Rethinking Recruitment: The Comprehensive and Strategic Recruitment of Secondary Science Teachers


The shortage of science teachers has spurred a discussion about their retention and recruitment. While discussion about retaining science teachers has increased dramatically in just the last few years, science teacher educators have not attended to the recruitment of science teachers with the same tenacity. This paper is our effort to initiate this discussion and to focus on secondary science teachers. We begin by suggesting why recruitment is important and explore related research. We then suggest a comprehensive and strategic orientation towards recruitment that serves as a mechanism to examine current practices in the field. In presenting this position paper, we hope that science teacher educators will contemplate their own recruitment practices and begin discussing the recruitment process more openly with one another.

The diminishing pool of science teachers has been a pressing problem for those involved in different levels of the educational system. As a result, each day and week individuals make decisions based upon the availability of teachers and the need to provide local schools with more teachers. For example, middle school administrators charged with staffing schools are often faced with the decision to hire teachers with general qualifications in science (National Science Board 2010), while teacher educators are forced to contemplate the admission of additional students into preservice programs in order to increase the number of science teachers in the educational pipeline (e.g., California State University 2010). At the policy level, those who can fund the education of science teachers to ensure a scientifically literate workforce are frequently confronted with allocation decisions. Often they state the importance of certain elements of a teacher education program, but may not fund the program. For instance, several states support induction programs for teachers, but they are often unfunded mandates (American Association of State Colleges and Universities 2006). Regardless of the level at which these decisions are made, the ultimate impact is on the education that students receive in the classroom.

One solution to the science teacher shortage has been the development of programs that recruit more teachers into the profession. Program formats can range from precollege experiences that entice students to consider teaching, to different certification programs for a variety of professionals (Darling-Hammond and Sykes 1999). Precollege programs that occur early in the licensing process provide individuals with an opportunity to explore the teaching profession and determine their level of commitment. Certification programs are for those interested in teaching and can provide multiple entry points that span the early years in a college or university program, to evening courses that are designed for the “second career” individual. Given the current shortage of mathematics and science teachers, these programs often have financial incentives consisting of stipends to cover the cost of educational coursework or the loss of income, or free coursework that can give one access to a career in education. Those who have created these pathways into teaching consider the ease of access and the incentives to be essential in luring more individuals into the science teaching profession.

This position paper is a timely response to the increased concern about the shortage of science teachers, and the on-going dialogue regarding recruitment. In adding to the dialogue, this paper contemplates the issue of recruitment, discusses well-intentioned recruitment solutions, and suggests a potential approach to recruitment that is comprehensive and strategic. To better understand this position, we situate current and potential recruitment programs within a comprehensive and strategic orientation. Our goal for this paper is to ensure that science teacher educators do not pursue recruitment initiatives that are developed quickly in response to pressing needs, but that science teacher educators consider the critical role that recruitment plays in the process of developing a science teacher. By considering the totality of becoming a teacher, it is possible to create purposeful teacher education programs that support the initial and on-going development of a science teacher.

Considering Recruitment

Framing the Issue

We place our discussion within the early career development phase as described by Feiman-Nemser (2001), who examined the first few years of a teacher’s career and suggested a variety of tasks to ensure a sound foundation for on-going professional development. Broadly stated, these tasks are within the domains of developing an instructional repertoire, cultivating beliefs about teaching, constructing the knowledge needed for teaching, developing the metacognitive skills utilized in teaching, and participating in a professional community. Ultimately, these areas allow teachers to strengthen and structure their teaching. Table 1, which was revised to address the unique needs of science teachers and the recruitment phase (see Luft et al. 2010), presents some of Feiman-Nemser’s tasks for preservice, induction, and early career teachers. By adding a recruitment component, we bring attention to all aspects of the early career science teacher.

Table 1 Tasks for teachers of science*

There is little doubt among teacher educators that preservice teacher education strongly influences the development of a teacher (Zeichner and Conklin 2005). Each year, countless conference presentations and journal articles discuss preservice course and program formats that better support teacher development. Yet little has been shared about potential teachers’ knowledge, their prior experiences, or their reasons for entering the profession. This prelude to formal professional preparation encompasses the early and formative experiences that begin the process of teacher education. After all, this is when individuals explore their decisions to teach and initiate their foundational beliefs, knowledge, and practices that pertain to the teaching profession. The omission of this phase from a teacher education program overlooks the start of the teacher education process.

