How can K-12 educators encourage high school students to consider a career of teaching STEM?

Compiled by Jane Jackson.  April 2016


I recommend these three resources from Illinois, for STEM teachers, administrators, professional associations, state departments of education.  (The booklet and brochure should be adapted for each state.)


Carl Wenning is the chief author; his physics teacher preparation program has been 2nd largest in the nation for many years.  Carl organized Modeling Workshops for 5 years.


Recruiting the Next Generation of Middle and High School Science Teachers


A Career in Science Teaching? Think About It!,


Repairing the Illinois high school physics teacher pipeline: Recruitment, preparation and retention of high school physics teachers

   Carl J. Wenning, Department of Physics, Illinois State University, Normal, IL 61790-4560.

   J. Phys. Tchr. Educ. Online 2(2), November 2004


[I quote from the article: Survey results show that]  in-service teachers do NOT appear to actively recruit their students to become teachers; at best, it appears that most teachers model appropriate teaching practices in the hope (or expectation, it’s not clear) that students will self-select careers in the teaching of science. ... Survey results also show that physics teachers do not consciously involve their prospective teacher candidates in teaching activities or situations that are important to their decisions to become physics teachers.


[Below, I quote recommendations in the article, based on research that is discussed earlier in the article.]


The Committee recommends that in-service teachers of physics and physical science should be encouraged to:

* continue to indirectly recruit students through excellent science teaching

* directly recruit their students to careers in science teaching using a low-key approach

* talk with all students about the need for science teachers

* appeal to the altruism of students

* talk about the joys of teaching

* talk about teaching as a profession

* emphasize the day-to-day applicability of physics

* get students involved in a wide variety of teaching experiences

* involve students in out-of-class science activities

* conduct science outreach activities such as interclass and inter-school competitions

* host a peer-oriented science club, science fair, physics day, science olympiad

* conduct science outreach activities for younger children


The Committee recommends these actions of ALL science teachers at ALL levels – elementary school through university level. Many people who select specific careers as doctors, lawyers, scientists, and teachers are found to first have given thought to these and similar professional careers in early childhood. Elementary school teachers, therefore, should think in terms of planting “seeds” with respect to careers in science teaching in the hope that these seeds will be nurtured and then harvested by high school science teachers as well as community college and university faculty. In addition, attitude changes are required among science teachers at all levels. We should discourage the attitude that says “excellent students are too good for teaching” and should encourage teaching as a worthy goal for even the very best of students. Attitudes should be changed from “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach!” to “Those who can, teach!”


In light of the fact that physics (and possibly other science) teacher recruitment is being broadly ignored, the Committee recommends that a generic guide booklet for science teacher recruitment be prepared on the basis of the finding of this report ...


The question naturally arises about which students to recruit.  ... Research suggests that selectivity plays an important role on teacher success and student achievement, especially at the secondary level (Rice, 2003). Prospective candidates for recruitment should, therefore, be selected on the basis of personal abilities and attributes most consistent with those of a good science teacher. The abilities extend to scholarship, leadership, and character. The Committee recommends that the following types of students should be directly recruited for careers in science teaching if they exhibit a preponderance of the following traits or have the potential for developing them:

* altruistic personality

* self-confidence, self-awareness and self control

* good academic ability in science

* high interest in science

* interest in learning via active inquiry

* good “stage presence”

* high degree of internal motivation

* enjoys teaching experiences

* strong work ethic

* strong sense of personal integrity (ethical conduct, honesty)

* extrovert with good “people skills”

* leadership skills

* a helper of peers

* an after-school “hanger on”


In short, students to be recruited will express interest in science and demonstrate character traits similar to those promoted in the nationally acclaimed Character Counts! school program    trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, a sense of fairness, caring for other, and good citizenship. (Character Counts!, 2004. )



Links to these and other resources by Carl Wenning are at Scroll to the bottom.