The strengths and weaknesses of the Montana Step Program as reported by participants
Burton, Anna M.
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A telephone survey was conducted of the 1994-2000 STEP NSF Teaching Scholars in order to gather demographic information and current employment on the scholars as well as to gain information about the scholars' perceptions of the STEP program structure. The survey also examined the scholars' perceptions of various supports and barriers to the successful completion of the scholars' undergraduate teaching program. The survey responses (109 out of the 127 scholars) were collected and summarized. Eighteen scholars were not contacted due to the fact that their current address and/or telephone numbers were not listed or unknown. The gender representation of the respondents was 69% female and 31% male. Approximately 50% of the scholars were Native American. No other minorities were represented among the scholars completing the surveys. There were nine (9) different tribal affiliations reported among the Native American scholars. A large number of Native American scholars (69%) reported being parents, which was in contrast to the relatively low number of non-minority scholars reporting themselves as parents (22%). When asked to describe barriers encountered while pursuing a higher education degree, the scholars cited financial struggles (48%) most frequently. Among Native American scholars, adjustment to a new environment was also cited quite often (40%). Information pertaining to support systems both formal and informal, was also gathered in the survey. For formal support, 77% of the scholars reported the STEP Project was a helpful campus support. Individual staff (65%) and individual students (51%) was also a highly regarded support systems among the scholars. The informal support systems acknowledged were family (88%), friends (73%), and for Native American scholars, spiritual support (82%). Scholar involvement in professional development opportunities and service projects was assessed via the survey instrument. The majority of scholars indicated that they had been offered the opportunity to participate in professional development opportunities as well as service projects and that these opportunities were beneficial. Participation in service projects was encouraged among the majority of the scholars. The results of the telephone survey of the NSF teaching scholars indicated that the scholars program has been quite influential and successful in supporting these teaching candidates through financial assistance as well as through academic, cultural, and emotional support systems. Thirty-six percent of the graduated scholars are currently involved in an educational program or as a teacher in a school system. It is recommended that continued support from the STEP Program can be modified or shifted to address the needs of the scholars from the information that was gathered from the survey.