K-12 STEM Teacher Leadership
Teacher leaders are invaluable assets within local teaching districts and communities given their expertise in their field, experiences, and leadership qualities. However, the process by which STEM educators in K-12 settings move along trajectories from novice to professional practitioner and finally to teacher leader is not well understood. We are particularly interested in the potential of developing STEM teacher leaders to address the loss of early and mid-career professionals to careers outside of the classroom. We are currently working with 32 high school chemistry and physics teachers and have designed a professional development program aimed at identifying and addressing issues related to their content knowledge, professional identity, and leadership abilities with the goal of influencing educational policy decisions at the local, state and national levels. The professional development model we have proposed is expected to inform the science education community’s understanding of what teacher leadership is, how it can be measured, and through what mechanisms it can be facilitated and promoted.
Longitudinal Analysis of US K-12 STEM Teacher Demographic Trends
Several large-scale efforts in the past fifteen years have sought to improve the supply of well-prepared physics teachers. In an effort to understand whether these national reform efforts have manifested in the demographic make-up of our nation's teachers, we are currently analyzing a series of large national datasets containing information regarding the demographics of the U.S. public and private school teaching workforce between 1987 and 2012. Beginning our analysis with studies of the U.S. chemistry and biology teachers, we are continuing to analyze the data to report on the longitudinal trends in the physics and mathematics teaching populations. Additionally, we are analyzing historical trends in US public ‘high needs’ school teachers compared to other populations including private and charter schools and using more advanced analytic methodologies to study historical trends in U.S. STEM teacher attrition. Our hope is to use our findings to develop predictive models that will inform funding and policy decisions regarding teacher recruitment, preparation and retention at both state and national levels.
Active learning approaches have recieved considerable attention from STEM educators at the pre-college and college level. Teaching in these settings has shifted away from didactic lectures andtoward collaborate, small-group discussions that have been demonstrated to increase student learning. However studies report large variablity in student outcomes resulting from active learning instruction, which implies that appropriate instructional implementation is critical. Specifically, we are investigating discourse practices with reform-based classroom settings to understand and influence how scientific argumentation unfolds among students in introductory chemistry courses. Our goal is to use our findings to promote student conceptual change towards normative views of the natural world by identifying the key featues of student-centered, active learning approaches that are found to be most effective at improving student learning.