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Gay Stewart and John Stewart
The University of Arkansas received a Noyce Scholarship Grant in September 2007. It has since received two supplements to the original funding. The original goal of this UArk-Noyce program was to produce 36 new STEM teachers by granting Noyce Scholarships dedicated to improving the quality and diversity of future teachers in the state of Arkansas. The scholarship provides support for STEM undergraduate students and STEM graduates who wish to enter the University of Arkansas (UA) Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program. The first supplement is supporting three career-changing physics teachers to extend their commitment to teaching in high needs schools to four years, although they only required one year of Noyce scholarship support. The second supplement will allow five additional MAT students to be supported in 2011 - 2012, supporting a further increase in the number of STEM students entering teaching that the additional recruiting activities proposed in the supplement should produce. In 2001, the UA's MAT program was recognized as one of the leading teacher preparation programs in the United States. The American Association of Teacher Educators, the premier professional organization related to teacher preparation, awarded the MAT program with its annual Excellence in Teacher Preparation Program Award. This award is given to only one university each year.
Many students that initially express an interest in teaching later decide not to pursue it as a career due to the financial incentive to choose a better-paying STEM career. This barrier is substantially reduced by the scholarship program. In the first partial year and two full years of the program, students entering their senior year in a STEM discipline who wished to pursue a career in K - 12 teaching were identified. The students with the best qualifications and highest need received support for both their senior year and the MAT year. A $10,000 scholarship was awarded for the senior year and $14,500 for the MAT year scholarship. Students receiving the senior-year scholarship were required to apply for the MAT. The UArk-Noyce program only provided two undergraduate scholarships in the first year, due to the lateness of the award date. In 2008 - 2009 three undergraduates and 12 new one-year MAT scholarships were awarded. The incoming 2010 - 2011 cohort has 16 MAT Noyce Fellows. With this cohort, UArk-Noyce will have supported 39 new teachers across the STEM fields of mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, geology, and engineering. This represents more than a 40% increase over pre-grant production of STEM teachers.
The key to both funding and implementing the program has been a strong, well-planned, multi-faceted recruitment effort and building on capabilities and partnerships developed in other funded projects.
Activities that predate the UArk-Noyce program in STEM departments and the College of Education and Health Professions (CoEHP) initiatives provided a foundation for recruitment activities. The UA College of Engineering (CoE) is dedicated to the recruitment, retention, and graduation of underrepresented groups in engineering. They are also committed to improving education in the state and realize that a key component of this is more qualified STEM teachers. The physics department is part of the retention plan for the new engineering students. The new first-year engineering curriculum is built around students taking physics, calculus, and a pre-engineering problems course to help them build the skills and connections necessary to succeed. The physics courses chosen for this are PhysTEC courses, since the CoE recognizes that the methods we wish to prepare our future teachers to use are the best methods to help most students to learn. Thus, all engineering students will be exposed to the idea of teaching as a career, why it is so important and can be so rewarding.
Unlike recruitment activities in the College of Arts and Sciences, every student recruited by the CoE is a potential STEM teacher. Currently the underrepresented groups (African American, Hispanic/Latino, and Native American) comprise approximately 9% of the total College of Engineering enrollment. The College's goal is to recruit and retain underrepresented students to reflect at least 30% of the engineering student enrollment. Through such programs as Diversity Impact Day, Engineering Highlights, and Scholar's Day, the Office of Recruitment in the CoE, with the help of the University Admissions Office, identifies and aggressively recruits underrepresented students to attend UA. The Office of Engineering Recruitment employs undergraduate students who travel the state to recruit and also houses the telemarketing efforts for undergraduate recruiting. Engineering undergraduates call prospective engineering students several nights a week to increase matriculation to the UA.
Physics and CoE are also partners in the MicroElectronics-Photonics (MicroEP) program that has partnered since 2000 with the UA Graduate Recruitment Office in the existing UA/HBCU institutional partnership George Washington Carver Project, dedicating 25% of the MicroEP REU site positions to these students. As a result of these and other efforts, the REU participant population of 61 students over four years has been 34% minority and 34% female.
Efforts have been made on the UA campus to market the Noyce Scholarships to the minority fraternities and sororities beyond the CoE minority organizations, and to the Hispanic organizations on campus and in the community at large through informational meetings.