Teacher education programs attend to the development of the beliefs, knowledge, instructional repertoire, and various skills and abilities among teachers (see Cochran-Smith and Zeichner 2005; Darling-Hammond et al. 2005). Coursework provides structured experiences in classrooms, opportunities to reflect on philosophies of teaching and learning, discussions around different forms of knowledge, and activities that introduce new instructional practices that support student learning. In science education, programs and courses are often designed to reflect the National Science Education Standards (NSES) (National Research Council [NRC] 1996). While well-conceived, these experiences often take place in 2 years or less, and could be extended by initiating them during the recruitment period. Omitting the recruitment period from the early career framework ignores the importance of prior knowledge and experiences that potential teachers bring to the learning to teach enterprise (Russell and Martin 2007). When recruitment is explicitly included in early-career teacher development, there are more and earlier opportunities to challenge preconceptions and support valued orientations among preservice teachers.

Research on Recruitment

When considering the subject of recruitment, most scholars explore what is known about those who enter the teaching profession. Moore Johnson and Kardos (2008) offered several characterizations of current teacher education workforce issues. They observed that women, who historically dominated the teaching workforce, now have more diverse career opportunities. As a result, the teaching profession no longer has a supply of women. They also note that single employer careers spanning several decades are no longer the norm in the United States. With different work opportunities in the United States, most of those in the workforce engage in different occupations over their lifetime, which results in people moving in and out of teaching more frequently than before. Although these observations shed some light on short-term commitments to teaching and the teacher shortage, they do not explore why or how people become interested in the teaching profession.

Research on decisions to teach science and early recruitment experiences in science education is relatively sparse. There are a few studies and they fall into specific groups. One group of studies consists of reviews of research relating to recruitment (e.g., Coble et al. 2009; Guarino et al. 2006). The review by Coble et al. (2009) is specific to science teachers, but ultimately focuses on the topic of retaining teachers. They posit, as others have (e.g., Ingersoll 2001, 2006), that the low number of science teachers is a result of retention practices in schools, not recruitment strategies that are in place. While the retention perspective is common, this position ignores important aspects of recruitment, including the decision to become a teacher (e.g., short term commitment, trial profession, after a career), reentering the profession after taking time off for professional or family obligations (e.g., additional education, having children), and the notion that people tend not to stay in one career for an extended period of time, unlike 30 or 40 years ago.

One of the most substantial reviews in this area is Guarino et al. (2006), which reported on the research on recruitment in several areas—not just science. In examining 46 studies, they determined who entered the teaching profession, who remained in the teaching profession, the characteristics of schools that successfully recruited and retained teachers, and the policies that were important to the recruitment and retention of teachers. Some of the findings that are relevant to this paper include: females and Anglos were more likely to select a teaching career; a connection exists between a desire to serve society and the choice to pursue a career in teaching; and that mathematics and science teachers are more likely to leave the field. This broad review suggests a need to consider different orientations towards recruitment, and that recruitment should target subject-matter specialists in a more strategic fashion.

Another group of studies describes programs that recruit science teachers (e.g., Abell et al. 2006; Luft et al. 2005; Stoddart 1990). For example, Abell et al. (2006) set out to describe approaches, which effectively recruited applicants to an alternative certification science education program. They found that the Internet, career fairs, institutional reputation, and advisors were the best mechanisms to disseminate information about teacher education programs. However, they also found that the dissemination of information was only one part of recruitment. Specifically, when applicants received information about the program, they experienced unintentional and intentional gatekeepers along the way that kept them from completing their applications. Some of these gatekeepers included: the attitudes of advisors, deadlines related to paperwork, time to complete the program, financial costs to changing careers, life stage, and internet savvy.

