Field Experiences: Early and Often

  • NSF Noyce Award #1540806
  • First Name Tony
  • Last Name Hall
  • Emailtahall@ualr.edu
    • DisciplineOther:: Bio, Chem, Physics and Math
    • Co-PI(s)

      Gail Hughes, University of Arkansas Little Rock, gdhughes@ualr.edu

    • Presenters

      Gail D Hughes, University of Arkansas Little Rock, gdhughes@ualr.edu and Kelly Chaney, University of Arkansas Little Rock, kschaney@ualr.edu

Need

The UALR Noyce Scholars Program was created in response to the national, state, and local needs to increase mathematics and science teachers and develop a better-prepared STEM workforce. Noyce summer interns gain experience providing informal education at summer STEM camps. Noyce Scholars gain early field experience through pairings with a mentor teacher in a high-needs school. Mentor teachers are loaned the STEM lesson kits and their students benefit from the problem-based STEM lessons. The merits of experiential education or learning by doing are well known; however, the specific impacts of increased experiential education on STEM teacher candidates are less well documented. Project data collected on candidates? planning and preparation, classroom environment, instruction, and professional responsibilities during their additional field experiences has the potential to contribute to the knowledge base and improve STEM education and educator development.

Goals

The UALR Noyce Scholars Program is designed to (1) increase the number of science and mathematics graduates earning a secondary teaching license in their content area,(2) increase the number of science and mathematics graduates teaching in high-need schools, (3) provide additional clinical- teaching experience for UALR Noyce Scholars to increase their scores on the Arkansas Teacher Excellence and Support System (TESS) observations and on the Teacher Perceptions of Preparedness Survey (TPPS), (4) partner with HMS, a local high-need school, to deliver enhanced inquiry-based (e.g., project and problem based) mathematics and science lessons and provide embedded-professional and bi-annual workshops for HMS teachers, and (6) provide informal educational practice through summer internships with partners, and support [e.g. biannual UALR Professional Development (PD) Days] for new teachers during their induction years. The key activities to achieve the goals include (1) recruitment at campus and ADE recruitment fairs, (2) enforcement of the scholarship contract to ensure employment in a high-need school, (3) placement with mentor teachers in high-need schools, (4) conducting PD workshops for mentor teachers and UALR Noyce Alumni, and (5) placements with the Museum of Discovery, Innovation Hub, and Children?s International.

Approach

The purposes of the paid internships are to encourage candidates to try teaching in an informal setting and to provide financial incentives prior to their junior year. The interns supplement existing staff at STEM summer camps and are provided with a mentor, lessons, and materials. UALR Noyce Scholars are given additional early field experiences and mentoring by the UALR Noyce Leadership Team and mentor teachers in high-needs partnership schools. Mentor teachers demonstrate effective teaching techniques and classroom management skills; provide thoughtful feedback and coaching; and examples of working in a supportive, diverse educational setting. Scholars work with their mentor teachers and one of their classes throughout the semester teaching a lesson every-other-week. In non-teaching weeks, scholars and the leadership team meet to answer questions, share ideas, and preview lesson plans. Candidates use UALR STEM Center kits and leave them for mentor teachers to use with other classes.

Outcomes

Because we are only completing our third semester of implementation, findings at this stage are limited. Recruitment remains a challenge. In some instances, candidates do not want to commit to teaching. In other instances, the additional field experiences, which were included as an incentive, were viewed as an additional requirement by some potential applicants. However, scholars have praised the field experiences for allowing them to watch classroom management in action (often visiting the classroom more than the required amount) and discuss management styles with their mentor teachers. The reality of planning a lesson to cover a specific topic on a given date is a good lesson for future teachers. Due to the number of lessons taught, candidates have all experienced a lesson not going as planned and have been able to learn from that experience what to do when a lesson does not work and how to monitor and adjust for future lessons.

Broader Impacts

Thus far, the broader impacts include the modest improvement in recruitment of STEM teachers, with four Noyce Scholar graduates to date, and the community impacts. Noyce Interns have contributed to increased public scientific literacy and public engagement with science and technology. Noyce Scholars have shared innovative STEM lessons with local teachers and their classes. These preliminary observations have been shared with colleagues through presentation, More IS better: Increasing the quantity and quality of STEM teachers, at the Mid-South Educational Research Association (November, 2016) in Mobile, AL.

Posted on July 6, 2017