3
From Grad School to Grade School

The premise of this National Research Council (NRC) project is that recent PhDs may provide a source of highly qualified professionals for K-12 education in science, mathematics, and technology. Why focus on people who have science, mathematics, and engineering PhDs? Two of their obvious attributes are deep content knowledge, which is a requirement for good teaching, and a commitment to and interest in teaching, which is often the goal of PhDs, though usually at the college and university levels. This chapter considers in greater depth what are known about PhDs and about the potential of their pursuing careers in K-12 education. It looks at three questions: Are they interested? What do they know that is special? What do they need to learn? It ends with brief looks at the questions: How can they learn what they need to know? And how can they be retained in K-12 education?

ARE THEY INTERESTED?

The first phase of the project on attracting PhDs to K-12 education was devoted to investigating whether recent PhDs might consider careers in K-12 education and under what conditions they would do so. In carrying out this second phase of the project, the committee relied heavily on the work of the Phase I committee (NRC, 2000a; see Appendix A for the report’s executive summary) and on the discussions at a workshop (see Appendix B for the agenda and list of participants).



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Attracting PhDs to K-12 Education: A Demonstration Program for Science, Mathematics, and Technology 3 From Grad School to Grade School The premise of this National Research Council (NRC) project is that recent PhDs may provide a source of highly qualified professionals for K-12 education in science, mathematics, and technology. Why focus on people who have science, mathematics, and engineering PhDs? Two of their obvious attributes are deep content knowledge, which is a requirement for good teaching, and a commitment to and interest in teaching, which is often the goal of PhDs, though usually at the college and university levels. This chapter considers in greater depth what are known about PhDs and about the potential of their pursuing careers in K-12 education. It looks at three questions: Are they interested? What do they know that is special? What do they need to learn? It ends with brief looks at the questions: How can they learn what they need to know? And how can they be retained in K-12 education? ARE THEY INTERESTED? The first phase of the project on attracting PhDs to K-12 education was devoted to investigating whether recent PhDs might consider careers in K-12 education and under what conditions they would do so. In carrying out this second phase of the project, the committee relied heavily on the work of the Phase I committee (NRC, 2000a; see Appendix A for the report’s executive summary) and on the discussions at a workshop (see Appendix B for the agenda and list of participants).

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Attracting PhDs to K-12 Education: A Demonstration Program for Science, Mathematics, and Technology The Phase I committee investigated the career ambitions of recent and prospective PhDs in the physical sciences, life sciences, and mathematics, and their interest in taking positions in secondary science, mathematics, and technology education under a variety of hypothetical conditions. Through focus groups and a national survey of more than 700 graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, the committee asked respondents how teacher preparation programs, work conditions, and compensation packages could be modified to attract them to careers in secondary and primary school education. Respondents to the survey had typically considered at least four different options in contemplating their careers; 36 percent of them said they had considered secondary school teaching or other secondary education positions. This number is significant, because, according to a special tabulation of data from the 1997 Survey of Earned Doctorates that was conducted for the Phase I report, only 0.8 percent of all PhDs currently work in K-12 educational institutions (NRC, 2000a).1 The range of positions for which the survey respondents expressed interest included not only becoming a science or mathematics teacher, but also becoming a science or mathematics specialist for a school district, in working in a university- or industry-based science educational partnership, or in serving as a science specialist in a science resource center. Some respondents also expressed interest in working on curriculum development or with education programs of a science museum, environmental science center, or similar type of institutions. A key question that arose in the Phase I committee’s work was why less than 1 percent of PhDs are currently working in K-12 educational institutions given that 36 percent of recent PhDs have considered secondary teaching? One answer is that there are many negative perceptions about K-12 teaching that work against entering this career. Those negative perceptions include: a lack of status and respect for teachers, 1   Respondents who were still in graduate school, female, or U.S. citizens were more likely to say they had considered careers in secondary education than respondents who were postdoctoral fellows, male or non-U.S. citizens. Respondents in chemistry, with strong career options in industry, were less likely than respondents in the biological sciences, physics, and mathematics to consider secondary teaching positions.