Luft et al. (2005), in another study, followed students in a secondary science program that participated in a recruitment course. The students did not pay for the tuition associated with the 2 credit hour course. As they followed the students, Luft et al. (2005) found that students had either primary or secondary interests in teaching. The primary group had a personal interest in the science discipline that they wanted to teach, and they had positive prior learning experiences in either education or science. Additionally, students in this group tended to have previous experiences as tutors, coaches, and mentors, which sparked their interest in education. The secondary group of teachers reported an interest in a teaching career because they were waiting for other professional opportunities, they were disillusioned by a previous job or current college expectations, or they wanted vacations during the summer and holidays. In this group, teaching—interest in a specific content area or interest in working with students—was not the primary draw to the class. Instead, they were enticed by the free course and the low number of credit hours of the course. These students were also least likely to persist in the science teacher education program.

Both Abell et al. (2006) and Luft et al. (2005) capture the programmatic aspects that need to be considered when planning recruitment programs, as well as some reasons that students decide to become teachers. Based on their findings, they make suggestions for identifying potential teachers. More importantly, these studies suggest ways potential teachers can enter the profession, experiences that may serve as indicators to identify potential teachers, and how to expand the recruitment process.

A final group of papers that are not specifically about recruitment, but that can contribute to our understanding of this topic, pertain to studies on persistence (e.g., Eick 2002; Marso and Pigge 1997). The literature in this domain suggests that decisions to enter teaching can occur early in one’s educational career, an interest in teaching a content area is important, and that positive experiences with students may contribute to a decision to stay in education. Marso and Pigge (1997), for example, followed potential K-12 teachers in order to explore factors that led to persistence in the field. After 7 years, only 51% of the population had made the transition to the teaching profession. Those making the transition at the secondary level were very or almost certain about becoming teachers early in their teacher preparation program, or they decided to pursue teaching while in high school. Similarly, a study conducted by Eick (2002) compared the autobiographies that secondary science teachers wrote over time. In examining these documents, he wanted to understand trends related to persistence. Teachers in the classroom who graduated at least three years ago expressed an interest in science and teaching, and/or recognized the rewards of working with students. For these teachers, a desire to work with students impacted decisions to stay in teaching.

From our review of the recruitment literature, it appears that there is little information regarding this process. More importantly, we found a lack of longitudinal studies, few descriptions of recruitment programs, and no research on recruitment efforts. There was also no conceptual framework offered for the conceptualization of recruitment programs. If we consider recruitment to be the initial step in the science teacher education process, then there is a need for research and discussion in this area.

Rethinking Recruitment

Recruitment is often considered to be a process by which individuals are brought into the identified profession. In education, recruitment typically begins when a student is looking for information about becoming a teacher. It often occurs through advisors who provide potential teachers with the application and course requirements for the teacher education program. Some programs require potential teachers to have volunteered or worked in school settings, some provide opportunities to work in school settings, and some have no stipulations regarding prior or current work in schools. Recruitment in education ultimately depends upon who walks through an advisor’s door. It is not about drawing individuals into the profession, or initiating the process of becoming a teacher.

Recruitment should not be a separate part of the educational process. Instead, it should be as thoughtfully conceived as preservice teacher education experiences, induction programs, and professional development opportunities. It is, after all, a critical point at which people elect to enter the teaching profession. It should not be a just a course or an event, but an intellectual orientation to the field. When considering science, this orientation towards recruitment should support the most able and adept to participate in the science education profession, it should provide an experience that reveals the intellectual and personal rewards of the science teaching profession, and it should initiate the professional development process of a beginning science teacher (see Table 1). When recruitment is viewed in this way, it becomes comprehensive and strategic.

Within comprehensive and strategic recruitment, there are philosophical considerations, and purposeful and situated experiences. The philosophical considerations are the underlying assumptions that are made when it comes to finding educators. These assumptions also relate to the cognitive side of teaching, and they correspond with some of the tasks stated earlier in this paper. The philosophical considerations are responsible for creating a seamless transition between recruitment and preservice programs, and they set the tenor for the long-term development of the educational professional.

One essential philosophical consideration is the ability to reflect critically on one’s effectiveness in the science classroom. Potential science teachers should experience reflection and consider how it impacts their work with children. Russell and Martin (2007) remind the science teacher education community about the importance of reflection and how it is a critical part of learning to teach science. By fostering reflection during recruitment, potential teachers will experience a process by which to improve their instruction. While this experience will not deter or entice a student to choose a career in education, it contributes to the student’s understanding of being a science educator. Other philosophical areas that should be emphasized during recruitment can be found in the far left column in Table 1.

