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ARISE Initiative Spurs Research to Improve STEM Teacher Training

A cartoon man stands in front of a bookshelf under the headline "STEM Teaching: What Works"
Click through to view a video about the ARISE initiative as part of the STEM for All Video Showcase. | Science Animated

A AAAS program is gathering a wealth of resources and tools to build a community dedicated to a shared goal: incorporating evidence-based improvements in education and leadership development programs that prepare science, technology, engineering and mathematics teachers for the classroom.

The Advancing Research and Innovation in the STEM Education of Preservice Teachers in High-Need School Districts, or ARISE, program is an outgrowth of AAAS’ work with the Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program. The Noyce program, funded by the National Science Foundation, responds to the critical need for effective STEM teachers to guide K-12 students. The program provides funding and support to colleges and universities to recruit STEM majors and professionals interested in becoming teachers and prepare them for elementary, middle and high school classrooms.

Noyce scholarship recipients commit to teaching for two years in a high-need school district that have a high percentage of students from families living below the poverty line, many teachers with no educational or professional background in the subject they teach, and/or frequent teacher turnover. The Noyce program also funds fellowships and provides professional development for experienced “master teachers” working in high-need districts, as well as funding for researchers.

“There is a lack of rigorous research on how best to prepare STEM teachers,” said Jennifer Carinci, a program director for STEM education research at AAAS. Carinci leads ARISE, a specific facet of the Noyce program funded by the NSF and organized by AAAS.

“The major goal of ARISE was to create this research community around teacher effectiveness in high-need school districts,” said Sandra Richardson, the lead program director in NSF’s Division of Undergraduate Education, who was involved in developing ARISE several years ago.

The ARISE initiative seeks answers to a range of research questions: How can higher education institutions recruit talented STEM majors and professionals to teaching? What kind of preparation do these teachers need, especially if they will be teaching in high-need school districts? What can teacher training programs do to retain a high-quality STEM teacher workforce?

To begin to answer these questions, ARISE has created, commissioned and shared a wide array of resources, including a webinar series to amplify a diverse range of voices from those committed to research-based improvements in STEM teacher education. They have also fostered this community through digital resources such as the blog Adaptations and a monthly newsletter that rounds up relevant research and professional opportunities, as well as several in-person opportunities to connect with the like-minded. For example, a 2019 working group meeting was offered on the role of teacher preparation programs in STEM teacher retention.

More recently, ARISE commissioned a series of papers on three topics: the research and measurement approaches used to study STEM teacher preparation; the relationship between teacher preparation and teacher attrition; and working conditions that promote novice teacher retention.

The papers, Carinci said, are intended to “fill gaps in knowledge of STEM teacher preparation, about how we measure teacher preparation and how we retain teachers, and to outline the research needed to guide the ARISE community in the future.”

To bring their research questions and answers to a broader audience, the ARISE program was selected to take part in an annual weeklong online display of three-minute videos on more than 170 federally funded projects on science, mathematics, engineering and computer science education in formal and informal settings. The interactive event, known as the STEM for All Video Showcase enables researchers, educators, policymakers and the public to learn about innovative educational approaches, take part in facilitated discussions about each video and vote on the best projects.

The ARISE video summarizes key results from the commissioned paper series, including the finding that STEM teachers with limited hands-on student teaching experience are more likely to leave high-need school districts.

“The literature also finds that STEM teachers who have strong mentoring and induction programs are more likely to remain in the profession and become more effective over time. Those who remain are also more likely to contribute to a positive learning climate,” according to the video.

The video identifies areas for future research, including studies focusing on accountability and preparation program improvement, as well as opportunities for stakeholder collaboration to improve data through actions like tracking program design information and sharing graduates’ outcomes.

Said Carinci, “The idea behind the papers and the videos is not that they just sit there – but that the papers are actually used as a roadmap for much-needed future research.”

Researchers and educators are using the resources that ARISE has gathered and shared, a September 2019 report evaluating the ARISE initiative found.

The Education Development Center conducted interviews and focus groups with Noyce principal investigators, finding that the majority view ARISE as adding great value to their work. ARISE exposed researchers and educators “to evidence-based practices for attracting, preparing, supporting, and retaining STEM teachers in high-need schools that they could apply directly to their programs,” the report said.

Nearly all of those interviewed reported having made changes to their STEM teacher preparation programs.

“These changes tended to increase a program’s focus on practices, strategies, and activities that prepare new K–12 STEM educators to teach in high-need school districts, with the ultimate goal of increasing retention,” the report said.

ARISE leaders are continuing to engage existing members of the community and to reach new people interested in their goal.

“Often findings like what we see on the ARISE website are the type of work that would otherwise only be seen in professional publications and journal articles, which reach a very specific audience,” said NSF’s Richardson. Work commissioned and disseminated by ARISE, by contrast, “has a broader impact” by reaching other researchers, educators and administrators. “Those are the folks that we want to make sure we’re engaging in these conversations and these forward-thinking actions around STEM education,” said Richardson.

Said Carinci, “We would love for more AAAS members to get involved as blog authors and future commissioned paper authors, to join us at upcoming events and to provide us with feedback.”