In through the side door : a portrait of three second career science teachers
Williamson, Rachel DiGioia
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The demand for certified science teachers continues to be a challenge for school systems. One strategy used in many states to address this need is to expedite placement of individuals with science backgrounds into science classrooms through alternative certification programs; this constitutes a second career for many of these individuals. Although these programs vary, the consistent feature of alternative certification programs is to place people into the classroom in a shorter period of time and with less preparation. While studies of the effectiveness of alternative certification programs have been done, lacking is data regarding the life stories and teaching beliefs of second career science teachers. This study explored the beliefs with regard to science teaching and learning of three second career science teachers as viewed against the backdrop of their life stories and career paths. What emerged from the study was a complex tapestry, composed of four interwoven strands: 1) a life long love of science and academic achievement, 2) career experiences that prompted a career change; 3) beliefs with regards to science teaching and learning; and 4) challenges faced as they completed the journey from the world of science to the world of school science. The tapestry was woven using the methodology of oral history and case study. Data collection methods included: historical timelines, autobiographies, teaching metaphors, journals, life learning maps, photoessays, semi-structured interviews, and case narrative stories. Through with-in case and cross-case analysis of data, themes composing the portrait of the participants emerged. Key themes emergent through data analysis and interpretation included: 1) completing the portrait, 2) the sci-evangelists, 3) adding to the passion, 4) finding my center, 5) to know is to teach/content is king, 6) misgivings on the passage, 7) paying the piper, and 8) why do I have to learn this? Based on the emergent themes, I have proposed a certification program designed to meet the needs of people in a science career who desire to make a move to the world of school science. The program, called the Residency In Science Education, addresses the issues raised by the participants throughout the study.