Stories from the field: teaching science in low-performing, rural schools

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Patrick John Conetta (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Heidi Carlone

Abstract: If teachers matter to the academic success of students, then having experienced teachers shows significant promise in eliminating persistent achievement gaps. However, high rates of teacher attrition are persistent in schools serving low-income and minority students serving to reinforce these persistent gaps. The purpose of this study is to allow the voices of science teachers working in low-performing, rural schools to be heard and expand our current understanding of teacher retention beyond "yes" or "no" decisions. The narratives teachers share demonstrate that persistence is constructed daily through frustrations and hard-won victories that are significant to one's career decisions. With an ear for the structures that guide teacher's practice and create professional tension, teacher narratives also represent hope for the subtle and splendid ways they challenge these tensions to carve out their existence as educators. Their stories are inspirational to future teachers and teacher educators because they provide insights to the ways teachers learn to persist. My research was guided by three general interests: What experiences bring individuals to teach science in hard to staff schools, what conditions did teachers find when they arrived, and how do science teachers respond to the circumstances in which they find themselves teaching. Steered by Holland, Lachicotte, Skinner, and Cain's (1998) theoretical framework of Figured Worlds, and inspired by previous work utilizing this framework, I gathered data through extended interviews with nine participants and examined their stories through qualitative narrative analysis to illustrate the delicate interplay between structure and agency and how this interplay is intertwined with teachers' willingness to persist. This study revealed that individual willingness to persist was interwoven with their ability to author themselves within and/or against existing cultural models of the "good teacher" and its implications lead to a more sophisticated understanding of working conditions by illuminating how cultural models of "good teacher" are (re)produced in hard-to-staff schools. Additionally, the results demonstrate opportunities, beyond attrition, individuals leverage to align themselves with or contest cultural models to encourage their willingness to persist.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2015
Rural education, School reform, Teacher retention
Science teachers $z North Carolina
Teacher turnover $z North Carolina $x Prevention
Education, Rural $z North Carolina
Rural schools $z North Carolina $v Case studies
Academic achievement $z North Carolina

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