GSA Annual Meeting in Seattle, Washington, USA - 2017

Paper No. 138-3
Presentation Time: 2:00 PM


PYLE, Eric J., Department of Geology & Environmental Science, James Madison University, MSC 6903, Harrisonburg, VA 22807, REISNER, Barbara, Department of Geology & Environmental Science, James Madison University, MSC 6903, Harrisonburg, OH 22807, HIGDON, Robbie, Department of Middle, Secondary, and Mathematics Education, James Madison University, MSC 6912, Harrisonburg, VA 22807, PAULSON, Scott, Department of Physics and Astronomy, James Madison Universirty, MSC 4502, Harrisonburg, VA 22807 and CRESAWN, Kerry, Department of Biology, James Madison Universirty, MSC 7801, Harrisonburg, VA 22807,

For 20 years, there have been indications of a teacher shortage. US DoED reports show where these shortages exist by state. Much of the shortage is in the sciences, and where Earth science is an area, it is no exception. Title II reports show that over the last 4 years, Earth science certifications are in decline, averaging a mere 727 certifications per year, about 10% of the total science certifications (~7300). As reported by Ingersoll (2016), the need for STEM teachers exceeds 20,000 per year; thus demand is outstripping supply. He also estimated that most of the vacancies are from new teachers.

In such circumstances, schools are forced to place unqualified teachers in Earth science classrooms. Few things are more intimidating to a new teacher than placing them out of their field. With the adoption (or crypto-adoption) of the NGSS by school divisions, the expectations place on teachers are increased. The quality of students’ education cannot be enhanced if their teachers are unfamiliar with Earth science content, the practices of the Earth sciences, and how Earth science content connections across the sciences. Unless new teachers have effective support structures and the affective reason in the classroom, they will contribute to the majority of teacher vacancies by leaving the classroom with a few years.

Through an NSF-funded Noyce capacity-building grant, JMU has developed pathways for science teaching that include early teaching experiences during the academic year and summer. A goal of each experience has been building potential teachers identities as scientists and science teachers, creating and sustaining critical incidents to sustain them in difficult times. Additional activities have included the re-activation of an NSTA student chapter and courses co-taught between science and education faculty. Student pre-posttest quantitative data, have been inconclusive with respect to students’ efficacy for teaching and expectation of success, although average scores are high. Qualitative data from post-experience questionnaires provide strong expressions of teacher identity, with the expectation of persistence as science teachers. This presentation will share the design of these experiences and their relative and projected effectiveness towards strengthening the pool of qualified Earth science teachers.