Journal of Science Teacher Education

, Volume 25, Issue 7, pp 785–806 | Cite as

Development of Teachers as Scientists in Research Experiences for Teachers Programs

  • Courtney Faber
  • Emily Hardin
  • Stacy Klein-Gardner
  • Lisa BensonEmail author


This study examined the teachers' development as scientists for participants in three National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Teachers. Participants included secondary science and math teachers with varying levels of education and experience who were immersed in research environments related to engineering and science topics. Teachers’ functionality as scientists was assessed in terms of independence, focus, relationships with mentors, structure, and ability to create new concepts. Hierarchies developed within these constructs allowed tracking of changes in functionality throughout the 6-week programs. Themes were further identified in teachers’ weekly journal entries and exit interviews through inductive coding. Increases in functionality as scientists were observed for all teachers who completed both the program and exit interview (n = 27). Seven of the 27 teachers reached high science functionality; however, three of the teachers did not reach high functionality in any of the constructs during the program. No differences were observed in demographics or teaching experience between those who did and did not reach high functionality levels. Inductive coding revealed themes such as teachers’ interactions with mentors and connections made between research and teaching, which allowed for descriptions of experiences for teachers at high and low levels of functionality. Teachers at high functionality levels adjusted to open-ended environments, transitioned from a guided experience to freedom, felt useful in the laboratory, and were self-motivated. In contrast, teachers at low functionality levels did not have a true research project, primarily focused on teaching aspects of the program, and did not display a transition of responsibilities.


Research Experiences for Teachers (RET) Teacher professional development Functionality STEM education Science practice 



This work was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation (RET sites, Awards EEC-0602040, EEC-0338092, EEC-0742871, and EEC-0742296.). The authors wish to acknowledge Julie Martin and Carol Wade for their assistance in collecting the data, and Cheryl Jennings for her assistance in analyzing the data.


  1. Brown, S., & Melear, C. (2007). Preservice teachers’ research experiences in scientists’ laboratories. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 18, 573–597. doi: 10.1007/s10972-007-9044-9
  2. Bullough, R. V., Knowles, J. G., & Crow, N. A. (1992). Emerging as a teacher. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  3. Cooper, M. M. (2013). Chemistry and the next generation science standards. Journal of Chemical Education, 90, 679–680.Google Scholar
  4. Feldman, A., Divoll, K., & Rogan-Klyve, A. (2008). Research education of new scientists: Implications for science teacher education. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 46, 442–459. doi: 10.1002/tea.20285
  5. Garet, M. S., Porter, A. C., Desimone, L., Birman, B. F., & Yoon, K. S. (2001). What makes professional development effective? Results from a national sample of teachers. American Educational Research Journal, 38, 915–945.Google Scholar
  6. Grove, C. M., Dixon, P. J., & Pop, M. M. (2009). Research experiences for teachers: Influences related to expectancy and value of changes to practice in the American classroom. Professional Development in Education, 35, 247–260. doi: 10.1080/13674580802532712
  7. Huang, R. (2010). RQDA: R-based qualitative data analysis. R package version 0.2-0. Retrieved from
  8. Hunt, D. E. (1975, Spring). Person-environment interaction: A challenge found wanting before it was tried. Review of Educational Research, 45, 209–230.Google Scholar
  9. Hunter, A., Laursen, S., & Seymour, E. (2006). Becoming a scientist: The role of undergraduate research in students’ cognitive, personal, and professional development. Science Education, 91, 36–74. doi: 10.1002/sce
  10. Klein, S. S. (2009). Effective STEM professional development: A biomedical engineering RET site project. International Journal of Engineering Education, 25, 532–533.Google Scholar
  11. Klein-Gardner, S. S., Johnston, M., & Benson, L. (2012). Impact of teacher-developed curriculum on their teaching strategies and students. Journal of Pre-College Engineering Education Research, 2(2), 21–35.Google Scholar
  12. Klein, S. S., & Harris, A. H. (2007). A user’s guide for the legacy cycle. Journal of Education and Human Development, 1(1), 1–16.Google Scholar
  13. Loucks-Horsley, S., Henson, P. W., Love, N., & Stiles, K. E. (1998). Designing professional development for teachers of science and mathematics. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.Google Scholar
  14. Mezirow, J. (2000). Learning as transformation: Critical perspectives on a theory in progress. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  15. National Research Council. (1996). The role of scientist in the professional development of science teachers. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.Google Scholar
  16. NGSS Lead States. (2013). Next generation science standards: For states, by states. Washington, DC: Achieve. Retrieved from
  17. Pop, M. M., Dixon, P., & Grove, C. M. (2010). Research experiences for teachers (RET): Motivation, expectations, and changes to teaching practices due to professional program involvement. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 21, 127–147. doi: 10.1007/s10972-009-9167-2
  18. Research Experiences for Teachers (RET) in Engineering and Computer Science. (2014). Retrieved from
  19. Rogers, M. P., Abell, S., Lannin, J., Wang, C., Musikul, K., & Barker, D. (2007). Effective professional development in science and mathematics education: Teachers’ and facilitators’ views. International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education, 5, 507–532.Google Scholar
  20. Southerland, S. A., Granger, E., Enderle, P., Dentzau, M., & Roseler, K. (2013). Mapping the influence of research experiences for teachers: Essential features for shaping classroom inquiry. In Proceedings of the National Association of Research in Science Teaching Annual International Conference.Google Scholar
  21. Thompson, C. L., & Zeuli, J. S. (1999). The frame and the tapestry: Standards-based reform and professional development. In L. Darling-Hammond (Ed.), Teaching as the learning profession: Handbook of policy and practice (pp. 341–375). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  22. Trotter, Y. D. (2006, Winter). Adult learning theories: Impacting professional development programs. The Delta Kappa Gamma Bulletin, 72(2), 8–13.Google Scholar
  23. Wenglinsky, H. (2000). How teaching matters: Bringing the classroom back into discussions of teacher quality. Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service.Google Scholar
  24. Westerlund, J. F., García, D. M., Koke, J. R., Taylor, T. A., Mason, D. S., & Garc, D. M. (2002). Summer scientific research for teachers: The experience and its effect. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 13, 63–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Association for Science Teacher Education, USA 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Courtney Faber
    • 1
  • Emily Hardin
    • 2
  • Stacy Klein-Gardner
    • 3
  • Lisa Benson
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Engineering and Science EducationClemson UniversityClemsonUSA
  2. 2.Pickens Middle SchoolPickensUSA
  3. 3.Department of Biomedical EngineeringVanderbilt UniversityNashvilleUSA

Personalised recommendations