Kindling the Fire: Fueling Preservice Science Teachers' Interest to Teach in High-Needs Schools

Meredith W. Kier, William & Mary
Jason A. Chen, William & Mary


This study applies psychological models of interest and motivation (i.e. a model of interest-development, Hidi and Renniger, 2006; and self-determination theory, Ryan and Deci, 2000) to the experiences of six pre-service science Noyce scholars who participated in a teacher preparation program. The National Science Foundation’s Noyce grant aims to incentivize mathematics and science majors to teach in high-needs school districts. Through this interview study, we sought to understand how Noyce scholars’ pre-existing interests and their experiences in the Noyce program interact to develop individual commitments to teach in high-needs school settings. Case studies reveal that scholars had no prior experiences in high-needs schools, abstract ideas about teachers, students, and resources in these contexts, and varying degrees of initial connectedness (Ryan and Deci, 2000) to teaching in high-needs school settings. Scholars found that site visits to diverse high-needs schools (i.e., rural and urban) triggered their interest to teach in similar contexts. Preservice science teachers’ emerging interest and level of commitment to teaching in high-needs schools following the teacher preparation program was dependent upon context-specific mastery experiences and autonomy within their long-term clinical field experience. This study offers implications for teacher educators who are recruiting and preparing students to teach in high-needs school contexts.