Exploring Factors that Shape Recruitment and Retention of Black Noyce Scholars

  • NSF Noyce Award #1439866
  • First Name Heather
  • Last Name Johnson
  • Emailheather.j.johnson@vanderbilt.edu
    • DisciplineOther:: Math and Science
    • Co-PI(s)

      David Weintraub
      , Vanderbilt University
      , david.a.weintraub@vanderbilt.edu

      Mark Ellingham
      , Vanderbilt University, mark.ellingham@vanderbilt.edu

    • Presenters

      Heather Johnson
      , Vanderbilt University
      m heather.j.johnson@vanderbilt.edu

      Teresa Dunleavy
      , Vanderbilt University
      , teresa.dunleavy@vanderbilt.edu


The recruitment and retention of Black teachers is a nation-wide challenge for the field of teacher education (The Albert Shanker Institute, 2016). Research has pointed to the positive benefits of more teacher diversity: students of color need positive role models that look more like them; teachers of color hold higher expectations; and more teacher diversity can positively enrich students of all races and cultures with different backgrounds (Chazan, Brantlinger, Clark, & Edwards, 2013; Clark, Badertscher, & Napp, 2013). Despite the positive influence that teachers of color can have on students, ‘teachers of color remain significantly underrepresented relative to the students they serve’ (The Albert Shanker Institute, 2016, p. 18).


Very few teacher education programs have reached their goal to ‘increase diversity.’ In particular, Noyce programs nationwide struggle with their commitment to recruit and retain racially and culturally diverse STEM majors into teaching (Summit, 2016). As the presenters of this poster experienced this challenge ourselves, we wanted to explore the factors that influence Black candidates in making the commitment to apply to our program and teach STEM in urban schools. This poster will report on lessons learned from conducting lived experience interviews with our Black Noyce scholars.


We conducted lived-experience interviews with our Black Noyce scholars in order to answer the following research question: What factors affect the Noyce recruitment of Black teachers? And, in particular:
– How do Vanderbilt’s Black Noyce scholars report their lived experiences?
– How do these experiences reveal recruitment and retention issues?
– How do these experiences bring about issues of race/privilege?
We used a qualitative approach for researching lived experiences. The interviewer followed a semi-structured interview format asking broad, open-ended questions. The participants were the only two Black scholars in the first Noyce cohort at Vanderbilt.


The analyses of our two Black scholars’ lived experiences revealed four common themes for the recruitment and retention of Black scholars.
1. For recruitment, Vanderbilt (the PWI) needs to have a presence at Fisk (the HBCU).
2. Mentors are crucial.
3. Black teachers are role models.
4. One Black scholar needs at least one other Black scholar.

This project will be submitted as a book chapter later this summer.

Broader Impacts

These two interviews provided insight about the recruitment and retention of two Black Noyce scholars. In thinking about their experiences and the decisions they made to commit to the Noyce program and to stay in it, we recognize the number of people who supported them, the resources they leveraged to help them maintain and strengthen their identities, and their goal-driven mindset. To successfully recruit Black STEM majors, we need to do a lot more work getting involved in the communities and cultures of the populations we wish to join our cohorts. Ultimately, our scholars’ experiences will provide us with new ideas for improving the recruitment and retention of Black STEM teachers.



Posted on July 6, 2017