January 5, 2009
Turnover in science education faculty compounds K-12 effortsWEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - While there is an increasing trend for universities and colleges to hire more science faculty with education specialties, a recent study has found that such positions may have a high attrition rate.
A survey of the 23-campus California State University system showed that nearly 40 percent of science faculty with education specialty positions were seriously considering leaving their current jobs. Of those who are seriously considering leaving their position, however, only a few are considering leaving the field entirely.
Nancy Pelaez, a Purdue University associate professor of biological sciences, said the study highlights potential national trends.
"There are likely similarities in the career dynamics for faculty with interests in education at institutions throughout the nation," Pelaez said. "Faculty members who specialize in science education are a growing number. Although science faculty with education specialty positions began before 1987, for the group in this study, more were hired after 2000 than in all previous years combined."
She said the positions are especially important as the nation faces a shortage of students pursuing degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or the so-called STEM fields.
"More than half of entering science majors at universities leave the sciences, and 90 percent of those students complain of ineffective teaching," Pelaez said. "The model of seeding university science departments with faculty who are trained in educational methodology and approaches shows promise for retaining more science majors and developing approaches to reform science education at the K-12 level."
A CSU and Purdue research team evaluated 59 science faculty with education specialties. A paper detailing the findings is published in the current issue of Science magazine.
The survey suggests the satisfaction of these faculty members could improve with increased training opportunities, reduced professional isolation and improved academic infrastructure to support education research and professional activities.
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