- Year 2022
- NSF Noyce Award # 1661400
- First Name Sherry
- Last Name Southerland
- Discipline Biological Sciences, Mathematics
Joseph Travis & Miray Tekkumru Kisa
Jennifer Schellinger, Danielle Rhemer, Caitlyn Ward, & Sherry Southerland, Florida State University
Teacher experience is a leading factor in student learning success (Darling-Hammond et al., 2009; Podolsky et al., 2019). Teacher preparation and induction programs work to support teachers as they develop this experience in the initial stages of their careers. However, retaining novice teachers, those teachers in the crucial first five years of practice when they are honing their skills, is difficult (Darling-Hammond, 2009; DeMonte, 2016; Ingersoll, 2001). Novice teachers are leaving the profession or moving into other areas of education at a high rate. Teacher experience is a particularly acute issue in high-needs schools, where students may require additional support to productively engage in learning (Sass et al., 2012). High-needs schools traditionally feature far more novice teachers than their more well-resourced counterparts, and these novice teachers leave these settings at a high rate (Boyd et al., 2013; Ingersoll & May, 2014). This constant churn of teachers positions students to interact with fewer experienced teachers, potentially limiting their learning opportunities. To better understand how to overcome this challenge and support teacher longevity in teaching, in this work we explore the factors that shape novice mathematics and science teachers’ persistence.
What characteristics of a teacher’s preparation, induction, and/or school setting do NOYCE mathematics and science teachers describe as supporting or constraining their practice? How do these characteristics shape a teacher’s persistence in teaching? That is, how do teachers discuss these characteristics as factors that influence them to continue teaching, consider leaving, or leave the profession?
We conducted open-ended structured interviews with five novice mathematics and nine science teachers who had been NOYCE scholars from one of five NOYCE programs to understand the characteristics of their preparation, induction, and/or school setting supported or constrained their practice and how these supports or constraints influence their persistence. Open-ended structured interview questions were adapted from the work of Jansen et al. (2020), Munter (2014), Stroupe et al. (2021), and Whitfield et al. (2021). Video and transcript data of interviews were examined to identify themes across the five cases.
This research explores factors shaping novice STEM teacher persistence and, therefore, has implications for understanding the support teachers, especially those in high-needs settings, need to remain in the profession. Key findings suggest that community and professional connections, opportunities for intellectual engagement and creativity, exposure to and engagement with disciplinary-specific pedagogical approaches, time and workload, and administration support particularly around issues of discipline, school climate, and emotional wellbeing, both for teachers and students, shape teacher persistence.
Working towards ensuring teacher longevity by understanding persistence holds promise for providing mathematics and science students with different and potentially more productive learning experiences, particularly by ensuring that they have opportunities to interact with teachers who have been supported to hone their craft over multiple years. This is a critical issue of social justice as students in high-needs schools are traditionally provided with fewer opportunities to interact with experienced teachers, teachers that research suggests have stronger positive outcomes on their learning (Ingersoll & May, 2014). Factors that impact teacher persistence have direct relevance to the structure of and the work that occurs in teacher preparation and induction programs. These programs serve as first lines of defense because teachers interact with them during the critical first years of practice when they are building their pedagogical skills and toolset. As such, they have the potential to be strong levers for change when they are crafted and attentive to factors that shape novice teachers’ persistence and develop their repertoire of experience.