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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Role of a Summer Field Experience in Fostering STEM Students' Socioemotional Perceptions and Social Justice Awareness as Preparation for a Science Teaching Career

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This study aims to better understand the role that teacher exploration programs play in supporting science teacher education recruitment and retention in ways that are consistent with social justice goals. Utilizing reflective and descriptive journal data from 126 STEM undergraduate students engaged in an intensive and immersive four-day internship that took place in summer 2015 and summer 2016, this study examines how a well-integrated field experience prepares students to consider a possible future science teaching career in high needs schools. Findings indicate that students who participated in this summer field experience program developed classroom pedagogical knowledge and skills, as well as heightened interpersonal, socioemotional understanding with respect to students. As preparation for the possibility of entering a social-justice focused credential teaching program, the internships also exposed the STEM undergraduates to high-need schools, fostered interns' social justice awareness, and provided an opportunity for them to reflect experientially – in terms of their own educational privileges and from their field time in the classrooms – on educational inequities confronting schools and students. These experiences allowed the STEM interns to more deeply appreciate the importance of connecting with students and developing positive and constructive relationships with them, a valuable foundation for those who may choose to pursue a formal social-justice oriented teacher education program.

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