CEISMC Researchers Complete First Phase of NSF Study to Examine Teacher Personal Networks

Study examines support networks of STEM teachers in underserved schools

The CEISMC Educational Research and Evaluation Group has completed Phase I of “An Exploratory Study: The Role of Social Networks and Self-Efficacy in the Retention of Noyce Teachers.” In 2017, CEISMC researchers received a two-year grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for the research.

Study participants are early-career teachers from the Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program. Noyce programs aim to increase the number of qualified science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) teachers in underserved, or high-needs, schools.

The principal investigator is Meltem Alemdar, CEISMC associate director. CEISMC research associate Christopher Cappelli and senior research scientist Jessica Gale are co-principal investigators. Research associate Shaheen Rana is also an author of the study.

The study examines how the characteristics of hundreds of Noyce programs across the country are associated with teachers’ self-efficacy beliefs, the structure of their personal networks, and their retention in high-needs schools.

Teacher participants completed a survey that asked specific questions about individual Noyce programs. This helped researchers identify different characteristics among the programs nationwide.

“If you went to a program in Minnesota, how is it different from one in Georgia?” Cappelli said. For example, some programs may have helped teachers learn to write journal articles or encouraged them to attend professional development sessions.

Using social network analysis methodology, the preliminary results showed that there is a correlation between how well programs address these components and the density of teachers’ support networks. The findings indicate that teachers in high-needs schools have more densely connected networks than do former teachers and teachers not in high-needs schools.

The researchers shared their pilot data at two different conferences this summer. The first was the International Network for Social Network Analysis (INSNA) Sunbelt Conference. There, they were able to discuss their methodology with other experts in social network analysis.

“The conference is very well-attended, very friendly, and provides great feedback for researchers in social network analysis to talk to each other about their work,” Alemdar said.

The researchers also attended the NSF Noyce Summit. At the summit, attendees approached the researchers to share how a workshop Alemdar and Cappelli held there last year has helped them use social network analysis in their own research. Due to the positive response, the researchers plan to hold a more comprehensive workshop next year.

The preliminary results from Phase I provide a snapshot of early-career STEM teachers that shows the density of their networks and how likely they are to remain in a high-needs school. The researchers will continue with Phase II by conducting cognitive interviews with participants to validate the survey. Once the survey is finalized, it will be sent to a larger population of participants.

After completing both phases of this two-year grant, the researchers will write another grant to expand their use of the survey instrument. They hope to reach more teachers with the survey and collect data to improve how Noyce programs prepare STEM teachers for working in high-needs schools.

The survey will eventually be made public so that Noyce programs can adapt it for their own projects. In addition, the study will update and make publicly available the Noyce Teacher Fellow database.

Members of the CEISMC Educational Research and Evaluation Group have also published several studies in journals this year. See below for a complete list of publications.

Alemdar, M., Cappelli, C. Criswell, B., & Ruston, G. (2018). Evaluation of a Noyce Program: Development of teacher leaders in STEM education,. Evaluation and Program Planning, 71, 1011.

Alemdar, M., Moore, R.A., Lingle, J. A., Rosen, J, Gale, J., & Usselman, M. C. (2018). The impact of a middle school engineering course on students‘ academic achievement and non- cognitive skills. International Journal of Education in Mathematics, Science and Technology (IJEMST), 6(4), 363-380. DOI: 10.18404/ijemst.440339

Criswell, B., Rushton, G., Nachtigall, D., Staggs, S., Alemdar, M., & Cappelli, C. (2018). Strengthening the vision: Examining the understanding of a framework for teacher leadership development by experienced science teachers.Science Teacher Education, 1-23.

Newton, S., Alemdar, M., Hilton, E., Linsey, J., & Fu, K. (2018). Incorporating industrial design pedagogy into a mechanical engineering graphics course: a discipline-based education research (DBER) approach. International Journal of STEM Education, 5(29), 1 - 14. 


By Rosemary Pitrone  - CEISMC Communications

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  • CEISMC Researchers Complete First Phase of NSF Study to Examine Teacher Personal Networks

  • Meltem Alemdar

  • Christopher Cappelli

  • Jessica Gale

  • Shaheen A Rana

For More Information Contact

Meltem Alemdar, Ph.D.
Associate Director for Educational Research & Evaluation
Senior Research Scientist
Center for Education Integrating Science, Math and Computing (CEISMC)
Georgia Institute of Technology
Atlanta, GA   30332-0282