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Attracting PhDs to K-12 Education: A Demonstration Program for Science, Mathematics, and Technology poor classroom laboratory facilities, too many students per class and student discipline problems, structured curricula that allow little room for creativity, possible conflicts with teachers who do not hold PhDs, and low salaries. There are also negative perceptions from school administrators and university faculty that may act as disincentives to prospective PhD teachers. For school administrators, there is the belief that PhDs may have good content knowledge but do not know how to teach or to relate to K-12 students. For university faculty, the prevailing perception was well captured in the Phase I report: [M]any university faculty do not promote nonacademic careers for PhDs, much less careers in secondary school education. Indeed, graduate students typically aspire to positions in academic science and mathematics similar to those of their mentors, and the socialization process in graduate school strongly reinforces this career path (NRC, 2000a, p. 4). Given the many negative perceptions that may discourage PhDs from pursuing careers in K-12 education, perhaps it is surprising that more than one-third of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows have considered K-12 teaching. The Phase I committee noted that its work also revealed some attractive features of a K-12 teaching career: While many participants in our focus groups held negative perceptions, many also held a number of positive perceptions, which included attractive working hours, a work schedule similar to their children’s school day, and time for research or other activities during the summer. Many also believed they would enjoy the opportunity to foster the scientific interests of young people (NRC, 2000a, p. 4). During the workshop held in connection with this report, the participants with PhDs who work in K-12 education provided additional insights as to why they are so few in number. They stated that a major barrier for anyone leaving academic research is the potential loss of respect from that community. Although they were ultimately happy with their decisions to

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Attracting PhDs to K-12 Education: A Demonstration Program for Science, Mathematics, and Technology enter careers in K-12 education, they suggested that this barrier could be lowered if the PhDs were offered a prestigious national fellowship by an institution that is respected by the academic research community. This finding agrees with what the Phase I committee found in its survey, when it explored under what scenarios the survey respondents would consider secondary school teaching. The item that received the largest number of positive responses, checked affirmatively by 67 percent of the respondents, was the award of a prestigious national fellowship that provides training and placement, and covers living expenses. Some other items that solicited significantly positive responses were the availability of mentors, access to regional or university-based science teaching resource centers, and field opportunities for research that might involve their students. A requirement to undergo a normal full teacher certification process was a negative factor to survey respondents, but they were quite amenable to an accelerated program. The Phase I committee concluded that large enough numbers of PhDs appear to be sufficiently interested in secondary education for the NRC to continue the next phase of the project. This committee concurs with that conclusion and so turns to the next question. WHAT DO THEY KNOW? Perhaps the most important attribute that PhDs would bring to K-12 classrooms is a deep content knowledge of science, mathematics, or technology, including extensive experience with science as inquiry and similar forms of scholarship. As discussed in Chapter 2, all of the national standards for education call for greater use of teaching through inquiry, problem solving, and design. Moreover, a deep understanding of the content of mathematics or science is critical for high-quality teaching (NRC, 2000b), and it would also be critical for other careers in K-12 education. A second key attribute of PhDs is a passion for science and mathematics: that passion could help inspire both their teaching colleagues, schools and their students. With appropriate preparation (see next section), they should be able to harness their enthusiasm for discovery to teaching and to the development and implementation of innovative programs in science, mathematics, and technology. Along with their passion for inquiry and their insights into science, mathematics, and technology, PhDs—especially recent PhDs—are also intimately familiar with the use of information technology in their work.