Purposeful experiences are often explicit opportunities that are presented to potential teachers within recruitment courses. For instance, working in a classroom allows potential science teachers to experience some of the basic decisions that teachers are confronted with each day. The tasks of taking attendance, planning for investigations, or even finding materials for laboratories are important parts of a teacher’s life that often cannot be experienced in a university or college classroom. More importantly, these experiences should take place in schools that will likely resemble the potential teacher’s first position (Boyd et al. 2009).

Situated experiences, on the other hand, are the experiences in which potential science teachers interact with the field of education. They indirectly introduce an individual to the science education profession. Such experiences may include tutoring younger children while still in high school, working with one’s own children, or serving as a teaching assistant in an undergraduate or graduate course (although, this can be explicitly connected to teaching). As individuals interact with the education profession, they are cultivating a position about teaching and a disposition towards the profession. The very experiences that potential teachers have in this area may greatly impact their decision to become a teacher (Luft et al. 2005). These types of experiences have not been the focus of recruitment and certainly are worth including in a recruitment plan.

With this view of recruitment, it is not enough to wait for potential teachers to walk through a door, or ask potential science teachers to volunteer in educational settings. Instead, recruitment should be well-planned and articulated in order to introduce potential science teachers to the philosophy and community of science education, and to cultivate the abilities and knowledge found in science education. If the individual decides not to pursue a career in science education, at least he or she will have some understanding of the profession.

The Wrong Recruitment Solutions

Adopting a more comprehensive and strategic approach requires that science educators move away from isolated and under-conceived recruitment events. Unfortunately, recruitment into the educational field is often relegated to coursework or incentives. These are really distractions in our field, as they do not result in identifying and initiating educators into a profession that focuses on student learning in science. They are attractive and enticing, but rarely productive given the amount of time and money that they consume.

In order to better understand the limits of typical recruitment approaches, we will highlight examples in this area. The first recruitment approach belongs in the category that we call “incentives.” In these situations, incentives are often used to entice people to become teachers, and they can range from funding that offsets the cost of tuition, to release time from a position to obtain a teaching certificate. These incentives are meant to ease the financial and time commitments of the certification process. Ideally, a person who has considered teaching, but not acted on this decision, will be swayed to enter the certification process when the incentives are provided.

This type of incentive can be problematic for two reasons. To begin with, it does not take into account how well a person is suited or committed to the educational environment (connected to situated experiences). Instead, it provides a supplement without considering if the potential teacher has a disposition or desire that is conducive to working with students in schools in a manner supported by the NSES (NRC 1996). For instance, in Luft and Weeks’s (2011) study of beginning secondary science teacher mobility, some teachers entered the profession because of the support they were given by their companies. As science majors, their background knowledge allowed them to fill a critical void in the teaching of chemistry, physics, and mathematics. However, after just a few weeks or months, they were disheartened that students were not anxious to hear another lecture, and they were frustrated when principals asked for more active learning environments. Eventually, the novelty of the incentives wore off and most of these teachers left the classroom.

Furthermore, incentives should align with coherent philosophies and experiences that exist between recruitment programs, preservice programs, and the first year in a classroom. A problem arises when they are offered with the requirement that new teachers work in schools that are challenging for even the most experienced of teachers, or they are available to any person in any teacher education program without consideration of the underlying goals of the program (e.g., the development of subject-specific expertise). The lack of the connection of the incentive to the success of the teacher during or after the program can result in a prepared teacher, but a mismatch between the program’s desired objectives. For example, a student may take the incentive and participate in a well-conceived teacher education program, but this program may be at odds with the actual experience of the teacher in his or her first year.

Another approach to recruitment that is neither comprehensive nor strategic entails the use of formal experiences meant to recruit students into the education profession. These experiences are often marketed as opportunities that allow students to explore aspects of teaching, and are only loosely connected to the final outcome. They ultimately belong to a class of experiences that we consider to be “educational detours.”

