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Perceptions of K-12 and Collegiate STEM Teaching Careers by Computing, Engineering, and Science Administrators, Faculty and Advisors

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Type: Article
Author(s): Donna Llewellyn, Caroline Noyes, and Robert DeHaan
Published: Proceedings of the 2010 ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition
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With increasing demand for science and math teachers in middle and high schools, educating students who can fill these positions is critical. In many states, the available Colleges of Education are not currently meeting the demand, leaving a role for other institutions with a strong emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) to assist with the production of these teachers. Additionally, with a tight job market for STEM faculty positions, there is a need for research universities to facilitate the preparation of their doctoral students for teaching in higher education (especially for those careers in more teaching-oriented colleges and universities).

This paper describes a research study that employs both quantitative and qualitative data collection methods to examine the attitudes of faculty and administrators towards students who pursue teaching-oriented careers. One-on-one interviews conducted with deans of the Colleges of Computing, Engineering, and Sciences, and focus groups with associate deans, school chairs, graduate coordinators, and undergraduate coordinators from those three colleges provided an opportunity to discuss the role of a technological institute in preparing both undergraduate and graduate students in STEM fields for teaching oriented careers. The interviews and focus groups also provided an opportunity for an in-depth discussion of traditional career paths and the perceived institutional barriers and institutional support for students’ interest in teaching careers. Additionally, surveys were used to elicit beliefs of 1) academic advisors of undergraduate students and 2) faculty in the three Colleges who supervise doctoral students concerning the prestige of teaching careers, the characteristics of students pursuing teaching careers, and their perceived level of preparation for advising students about teaching careers.

The results indicate that interest in teaching careers is perceived to be increasing among both graduate and undergraduate students in STEM fields, and that faculty and academic advisors do not feel well prepared for advising students about these kinds of careers. There is also agreement among all constituencies that additional institutional support is needed for both graduate and undergraduate students who are interested in teaching careers. Faculty and administrators have different student characteristics in mind when describing doctoral students who are interested in a teaching-oriented career; however, there is greater agreement between administrators and advisors concerning the characteristics of undergraduates interested in teaching STEM content in middle and high school. Among all participants, there is agreement on the institution’s commitment to providing STEM content and the need for more clearly delineated pathways to teaching careers, but there is also agreement that responsibility for K-12 teaching certification should reside within Colleges of Education. Both the current demand for STEM teachers and the need for a better prepared professoriate require that more institutions begin to think about how they can facilitate student pursuit of STEM teaching careers, even those with no previous experience with teacher preparation. This paper highlights several key issues facing technological institutions as they confront their potential role in providing STEM educators for the state and region.


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