- Year 2022
- NSF Noyce Award # 1660615
- First Name John
- Last Name Pecore
- Discipline Biological Sciences, Chemistry, Geosciences, Mathematics, Physics
Jaromy Kuhl & Kwame Owusu-Daaku, University of West Florida; Darren North, Pensacola State College
John L. Pecore, Kwame Owusu-Daaku, Aletheia Zambesi, & Perry Jones, University of West Florida; Melissa Demetrikopoulos, Institute for Biomedical Philosophy
According to reports of The Florida Department of Education (FLDOE), middle and high school science and math teachers are listed as critical shortage areas. The highest portions of critical teacher shortages exist within urban and rural low-economic schools, which describes the majority of high-needs schools in Northwest Florida served by UWF and its partners. Additionally, high-needs schools have higher percentages of out-of-field teachers as compared to the statewide average. Little attention has been expended to the impact of early exploratory education courses on STEM majors pursuing a teaching career.
How does an early exploring education course impact student career considerations and teacher identity?
Since the critical shortage of middle and high school science and math teachers is of particular concern in high-needs schools, UWF-Teach is examining STEM majors’ interest in teaching following an exploring education course. The course provides early opportunities to observe a master teacher at a local high-needs school. In addition, the course offers instruction on the structure of secondary schools, the historical/philosophical foundations of education, the current challenges and requirements of the profession, and best practices for the 6-12 STEM classroom. Because this course and its related experiences occur early in STEM majors’ undergraduate studies, they may be more likely to move into a STEM teaching preparation degree. Following the course, a survey is distributed, which examines teaching and career considerations and teacher identity.
Thirty-nine STEM majors participated in a survey following the course. The majority of STEM majors who took the exploring education course expressed high interest in teaching across a number of categories: 92.3% reported interest in teaching, 82.0% reported interest in teaching high school, 48.7% reported interest in teaching middle school, 97.4% reported interest in teaching in a STEM field, and 64.1% reported interest in teaching in a high-needs school. In addition, 71.8% reported that the course helped them to decide to go into teaching, 74.3% reported that the course helped them to become a teacher, and 87.2% reported that the course helped them to make an informed decision regarding career options. STEM majors who took the exploring education course reported high levels of teacher identity. For example, 92.3% agreed with the statement “Thinking of myself as a teaching professional is compatible with other aspects of my background.”; 74.4% agreed with the statement “In general, being a teacher is an important part of my self-image.”; and 76.9% agreed with the statement “I have come to think of myself as a teacher.”The next steps are to follow the STEM majors who completed the course to see if they persist in pursuing a teaching career. These steps are accomplished by internally tracking whether or not these students take and pass the Florida Teacher Certification Examinations (FTCE).
Given the critical shortage of STEM teachers, especially in high-needs schools, STEM majors interested in teaching are an important group to target for recruitment into grades 6-12 STEM teaching careers. Through an early exploring education course, STEM majors are introduced to and can make an informed decision about a career in teaching. The UWF-Teach Noyce Scholarship Program has recruited 13 highly qualified STEM majors over the last five year period to pursue a career as a grades 6-12 STEM teacher. With a no-cost extension, it is anticipated that a total of 18 STEM majors will be prepared to teach in local Northwest Florida middle and high schools. Each highly qualified UWF-Teach Noyce scholar will work with an average of 150 different students each year for a total of approximately 750 students every five years of service; therefore, 18 UWF-Teach Noyce scholars will impact an estimated 13,500 students every five years in high-needs schools. To ensure retention of these highly qualified STEM teachers in high-needs schools, the UWF-Teach Noyce Scholarship Program will provide ongoing, personalized mentorship and professional development opportunities to Noyce scholar graduates, supplementing what is already afforded by the school districts.