Empowerment in rural secondary novice science teachers
The purpose of this research was to investigate what can be learned from the professional voices of secondary novice science teachers in rural schools during their first one to three years of their teaching assignment. The results of this research were viewed through the lens of empowerment as defined by Melenyzer (1990) and the six dimensions as defined by Short (1994): autonomy, self-efficacy, professional growth, status, impact, and decision making. This study examined what caused teachers’ empowerment to change in the context of their work environment with a focus on key events or experiences that caused empowerment to change. Data were collected that provided insight into what can be done to strengthen empowerment and improve retention so that rural novice science teachers can reach their full potential. In addition, patterns were examined to determine what strengthened or weakened teacher empowerment so that schools, professors, or science specialists can provide appropriate professional development opportunities for their new teachers and help teachers move along the professional continuum. This research can be utilized to determine what secondary novice science teachers bring to the classroom as well as what they need to become empowered effective teachers. The data revealed some important findings that fill in the gaps from Hobbs; (2004) and (Barufaldi, Hobbs, Moreland, & Schumacker, 2010) empowerment work with veteran (9+years) science teachers and Moreland’s (2011) empowerment research with mid-career (4-8 years) science teachers. Autonomy and decision making were not viewed as distinct dimensions but had significant effects on empowerment, self-efficacy was influenced by student successes, classroom management, and inadequate pre-service training, professional growth closely resembled empowerment, impact was weak but it did exist for many of the teachers, status was higher than expected for all teachers, overall empowerment was higher than expected, attending conferences such as the Conference for the Advancement of Science Teaching (CAST) was a major positive force for empowerment, positive reinforcement played a large role in empowerment and leadership was found to either drive empowerment upward or break down empowerment depending on the situation. The results of this study can be used to inform decisions on how to differentiate professional development for science teachers as well as how they can be professionally sustained, empowered, and retained over time.