Six rural STEM teachers saw community interactions, professional development, and school structures as both benefits and challenges to teaching in their rural schools, according to a new study.
Teacher attrition is a significant issue for rural schools, which experience a turnover rate of about 9 percent annually. And, for STEM areas in particular, teacher shortages create "dire consequences."
"Teachers' Perceptions of Rural STEM Teaching: Implications for Rural Teacher Retention" was published in a recent issue of The Rural Educator, and it explores the perspectives of six rural high school STEM teachers in Indiana.
Authors Kasey P.S. Goodpaster, Omolola A. Adedokun, and Gabriela C. Weaver, all of Purdue University, found the three themes were seen as positive in helping retain teachers in rural schools, as well as negative in leading to attrition.
For example, close relationships within the community can help enhance their teaching experiences, but they also can lead to teachers feeling like outsiders.
The study suggested rural school leaders may need to find ways to help new STEM teachers feel connected to the community, such as introducing them to people who could be resources in their lessons. It also recommended giving teachers more preparation time to help them manage their multiple responsibilities, and offering them networking opportunities with STEM teachers in other rural schools.