The reason that these experiences do not support comprehensive and strategic recruitment is simple—they are often not directly connected to the profession of teaching students in schools (purposeful experiences). An example of this type of program can be found in the tutor or teaching assistant programs in various undergraduate science courses. In these courses, students are offered teaching assistantships in the hope that that they will consider a career as a secondary science educator. Somehow, the experience of working with undergraduates during two or three courses a week is supposed to spark a passion for working in a secondary setting of 30–40 students, in five classes every day. These two learning environments are different, and they are situated within different cultures. For instance, secondary teachers may draw on existing curriculum, but they are ultimately responsible for interacting with students and altering the curriculum to ensure a better learning environment. Teaching assistants, on the other hand, have no control over the curriculum and often are given instructional guidelines that cannot be modified. Although teaching assistantships and tutoring experiences can be valuable, the differences between the two communities are significant.

It’s important to point out that these ideas do have merit; they are just underdeveloped experiences that need to be grounded in philosophical considerations, and tied to purposeful and situated experiences. When this is done, they represent an approach to recruitment that is comprehensive and strategic.

Comprehensive and Strategic Recruitment

In order to approach recruitment in a comprehensive and strategic manner, we must first define comprehensive and strategic recruitment (CSR) and adopt a framework that specifies tasks pertaining to the recruitment of science teachers and draws upon what is known about recruiting potential educators. These areas were discussed previously. To illustrate the different gradations of CSR, Table 2 highlights a few areas that should be found in recruitment programs and suggests how they are more or less like CSR. For those who are developing recruitment programs, this framework provides a mechanism to evaluate and change your approach.

Table 2 Comprehensive and strategic recruitment (CSR) decision points

To illustrate some points in our table, we provide two examples. The first comes from a standard approach to recruitment—an undergraduate course for science majors that is designed to explore the profession of science teaching. The second example is novel, but provides high school students with an opportunity to explore education informally. The examples draw upon programs that do or did exist, or that are under development. In addition, providing these types of descriptions contributes to our understanding of course and program development and configuration, which is greatly needed in the literature about recruitment and science teacher education.

Explorations in Education

The Course

Explorations in Science Education is a course for undergraduate science majors who are interested in teaching science, and is currently being offered at an institution of higher education. The course was originally developed by staff in the secondary teacher education program, which included a science teacher educator, a scientist, and a cooperating teacher who mentors science student teachers. Within this group, there was consensus that the course should focus on three areas. First, students in the course would experience the teaching of science with children in schools. While there was some discussion about the grade level, it was ultimately decided that the teaching experience would occur in fifth- and sixth-grade classrooms. The rationale behind this decision was two-fold: children in these grades often don’t get an opportunity to experience teachers with an interest in science, and this age band gave the undergraduates a chance to experience young children below grades they would be certified to teach. Moreover, later field experiences in the science teacher education program involve middle and high school students, so this experience provided some foundation for understanding how children change cognitively over time.

Second, students in the course would gain experience with the “science as inquiry” approach (NRC 1996). It was generally felt that this was an essential component of teaching science and that preservice students should experience it early and often. To facilitate this, students in the course were provided an inquiry-oriented curriculum that could be modified as needed over the course of semester by the student, the teacher, and instructors.

Third, students in the course would examine the teaching of science in a progression that followed ideas presented by Hall and Hord (2000). For students, this meant that they would approach the teaching of science as inquiry three times, each time focusing on a different aspect of instruction. During the first lesson, students would focus on the mechanics of planning the lesson. In the second teaching experience, students would focus on using a science as inquiry approach. The final lesson would be an opportunity to explore how the students learned while engaged in a science as inquiry lesson. During each teaching opportunity, students would work in pairs and receive feedback—from both the course instructors and the classroom teachers—specific to the focus of the instruction.

With these broad goals in mind, the syllabus was created and shared with other science educators, science teachers, and scientists involved in the science education program. The resulting syllabus included one class meeting a week and four  weeks in a fifth- or sixth-grade classroom in a designated partner school (one week to observe and three weeks to teach). Throughout the course, students would have opportunities to explore how they have learned science, learn about a science as inquiry instructional approach, read about the use of science as inquiry, use instructional materials that focus on science as inquiry, and receive feedback from scientists, science educators, and teachers regarding their instruction in a fifth- or sixth-grade class.