Integration with other projects
The UArk-Noyce program builds on infrastructure, experience, and partnerships formed during previous funded educational projects. The University of Arkansas Fayetteville became a primary PhysTEC site in 2001. For the first few years of the PhysTEC program, the MAT prerequisites were such that students deciding late on a career in teaching could not enter the program without an extra year in school, so they pursued nontraditional licensure. Our first PhysTEC teacher graduated in 2002. Five physics and one mechanical engineering graduates successfully completed the alternative licensure program, as well as two graduate students who had been heavily involved in teaching in the PhysTEC courses that decided they wished to teach high school by 2005.
While the number of physics majors pursuing a career in teaching increased, the 2006 MAT class was the first to have physics majors that decade. The MAT provides a much better preparation for these teachers than alternative licensure; however, the primary barrier to students getting this preparation has been financial. The UArk-Noyce scholarships help us encourage more of our students to enter the teaching profession with this optimal preparation. This ensures a chance at a longer and more successful teaching career.
Unfortunately, graduate teaching assistantships in mathematics and science are often reserved for students pursuing a MS or PhD in the field. The UArk-Noyce Scholarships not only greatly lower the financial barrier to obtaining the MAT, but the physics department and the graduate dean have agreed to pay for more students to pursue the MAT at the close of the funding period. This will be done by giving up support for one MS or PhD student in order to fund two reduced teaching assistantships that still cover full tuition for MAT students while they carry greatly reduced teaching loads.
The redesign of physics courses has not only constructed a model learning environment in the introductorycontentcourses, but has also created a supporting upper-division course to guide students through a teaching internship experience. This class can be taken by advanced STEM undergraduates interested in teaching a physics lab/practicum. It can also be taken by graduate students wishing to do a better job teaching, and/or to enter into the Preparing Future Physics Faculty program on our campus. The course pays attention not only to teaching techniques, but how these techniques are tied to the topic being taught, helping these future teachers develop pedagogical content knowledge. While most of the students taking the course are physics majors, some mathematics, chemistry, and engineering majors considering teaching have asked to participate.
First supplement request
As with any education project, additional opportunities are identified as the project moves forward. Our first supplement request provided fellowships for career changers. We requested funding for three fellowships to be awarded to students who take a one-year Noyce scholarship for their MAT year, to allow them to switch careers to teaching physics and mathematics. Several of the Noyce recipients were not thinking of teaching as a lifelong career, but as a way to give back to the community for their education before going onto a more lucrative STEM career, or as something to do of value while they consider for what new career they wish to prepare. In these cases, they were considering a high-needs school for only a few years, with a move into a district that can afford to pay them more as soon as possible. With an additional salary supplement of $10,000 per year, three of these candidates, one with masters level physics research, and two with significant work experience, identified as of high potential to be effective in high-needs schools, were recruited to extend their stays in high-needs schools for a full four years. The fellowship requires a commitment that they spend a minimum of four years in a high-needs school and are committed to teaching in such a program. It is a $10,000 stipend per year for four years. All three scholarships have now been awarded, placing exceptionally qualified teachers in high-need classrooms in Arkansas and Arizona.
Second supplement request
The project seeks to expand the pool of applicants for mathematics and physics teaching more broadly. A recruiting tool with great promise would be the involvement of students as early as following their sophomore year in teaching experiences in the summer, carrying a summer stipend. The UArk-Noyce project is uniquely positioned to offer an excellent experience dovetailing with the efforts of our recently funded NSF MSP, the College Ready In Mathematics and Physics Partnership. Sophomores identified through the introductory reformed classes in mathematics and physics that have strong teaching potential are being asked to join the in-service summer workshops, and are paid a stipend to assist the workshop leaders. They will be placed in positions to form bonds with in-service teachers and to see what the career entails. This will provide exceptional additional preparation for the existing learning assistant program in physics, and will form a basis for the new learning assistant program being established in mathematics. Some stipends will be used to help establish the Mathematics Learning Assistant program, until the structure is established so that it can be a course taken for credit by interested students, as it is in physics, making it possible to sustain with no external funding.
The Noyce Scholarship program at the University of Arkansas has allowed many highly qualified candidates to enter the teaching profession and encouraged teachers already in the classroom to continue in high-need situations.
Gay Stewart is an Associate Professor of Physics at the University of Arkansas Fayetteville. She received her PhD in experimental high energy physics from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in 1994. Since then she has been actively engaged in physics education reform and, since 2000, in physics teacher preparation.
John Stewart is an Assistant Professor of Physics at the University of Arkansas. He was Co-PI of the Arkansas PhysTEC site, is Senior Staff on the Arkansas College Ready in Mathematics and Physics Partnership, and is editor of PTEC.org.