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Attracting PhDs to K-12 Education: A Demonstration Program for Science, Mathematics, and Technology This familiarity with modern tools of inquiry is a third attribute that PhDs would bring to K-12 education. In many cases, they have become expert in using the Internet for library work, for acquiring data for research (from databases, remote sensing devices, and the like), for collaborative work with others, and for the analysis and the other everyday tasks of their work. Their ability to use technology can be helpful in solving problems and developing innovations in K-12 instruction, and it can also serve as a model for learning for their students. In addition to the above attributes, science, mathematics, and engineering PhDs will have a strong connection to at least one institution of higher education—the university at which they earned a degree. They can use those ties to build strong partnerships between K-12 and higher education.2 In addition, their ties with national professional societies can provide another source of connections between K-12 education and the broader world of science, mathematics, and technology. WHAT DO THEY NEED TO LEARN? Although PhDs have a deep content knowledge in their fields, they are likely to lack the two other ingredients necessary for high-quality teaching: pedagogical knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge. That is, they probably do not have the general skills of a teacher, nor do they know specifically how to teach particular science, mathematics, and technology subjects in ways that enable most of their students to learn. They also know little about the opportunities and limitations imposed by the structure of the school day and other classroom realities. In fact, much of the training for a PhD is in some ways antithetical to the training needed for K-12 teaching. Most PhDs have gone through a demanding program that is long, difficult, and that requires a narrow concentration on problems near the cutting edge of their subfield. It is unlikely that the last few years of their apprenticeship will have provided an opportunity for exploring a broad interest in their field—or for learning about science in general, or how to teach science. The PhDs who become K-12 teachers will need substantial 2   Legislation has been introduced in Congress to provide funding to establish partnerships between K-12 schools and institutions of higher education.

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Attracting PhDs to K-12 Education: A Demonstration Program for Science, Mathematics, and Technology classroom teaching experience, and they must develop an understanding of the empirical and theoretical research findings about teaching and learning. Pedagogical Content Knowledge Research shows that the content to be taught must be appropriate for the age and level of cognitive development of K-12 students. Teachers need to understand the effects of students’ prior knowledge and their misconceptions on their ability to learn new concepts (NRC, 1999b); they must also know how each type of misconception can be addressed to increase student understanding (Minstrell and van Zee, 2000). Teachers must develop an understanding of how children make sense of a discipline through the learning experiences and instructional materials used in quality K-12 mathematics and science programs (NRC, 1999b). They also need to understand how the structure of science and mathematics programs is used to allow students to grow in their mastery of both content and process throughout their K-12 years. Finally, national and, more recently, individual state content standards and curriculum frameworks are increasingly important in determining what is taught in U.S. schools, and teachers need to learn what they are and how to make effective use of them in the classroom. This entire area of knowledge, called pedagogical content knowledge, is one that most recent PhDs in science, mathematics, and engineering will need to learn. Pedagogy The learning sciences have made great progress in the past decade in understanding how children learn (NRC, 1999b). New and recent PhDs in science, mathematics, and engineering are unlikely to be familiar with what the learning sciences have contributed to this field of cognition. And yet our understanding of how people learn provides the conceptual structure for strategies and techniques that teachers use to help children understand science and mathematics. The learning sciences also provide the basis for designing effective assessments of student learning and knowledge (NRC, 2001a). The PhDs who wish to move to K-12 education will thus need to learn about the theories of learning and the experiments that support them; how our knowledge of cognition relates to teaching based on scientific inquiry or mathematical problem solving, as called for in the national education standards; and how this relates to assessing student learning appropriately. Context and Diversity The demographics in the United States have undergone rapid change in recent decades, and that change is reflected in

