Enriching the transition into teaching with professional learning and networking opportunities for pre-service maths and science teachers
Step Up delivered a range of beneficial activities, networks and resources to engage pre-service teachers (referred to here as students or PSTs). Participating students:
- Developed networks and professional connectedness with peers, in-service teachers (ISTs) and experts in science, technologies, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines
- Developed and honed skills for STEM Education, complementing their university coursework and professional experience placements
- Increased their confidence and readiness for a STEM teaching career.
“…the confidence and belief that people have in me through the Step Up program has allowed me to reach my potential… Because of those networks and because of those connections and experience I’ve been able to shine in my own school”.
First year teacher and 2015 Step Up participant.
Attracting and engaging students with rich and interactive communications was also essential to the Step Up project. Engagement enabled these key stakeholders to participate, buy-in and provide feedback in testing new models to advance maths and science PST education.
FRAMEWORK FOR STUDENT ENGAGEMENT
Students engaged with numerous Step Up activities, networks and resources throughout 2015-2016. Here is a summary of our student engagement strategies and outcomes:
New collaborative models for learning & practising STEM teaching
Safe spaces to reflect & develop interdisciplinary teaching communities
Professional development, networking & leadership opportunities
These strategies benefited students’ sense of professional identity and preparedness to enter teaching careers. Highlights included:
174 PSTs directly supported / assisted by Step Up to take part in 19 diverse professional development and networking activities, including:
Over 900 PSTs engaging with Step Up model approaches and resources, including:
Over 700 PSTs joined TeachConnect, with 26% actively using the platform in this initial phase (as of Dec 2016). TeachConnect is set to expand beyond the Step Up project, and has so far engaged PSTs with:
- Mentorship circles
- A growing knowledge database
- Online events and discussions
- Targeted communications.
Step Up successfully partnered with leading institutions to deliver these student engagement opportunities. For instance, with the Queensland Museum to deliver Creative Lab and World Science Festival programs; Science Teachers Association Queensland and Australian Science Teachers Association to send pre-service teachers to CONASTA 64 and 65; and with Questacon, The National Science and Technology Centre, to deliver hands-on science workshops. Sustainable partnerships are also key to enable student engagement activities, networks and resources to continue with university and sector partners. See more about Step Up collaborators.
Rich media and targeted communications
Step Up conducted general surveys and interviews regarding student engagement*, as well as targeted evaluation for each activity. While the research is necessarily limited given the short project timeframe, this evaluation gives a sense of the significant benefits of such engagement activities, resources and networks. Some key findings include:
- 83% of surveyed students feel more prepared to enter their teaching career (2015/16)
- Engaging with Step Up activities positively influenced 95% of surveyed students’ attitudes towards teaching (2015)
- 87% of surveyed students agreed they were likely to recommend their peers engage in future (2015)
- 44% of surveyed students participated in multiple Step Up activities and resources (2015/16)
- 100% of interviewees and 68% of surveyed student expressed interest to take part in further engagement activities beyond Step Up (2016). *
Students particularly valued the learnings practised, practical skills acquired and networks developed, with feedback including:
“…overall it’s enabled me to have more confidence and take more risks, so to try out new things in the class.”
“I found it very rewarding to be helping young students expand their interests in science and experimentation. This program helped to reconfirm my decision to become a teacher.”
“So I already know what science is and how it works. Where I lack is how to put that across to students. I felt like (the Step Up team) was just brilliant at helping me turn my learning objectives into practical, interesting, engaging activities.”
“So a lot of the connections are informal, which is probably a good thing, and I can certainly see them being used down the track and in particular when I’m initially starting out.”
As participating students graduate and enter the MS teaching workforce, there has been early evidence of broader benefits of these skills and networks:
“Without the Step Up experiences, I cannot see how my resume would have appealed to employers in this area, and I cannot imagine how I would have gone about teaching these students! Now, I can’t wait to teach in an environment that embraces creative approaches to STEM teaching, for all levels of students.”
“I guess it’s just a domino effect of helping one teacher can help so many. So as an example, I’ve had five prac students who have come, who I’ve had in my short time of teaching, and I feel I’ve been able to significantly help them and I always feel like I should be helping them. It’s my responsibly to help them because someone’s helped me. I now have that knowledge and I need to return the favour, or extend it.”
Further information will soon be available with the Step Up Pre-Service Teacher Engagement Report, addressing this strategic framework and evaluation.