Improving Science Teacher Support Systems

Dr. Sissy WongDr. Sissy Wong, Assistant Professor of Science Education in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction knows how important it is to prepare middle and high school science teachers for the classroom.  This has become evident with her selection by the National Association for Research in Science Teaching (NARST),an international organization that focuses on improving science teaching and learning through research, to receive the 2012 JRST Award for a paper titled: Beginning Secondary Science Teacher Induction: A Two-year Mixed Methods Study.  JRST, or Journal of Research in Science Teaching, is ranked 4th in impact factors for education and education research, and selects only one paper per year to receive this top honor. This award indicates that the paper received the highest ratings of all articles published in Volume 48 (2011)  by JRST.  Wong had the pleasure of working with five other authors on the project and received the honor at the NARST Awards Luncheon in Indianapolis, Indiana on March 27, 2012 (see photo below right). 

Wong with fellow authors ath the NARST Awards Luncheon
Wong and her fellow authors from left to right: Ira Ortega, EunJin Bang, Sissy Wong, Julie Luft, Jonah Firestone and Krista Adams at the NARST Awards Luncheon in Indianapolis, Indiana on March 27, 2012.

"I am incredibly honored to have received this prestigious award. I already felt it was a great achievement to have our work published in JRST, but to have this journal decide that our publication was the most significant of the year is amazing." said Wong.  "I am truly humbled by receiving this award, especially so early in my career. I will always consider this a highlight in my academic life, but I will also use it as inspiration and motivation to keep pursuing my work in understanding the development and contexts associated with beginning science teachers." 

Wong explained that this National Science Foundation (NSF) funded research project was implemented to study the impact of different induction programs on beginning secondary science teachers in five states across the United States.  The study followed the teachers longitudinally over a five-year time span, but the paper that was honored focused on the beliefs, pedagogical content knowledge, and instructional practices of the teachers as they navigated through the first two years in the classroom. This paper also included information on the contributions and constraints of the teachers' development over this time frame.

Wong also stressed the importance of the project for the College of Education.  "Having a greater understanding of the support systems in place for beginning secondary science teachers, or any science teacher, will help the College of Education better prepare and support preservice and beginning in-service teachers," said Wong.  "Also, this paper reveals the complex process of new teacher induction, and what is learned can better inform the development and implementation of new teacher support systems in the future."

Wong’s research interests include: beginning secondary science teacher beliefs, nature of science knowledge,  and practices. She also studies recruitment, induction, and persistence of beginning science teachers at the elementary and secondary levels. 

Since 1928, NARST has promoted research in science education and the communication of knowledge generated by the research. The ultimate goal of NARST is to help all learners achieve science literacy. NARST promotes this goal by: 1) encouraging and supporting the application of diverse research methods and theoretical perspectives from multiple disciplines to the investigation of teaching and learning in science; 2) communicating science education research findings to researchers, practitioners, and policy makers; and 3) cooperating with other educational and scientific societies to influence educational policies.