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A Unique Multi Disciplinary Stem K 5 Teacher Preparation Program

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Teacher and Counselor Professional Development

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.108.1 - 15.108.21

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Paper Authors

author page

Stephen O'Brien The College of New Jersey

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

A unique multidisciplinary STEM K-5 teacher preparation program

Introduction K-5 school years are crucial, setting the framework for all subjects as well as critical thinking skills. However, in a formative timeframe for elementary-school aged children the number of K-5 teachers that are educated with a specialization is substantially underrepresented. A lack of STEM subject matter expertise and experiences, coupled with high anxiety and low self-efficacy can lead to low teacher effectiveness and lack of interest from the K-5 students. At our institution, The College of New Jersey (TCNJ), it was felt that the Department of Technological Studies, housed within the School of Engineering, was well positioned to provide a unique K-5 academic major by combining the T&E with the M&S components of STEM, resulting in a program breadth that matches well the breadth of skills needed by a highly skilled K-5 teacher.

Such a program was established at TCNJ in 1998 and is formally referred to as the Math- Science-Technology or MST program. The program has substantial requirements in all STEM areas, and takes a truly integrated- the only undergraduate STEM major for K-5 teacher preparation in the USA. Currently, there are ~160 MST majors. All students in elementary, early childhood, special education, and deaf & hard of hearing education can elect the MST major as their required As opposed to post-service activities, a pre-service STEM teacher preparation seemed most appropriate since (i) it provides a systemic solution to the K-5 1 - and (iii) a pre-service environment provides 4 years of time, time enough for important and synergistic areas to be covered in depth. Two key initial goals for the program were to achieve a higher number of STEM-trained K-5 teachers and to bring valuable contextual experiences to our future teachers, and subsequently their K-5 students, through substantial and relevant T&E content. If these goals are achievable then the MST program could have a long-term beneficial impact on student outcomes in STEM and non-STEM subjects at the National level, impacting grades K-5(8), and eventually 9-20+.

Many articles have discussed the qualities of effective teachers.1-3 A list of qualities provided by Darling-Hammond is reproduced below. 4

1) strong general intelligence and verbal ability that help teachers organize and explain ideas, as well as to observe and think diagnostically; 2) strong content knowledge- up to a threshold level that relates to what is to be taught; 3) knowledge of how to teach others in that area (content pedagogy), in particular how to use hands-on learning techniques (e.g.- lab work in science and manipulatives in mathematics) and how to develop higher-order thinking skills. 4) an understanding of learners and their learning and development including how to assess and scaffold learning, how to support students who have learning differences or difficulties, and how to support the learning of language and content for those who are not already proficient in the language of instruction.

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