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Attracting PhDs to K-12 Education: A Demonstration Program for Science, Mathematics, and Technology the nations’ classrooms. An increasingly large number of the nation’s children are either immigrants or the children of recent immigrants, and they bring a wide variety of perspectives, expectations, and experiences to school. Research shows that context, including ethnicity and culture, plays a large role in how people learn (NRC, 1999b). PhDs who are moving into K-12 teaching will need to understand what effect these differences have on students, both inside and outside the classroom. When students in a classroom have a variety of cultural and ethnic backgrounds, their teachers need to use a variety of approaches in teaching and learning. They will need to know the effects on children who feel marginalized by their color or ethnicity, how tracking in school programs affects students from different backgrounds, and, more broadly, how class and race stratification issues affect American education. Classroom Management Every K-12 teacher needs to know how to manage classrooms in ways that promote learning. PhDs who may have taught college-level courses will probably need some training to manage classrooms full of teenagers or younger students. Some particular topics that need to be covered are how to maintain discipline in classrooms, plan lessons that engage students, keep records, organize classrooms, and distribute instructional time. To become teachers, they will also need to know how to manage and distribute to their students the resources for the inquiry and experiential laboratory-based learning that are called for in the science, mathematics, and technology national education standards. Schooling To be effective in the K-12 environment, teachers need to understand the challenges and opportunities facing schools and how the schools respond to them. In particular, they need to have some understanding of district and local school administration; education policy at both the state and federal levels; issues related to special populations; sources of funding for special programs; the influence of parents and policy makers on K-12 education; and liability issues and accountability—including student assessment, program assessment, and reporting. HOW CAN THEY LEARN WHAT THEY NEED TO KNOW? In thinking about an appropriate program to teach PhDs what they will need to know to be high-quality teachers, it is useful to examine examples of other programs for nontraditional pathways to K-12 education.

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Attracting PhDs to K-12 Education: A Demonstration Program for Science, Mathematics, and Technology According to Haury (1998, p. 4), teacher education programs for midcareer or second career professionals “may, in fact, seem the same as traditional teacher preparation programs in terms of course requirements and field experiences,” but a major difference is that the courses take the experiences of the candidates into account. The courses are often taught at the graduate level, even for those teacher candidates who do not hold PhDs. Because some topics can be skipped or covered at an accelerated pace, the programs for nontraditional students tend to be much shorter than the standard 4-year program for undergraduates. Appendix C describes three such programs: UTeach at the University of Texas at Austin; the midcareer mathematics and science program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education; and Teach for America, which was begun as a senior thesis project at Princeton University. Although none of these is designed for PhDs in science, mathematics, and engineering, they provide examples of the kinds of courses, orientation, and classroom experience that might be appropriate for people moving from graduate school to K-12 teaching. Other sources of information for preparing PhDs for K-12 classrooms are available from teacher professional organizations, science and mathematics professional societies, and educational researchers. These groups have all paid a great deal of attention to the preparation of teachers over the last decade. Two key compilations of these ideas and the results of research are the report from the National Academies on the education of teachers (NRC, 2000b), and the report of the Glenn commission (National Commission on Mathematics and Science Teaching for the 21st Century, 2000). Although the amount of material that PhDs need to learn in order to teach well may seem daunting, it is surely less daunting than the challenges they have overcome in completing their doctorates. And they will bring to this learning task their deep content knowledge; their extensive experience as learners; and a commitment to teach and communicate to K-12 students their interest in, knowledge of, and passion for science, mathematics, and technology. HOW CAN THEY BE RETAINED IN K-12 EDUCATION? The committee was unable to identify unique retention strategies for keeping PhDs in K-12 education careers. One aspect of the demonstration program might be to determine whether some unusual strategies can be developed. Retention strategies that have been shown to be effective for teachers include: one-on-one mentoring, with mandatory participation for

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Attracting PhDs to K-12 Education: A Demonstration Program for Science, Mathematics, and Technology all new teachers, involving teachers in decision making, implementing team or interdisciplinary teaching, and making scheduling changes to allow common planning time for teachers in schools. (National Center for Teaching and America’s Future, 1996; Hare and Heap, 2001; National Association of State Boards of Education, 1998). Retention strategies for the broad array of professionals in other aspects of the K-12 education system have not been a major policy concern, and there is a paucity of information from which the committee could address retention in these other types of careers.