When this class was offered to students, it was cross-listed in both science and education colleges. An instructor from each college was identified to co-teach the course, which meant that both instructors were present each week to teach and to bring their different perspectives to the course. In addition to these instructors, a graduate teaching assistant was assigned to the course as part of a doctoral program of study. As a future science teacher educator, the doctoral student had an opportunity to experience the collaboration between two faculty members and build an understanding of the development of secondary science teachers.

One of the more difficult aspects related to the implementation of the course involved recruiting students into the program. Initially, the instructors of the course met with science faculty who taught large lecture sections of science. They prepared a PowerPoint slide that introduced the Explorations in Science Education course, and provided reasons that a science student may want to take this course. Over time, the instructors also met with campus advisors to discuss ways to identify potential students for the course. For instance, advisors of science majors were cued to look for prior experiences with children, such as coaching, tutoring, or teaching. The advisors were of great assistance and suggested that in the future the course also be offered at the local community college. The design of the course and the relationship between the university and local community colleges make it possible to export this course to the community college. The first few courses will be co-taught by university and community college faculty, but over time community college faculty will handle the instruction and monitor the classroom aspect of the course.

Assessment of CSR

Certainly there are aspects of CSR in this course: it is philosophically connected to the teacher education program, the instructors teach in the secondary science teacher education program, and there are purposeful field experiences connected to the classroom setting. Most importantly, students are provided opportunities to examine their own science learning experiences. However, several aspects of this course could have been more connected to the secondary teacher education program. This could be accomplished through the development of signature artifacts that accompany the student (if she or he decides to continue in science education), or through a clear discussion about how this course is connected to other learning opportunities in the teacher education program. Even though the course is underway, we can continue to refine comprehensive and strategic recruitment by addressing these areas. Rather than criticize what was done in this course, we seek to emphasize that there is always room for creating more coherent programs. Such programs are more conducive to finding teachers who are likely to persist in the field and will help preservice teachers develop important ideas about the teaching of science.

High School Students at the University

A Summer Program

Peaking an Interest in Mathematics and Science (PIMAS) is being developed to provide high school students with educational experiences at the local university. In this program there are three significant partners: (a) the local school districts, (b) the college of education, and (c) the college of science. All of these partners are essential, as high school students are recruited for a summer internship in which they are paid to work with faculty members in science and education, and to work with young children or in n informal science setting. In developing this program, science education faculty, scientists, and local teachers discussed the need for students to have positive precollege experiences in science and to learn about the teaching of science. Because the students targeted for this program are forgoing summer work, the program provides expenses for travel and food, as well as a weekly stipend.

There are three phases in the PIMAS program. The first phase involves the local schools and requires the assistance of counselors and science teachers to identify talented mathematics or science students who have a possible disposition towards teaching. Students who are representative of this group are comfortable with science or mathematics; they may have been observed helping their peers or be involved in activities such as coaching or tutoring. Once identified, students are provided with a brochure and information about the PIMAS program by a science teacher or school counselor. If interested in the program, they complete an application that requires information about prior experiences in education, current views towards an advanced degree, and experiences with science teaching and learning. Applications are reviewed and students who are selected are notified early in March or April.

The second phase involves the university and an informal science setting and takes place over the summer. Students have an option of doing a three week rotation at the university or the local science museum. No matter which location a student selects, both experiences will involve three rotations that include opportunities to work with science and education specialists and children. During their first rotation, lasting one week, students work with scientists in their laboratories or with informal educators in a museum setting. Students in a laboratory are engaged in some of the tasks common in science and attend lectures at the university pertaining to research in different science areas. Students in the informal setting work with educators to learn about the design of science programs or displays, and engage in various activities at the museum that relate directly to science.

The second rotation also lasts a week and involves working with a university science educator and master teacher to learn about teaching and learning science. During this period of time, there is an opportunity for the students to develop a science lesson that connects to their laboratory experience, or an exhibit that focuses on a science area. Throughout the week, there are periodic seminars that allow students to explore science as inquiry and the nature of science (NRC 1996). This phase is designed to allow students to explore their own experiences with science, consider how science proceeds, and build a basic understanding of how students learn science.

