- Year 2016
- NSF Noyce Award # 1439546
- First Name Jacqueline
- Last Name Leonard
- Discipline Mathematics
Saman Aryana, University of Wyoming, firstname.lastname@example.org
Michelle Chamberlin, University of Wyoming, email@example.com
Scott Chamberlin, University of Wyoming, firstname.lastname@example.org
Ramesh Sivanpillai, University of Wyoming, email@example.com
Jacqueline Leonard, University of Wyoming, firstname.lastname@example.org
Monica Mitchell, MERAssociates, email@example.com
The WITS project promotes STEM education in the elementary grades and diversity in the College of Education at the University of Wyoming. More than half of the WITS scholars in our Year 1 cohort identified as underrepresented minority students. The Year 2 cohort is also diverse in terms of gender and economic status. This project fills a gap in the literature as it addresses recruiting and retaining STEM teachers in hard-to-staff and rural schools.
The primary goal of the WITS program is to recruit and retain diverse, talented individuals who are interested in teaching in the elementary grades. Further, we provide academic support and nurturing to build a strong and cohesive community of scholars. From potluck dinners to tailgates at football games to plays, we provide opportunities for mentors and scholars to interact with one another. Tutoring is also provided in mathematics for scholars who may need extra assistance.
The theoretical framework that guides the WITS program is self-efficacy theory and the constructs are teacher efficacy and place-based education. Bandura (1977) developed what is now known as self-efficacy theory, which connects the predictive value of an event’s success to the confidence that one has to perform it. Through mentoring, social interaction, and summer internships our aim is to increase WITS scholars’ self-efficacy in mathematics and science teaching. Teaching Efficacy Beliefs Instrument (MTEBI, Enochs, Riggs, & Huinker, 2000) are used with teacher candidates and show that teacher efficacy is malleable (Leonard, Boakes, & Moore, 2009; Newton et al., 2012). These surveys were used to measure changes in teacher efficacy among WITS participants.
The internships and mentoring components of the WITS program have been very effective. In Year 1, we had five summer interns, we received numerous accolades for their work with students in 2015. As a result, this year we had 20 students apply for internships. Ten will work during summer 2016 in both urban and rural settings. This aspect of the project allows potential Noyce scholars an opportunity to experience what teaching is all about. Moreover, each Noyce scholar had three different types of mentors: faculty, graduate students, and community members, These mentors developed trust and strong ties with the WITS scholars. As a result, scholars told other students about the program and six new scholars will begin the program in fall 2016.
The children who were served during the summer internships learned as much from the WITS interns as the interns did from them. In some cases, rural white students had never interacted with African American males before. Students gravitated toward these young men and learned a great deal from them. Likewise, the interns, particularly those from urban settings, had the opportunity to learn a great deal by teaching and learning in natural environments like the Tetons and Vedauwoo. Conducting math and science activities in natural environments, as reported in their journals, impacted the summer interns for a lifetime.