefited from their work with us. We now wish to understand their experiences in a greater and more sophisticated way, and to connect this to the broader research literature on STEM PD with practicing teachers. The title of this work comes from a teacher’s response to an informal focus group on the last day of our first year doing this work as part of our Noyce grant. We now want to learn in more detail what it means to teachers like her.