The final rotation, and last week of the program, involves students working with children or the general public. In the morning, students will either teach young students science at the local preschool or they will serve as a docent at the local science museum. During this time, the students engage with the public or children to help them learn key concepts and assess the effectiveness of their lesson or exhibit. In the afternoons, the students meet to debrief from the day and plan for the following day. On the last day of the week, students return to the university to reflect on their experiences with children and what they have learned about teaching science. At this time they are also provided information about undergraduate admissions and programs at the university.

The final phase of the program consists of an evaluation and the dissemination of information for the summer program during the next year. All of those involved in the program participate in the evaluation that attempts to capture the impact of students and faculty working together, students’ view of science, and the effectiveness of the design of the program. In this phase, students are also entered into a database to track their career decisions from this program through college.

Assessment of CSR

This program has several aspects of CSR, but an important aspect of this program is its coherence with the secondary teacher education program at the university. PIMAS was developed by those involved in science teacher education and it is viewed as an initial step in participating in an educational program. It also was developed to fit with the secondary science teacher education so that the experiences in PIMAS created a foundation for learning to teach science. One indicator of the coherence is alignment of goals of the recruitment program with the preservice program. If asked, all of the instructors can articulate how these programs are aligned with one another in the area of understanding key concepts in science, promoting student learning, and engaging in science as inquiry.

An area that could be expanded upon is the situated nature of this program. The students are given an opportunity to work with scientists and science educators, but more should be done to draw upon the prior knowledge of students in their understanding of learning science and how science is taught. By attending more to what students bring to the program in the area of science and science education, the knowledge that high school students have about teaching and learning science could be better cultivated. Developing this basic knowledge early in a teacher’s career may result in better practices during the first year in the classroom, as these teachers will have refined their knowledge and beliefs over a period of time.

Achieving CSR and Beyond

The science teacher education community needs to think comprehensively and strategically about the recruitment of science teacher educators. In taking this orientation, recruitment experiences need to be connected to preservice programs. When this connection is made, developing the beliefs, knowledge and practices of the prospective teachers becomes a priority in the recruitment experience (see Table 1). But this focus is not enough; we also need to consider the philosophical orientation, and the purposeful and situated experiences that are appropriate for prospective teachers. When recruitment is comprehensive and strategic, the science teacher education community will identify potential teachers who will make important contributions in and out of the classroom, and who will structure and strengthen their instruction. As a result, these early career teachers will create meaningful and robust learning experiences for students.

One of the most important aspects of CSR that will emerge in the coming years will be research that is conducted and disseminated in this area. The area of recruitment is certainly unchartered terrain in terms of understanding this aspect of the learning to teach process. There is a great need for studies that follow the decision making process of potential teachers, that explore how the recruitment process impacts one’s experience in a preservice program, that look at the development of a disposition towards continual professional development, or that document how beliefs, knowledge, and practices are cultivated. These areas, in addition to descriptions of innovative recruitment programs within a CSR framework, will be critical as science teacher educator’s grapple with creating coherent early career teacher education programs. Ultimately, we need to contemplate recruitment with the same intensity that we discuss preservice, induction, and inservice science teacher development.

Finally, the conversation about recruitment is important among science teacher educators for policy related reasons. If we can emphasize the crucial role of recruitment, the political conversation may move beyond a call for more teachers in the pipeline. Policy makers will begin to see that teacher education is a complex process and will develop policies that better support the identification and growth of science teachers. These policies in turn will challenge science teacher educators to build more comprehensive and innovative programs in order to identify and inspire potential science teachers.


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This paper was made possible, in part, by National Science Foundation grants #833311 and #0550847. The findings, conclusions, opinions herein represent the views of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of personnel affiliated with the National Science Foundation.

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Correspondence to Julie A. Luft.

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Luft, J.A., Wong, S.S. & Semken, S. Rethinking Recruitment: The Comprehensive and Strategic Recruitment of Secondary Science Teachers. J Sci Teacher Educ 22, 459 (2011).

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  • Recruitment
  • Secondary science teachers
  • Science teacher education