The Use of Grounded Theory to Investigate the Role of Teacher Education on STEM Teachers’ Career Paths in High-Need Schools

May. 01, 2011

Source: Journal of Teacher Education, 62(3), p. 246-259. (May/June 2011).
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This study explored the role of teacher education programs on the career paths of 38 Noyce scholarship recipients (“scholars”) by using grounded theory.

The emergent design was guided by the initial research question: “What are Noyce scholars’ reasons for the decisions made on the career paths of becoming and remaining teachers in high-need schools

This study was situated within a larger, four-year evaluation of the Noyce Scholarship Program funded by the NSF.

Data were collected through a semi-structured interview protocol.

The 38 Noyce scholars completed teacher education programs across the United States.
The participants were diverse in terms of where they had taught or were currently teaching, future plans, points in their teaching career (current status), and types of teacher education programs.


Model of the Pathway to Retention in High-Need Schools
The study resulted in a model of the pathway to retention in high-need settings based on the scholars’ perceptions as reported in the interviews.

The pathway proceeds from the time of deciding to become a teacher (Super-Category 1: choosing teaching as a career), to participating in a teacher education program, to deciding where to teach (Super-Category 2: choosing where to teach), and then to deciding to remain teaching in high-need settings (Super-Category 3: remaining in teaching in high-need settings).


The Complexity of Teachers’ Career Paths
The model indicated that the scholars’ career paths were highly complex and nuanced.

The emergence of the three super-categories suggests that there are three main time frames and decision points on the pathway to retention in high-need schools.
Therefore, this study extends the existing research base in that it brings together the multiple areas of influence on teachers’ career paths and represents them on a single, complex model.

The Role of Teacher Education
The use of an inductive grounded theory approach indicated that teacher education played a role on the scholars’ career paths.
Scholars who reported higher levels of intensive preparation for high-need settings seemed to be more likely to remain in high-need settings beyond Noyce program requirements than scholars with little or no preparation for high-need settings.

Additionally, scholars who reported higher levels of support, particularly from faculty and cohort members or peers both during and after their teacher education program, seemed more likely to remain in high-need settings beyond Noyce program requirements.

Furthermore, teacher education programs are selective in awarding Noyce funding and place a strong emphasis on preparation for high-need settings.
Scholars who had experiences in high-need schools, either in short-term field experiences or student teaching, or coursework related to working in high-need schools seemed more likely to stay.

Additionally, the role of support emerged as important to the scholars’ career paths. Specifically, scholars who completed their teacher preparation as members of a cohort were positive about their experiences and reported that the cohort played an important role in providing professional and personal support.
The analysis indicated that the scholars who completed their teacher education programs as part of a cohort also seemed more likely to remain teaching in high-need schools.

The authors suggest that keeping students in the same cohort for two years during preparation is important for building effective community and allowing preservice teachers to reflect on their teaching together and develop professionally.

Furthermore, the conceptual model suggests that scholars who had a strong social network during teacher preparation and early in their careers were positive about their experiences.

The authors conclude that by providing teachers with adequate preparation for high-need settings and a support network both during their programs and after completion, teacher education programs can have a positive impact on the career paths of teachers in high-need schools and possibly a positive influence on student achievement.

Updated: Mar. 19, 2013