The retention of beginning STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) educators is a topic of concern for researchers, policy makers, and other stakeholders. Comprehensive induction systems, that include content-specific mentoring, peer-based support, and other professional development activities, have been promoted as a solution to the retention crisis and as a way to help with the continued professional development of beginning teachers. Yet these content-specific induction programs are difficult to enact without the use of online environments. This dissertation explores data from an online induction program for beginning STEM educators through three studies. The first study examines the educational, social, and technical affordances of an online induction environment for beginning STEM educators. This study first explores the designed affordances of the environment. Second, the study describes beginning teachers' perceived affordances of the online induction system. The study suggests that interaction with peers and experienced mentors, mediated through educational activities and online technology may be valuable in helping to meet the multifaceted goals of induction. The second study explores how theory and practice influenced the iterative design of the induction program. In particular it looks at external barriers (e.g., limited time and energy, varied levels of technology access, lack of extrinsic rewards for participation) and internal barriers (e.g., beliefs about the value of supports, purposes of participation, sense of online community) that interfered with beginning teachers' engagement within this online community of practice. This study also explores how the iterative design of this program was informed through this knowledge of barriers. Suggestions to help mitigate these barriers through careful program design and implementation are provided. The final study examines the range of challenges that new science teachers face by examining the dialog between beginning teachers and content-specific mentors within the online induction program. This `taxonomy of challenges' is then discussed in light of the role that content and context specific mentors can play in supporting new teachers' professional learning. The set of studies concludes with a discussion of implications that lead to an argument for re-envisioning the induction experience and the role of technology in supporting this new vision.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. June 2009. Major: Education, Curriculum and Instruction. Advisors: Gillian H. Roehrig and Fred N. Finley. 1 computer file (PDF); xi, 220 page, appendix pages 201-220.
Donna, Joel Dominic.
Surviving and thriving as a new science teacher: exploring the role of comprehensive online induction..
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