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Faculty Research Spotlight

Li Feng, Finance and Economics

Collaborating for STEM Teacher Recruitment and Retention


Dr. Feng (front row, 4th from left) with her class
Dr. Feng (front row, 4th from left) with her class

“This research has the potential to raise awareness of the challenges STEM teachers face in high-need settings and to suggest policy solutions that address these challenges.”

Dr. Feng at Brookings Centenary-Brookings Institution
Dr. Feng at Brookings Centenary-Brookings Institution

Named for the American physicist who invented integrated circuits and founded the Intel Corporation, the Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program was established in 2002 by the National Science Foundation. Its mission is to encourage talented science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) majors and professionals to become K-12 mathematics and science teachers. But how effective has this program been? To study this question, a collaborative team of six universities, led by Texas State, was awarded a four-year, $1.16 million grant from NSF, beginning September 2020.

“Collaborative Research: Retention, Persistence, and Effectiveness of STEM Teachers in High-need School Districts—An Investigation of the NSF Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship” explores how to build a reliable, high-quality supply of STEM teachers for high-need school districts. This work will contribute to the national need for educating a robust and diverse STEM workforce by analyzing whether scholarships provided by the Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program help to alleviate STEM teacher shortages and, if so, how.

Co-PI Dr. Close with Noyce students
Co-PI Dr. Close with Noyce students

This research has the potential to raise awareness of the challenges STEM teachers face in high-need settings and to suggest policy solutions that address these challenges. In addition, the project will contribute to understanding the influence of the Noyce program on the STEM teacher workforce.

The project also seeks to provide insight on how to create partnerships between local school districts and higher education institutions. The collaborating institutions are in two populous states, Texas and Florida, and together serve both rural and urban school districts and cover multiple STEM disciplines.

Dr. Feng in classroom
Dr. Feng in classroom

As Principal Investigator and Principal Director (PI/PD) for this collaborative project, I will lead a core research team that includes Dr. Michael Hansen of the Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institution and Dr. David Kumar at Florida Atlantic University. We will conduct both quantitative and qualitative research to determine the impact of the Robert Noyce Scholarship on recruiting and retaining teachers in high-need school districts across the nation.

Dr. Feng at Stanford University Graduate School of Education, 100-year celebration
Dr. Feng at Stanford University Graduate
School of Education, 100-year celebration

The core research team will work with four collaborating Noyce institutions. Dr. Hunter Close, associate professor of physics and co-PI on a different Noyce grant, will lead the effort here at Texas State. Other collaborating investigators and institutions include Dr. Ann Cavallo and Dr. David Sparks at the University of Arlington, Dr. John Pecore at the University of West Florida, and Dr. Maria Fernandez at Florida International University.

 

The key to the success of a large interdisciplinary team spread across several states is that we are open to learning new perspectives and to discussing and learning from each other. When we work together as a team, we are able to tackle bigger societal challenges and bring all our expertise to solve the puzzle.

We also work with an illustrious advisory board: Dr. Michael Marder, co-director of U-Teach at the University of Texas at Austin; Dr. Kathy Hann, professor of math education at California State University East Bay; Dr. Lisa Libidinsky, principal at the Pembroke Pines Charter Elementary School in Florida; and Ms. Talia Milgrom-Elcott, executive director and founder of 100Kin10.