June 14, 2009
June 14, 2009
June 17, 2009
K-12 & Pre-College Engineering
14.126.1 - 14.126.17
A SySTEMic Solution: Elementary Teacher Preparation in STEM Expertise and Engineering Awareness Abstract
Research shows that most K-5 teachers are typically required to complete only minimal coursework in science and mathematics, which constrains their knowledge, efficacy, and confidence for teaching STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) content. Additionally, elementary teachers, like much of the general public, have limited comprehension about the relationship between STEM concepts and engineering fields and the kind of work and societal contributions made by engineers. Yet, elementary school is a critical time in which students develop foundational understanding of STEM concepts, career options, and inquiry learning.
To address students’ STEM needs and limited teacher preparation, the Idaho SySTEMic Solution research project was implemented by the College of Education and College of Engineering at Boise State University, in partnership with the Meridian Joint School District and educational products and services company PCS Edventures! Funded by the U.S. Department of Education, the Idaho SySTEMic Solution is a STEM education initiative designed to advance achievement and confidence among elementary-age learners and their teachers. Phase I of the Idaho SySTEMic Solution, which is the subject of this report, focuses on teachers, with the goal of increasing their STEM content knowledge, instructional practices, awareness of engineering, and overall confidence for teaching STEM concepts. Phase I began with a three-day summer institute for 39 elementary teachers at seven schools representing socioeconomic diversity in the largest school district in Idaho.
To measure the results of the workshop, several data collection methods were utilized, for pre- and post-intervention assessment. Repeated measures analyses revealed significant teacher increase in confidence to teach STEM curriculum (p < .01), positive increase in engineering attitudes (p < .01) and increase in STEM teaching efficacy (p < .01) over the course of the three- day workshop. We attribute these changes to the content and context of the workshop instruction.
Can three days of activities have a profound impact on how we perform in our professional capacity? It is a common expectation that K-12 teachers will engage in relatively brief professional development courses or workshops with the anticipation that the exposure to activities and content will improve their capacity to teach. Is this a realistic expectation? As most have experienced and would contend, learning takes time.1 This is particularly true when learning content that is unrelated to prior knowledge.1, 2 Maintaining this perspective would suggest that brief interventions are unlikely to achieve the desired goals of increased knowledge, comprehension, and retention of new or ambiguous content. However, research also shows that engaging in tasks that are relevant, novel, and applicable increase learner motivation which can
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