Preservice teachers in early childhood (pre-K–4) education teacher preparation programs typically experience content-specific pedagogy courses that operate in isolation from each other. In addition, preservice teachers are rarely given the opportunity to learn about integrative teaching in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). In this article, the authors describe how Millersville University of Pennsylvania, a midsized regional public university in the Mid-Atlantic Region, addressed this issue in their teacher preparation program by creating an integrative STEM (iSTEM) minor that provided preservice teachers with five additional courses that explored how to implement STEM in early childhood classrooms in developmentally appropriate ways with a design-based pedagogy. This article introduces the program, including the specific coursework that preservice teachers engage in as well as other programmatic features that contribute to the success of the minor in increasing the confidence and skill levels of future teachers in successful STEM integration techniques. Photographs and artifacts are included to provide readers with a clearer picture of the types of learning activities and assignments in which students engaged. The article concludes with qualitative comments from students who participated in this program.
As an important aspect of teacher expertise, noticing skills need to be learned and practiced in teacher education programs. Although noticing literature has reported on the effectiveness of videos with associated scaffolding structures and the significant role that practical experiences play in teachers’ development of noticing skills, research on ways to support prospective teachers’ noticing in both video-based and authentic classroom settings in the field of science education is scarce. Building on teacher noticing research and the critical incident framework, this article describes a model that engages a group of prospective elementary teachers in the practice of noticing first in a 2-week, online, video-based training module and then in dynamic and complex classrooms when they attend a practicum associated with a science methods course. Detailed descriptions of the model, prospective teachers’ learning outcomes, and thoughts and considerations for implementing the model are shared. Differences between prospective teachers’ noticing journal entries prior to the video-based training module and immediately after, along with their noticing patterns in the practicum classrooms, show the development of prospective teachers’ noticing skills during the semester. Factors that were found to impact prospective teachers’ noticing in video-based and authentic classroom settings include: (a) using the adapted critical incident framework as a scaffolding guideline, (b) providing continuous feedback on prospective teacher noticing journals, and (c) having opportunities to observe science instruction in practicum classrooms.
Preservice elementary teachers bring many strengths to science teaching but may not get extensive support in learning to work toward equity and justice in their science teaching. Drawing on four approaches to equity from a recent report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (2022), this article presents a practical framework for helping preservice elementary teachers in this challenging work. The article first explores each approach, suggesting interpretive frames and teaching moves that preservice teachers could use in moving from a relatively abstract call for equity to making concrete decisions in elementary science instruction. A practical framework is developed based on that exploration, with a description of how the framework has been used instructionally in an elementary science methods class. Then, the article presents the results of a pilot study of 31 preservice elementary teachers’ use of a pilot framework, illustrating how these participants’ lesson plans readily reflected teaching moves focused on increasing children’s opportunity and access to science learning and increasing achievement, representation, and identification but less often reflected moves oriented toward broadening what counts as science or bringing science and justice together. The article concludes by noting that research is needed to further explore the utility of this framework and how equity can be supported in science teacher education more generally. The article also urges the field to develop representations of practice and elementary science curriculum materials that would support teachers in this challenging, lifelong work to advance equity and justice.
Studies have shown that teacher candidates enrolled in teacher preparation programs, particularly those in early childhood and elementary certification tracks, do not feel comfortable with science content or feel confident in their ability to teach science effectively as they enter student teaching. The Periodic Tile Project is an interdisciplinary project and performance assessment that takes an essential component of the chemistry curriculum that is often treated as a static tool to be memorized and brings the dynamic facets of the elements to life through the integration of science and art. Integrating science and art in performance-based assessments has been shown to increase engagement, self-motivation, and sense of ownership and enhance expression and communication skills in K–12 students. It can provide the same benefits to science teacher candidates. This article describes the use of the Periodic Tile Project with teacher candidates to explore the elements in a fun, meaningful, and memorable way.
Many elementary teachers in the United States receive little to no STEM-focused professional learning during an average school year. When elementary teachers do participate in professional learning opportunities focused solely on STEM teaching and learning, they are often positioned as novices in need of improvement or instruction rather than colearners and cocontributors to the learning community. In this article, I describe the STEM Teacher Leader Collaborative as one way to address current challenges in STEM-focused professional learning and as an infrastructure for responsive teacher learning. I highlight the STEM Teacher Leader Collaborative as a model of a responsive professional learning network with radical hope, describing its guiding principles and the meanings teachers make of their experience within the network.
In this article, we describe an assignment that we have developed in our Engineering for Elementary Teachers course. The assignment was designed to address social justice within the engineering design process. In this course, preservice teachers (PSTs) develop an engineering project that integrates six criteria of engineering for social justice into their lesson plan as a way to make the social relevance of engineering more apparent. Beyond having teachers develop an engineering lesson plan, the goal is to increase awareness of the social justice dimension of engineering as a strategy for integrating culturally relevant pedagogies into engineering lessons. In this article, we share several lessons our PSTs have developed as well as insights that they gained about the relationship between engineering and social justice. We also share some of the challenges that the PSTs faced and the insights that we gained about integrating social justice criteria into engineering lessons.
This article explores the use of food as a focal topic in an environmentally focused curriculum course for elementary teacher candidates (ETCs) to help them personally connect to the content. Environmental topics are interdisciplinary; therefore, as we prepare ETCs to teach them, consideration of the social dimensions of science is imperative. This article discusses how the design and implementation of a unit on food allowed for exploration of elementary science and social studies environmental content with the goal of developing ETCs’ environmental identities. A focus unit on food as a daily practice that connects ETCs to the environment is described to highlight the personal salience of environmental issues and how ETCs impact and are dependent on the environment. Concept maps of daily activities that connect them to the environment were used as initial and final assessments for the course, along with an oral reflection with the instructor on their final maps. Examples of initial maps, final maps, and comments from students’ oral reflections show that ETCs deepened their understanding of how salient environmental issues were to their daily life activities, such as eating. Implications of the implementation on how to increase ETCs’ explicit connections with their identity positions relative to their experiences of and responses to environmental issues and proposed solutions are discussed.
To engage elementary preservice teachers enrolled in a science methods course in authentically doing science, I developed an assignment focused on the NGSS scientific practices. Unless preservice teachers engage in some type of authentic science, they will never understand the scientific practices and will be ill-equipped to communicate these practices to their future students or engage future students in authentic science. The two main objectives for this assignment were for the PSTs to gain a more realistic understanding of how science is done and gain confidence in conducting investigations incorporating the scientific practices to implement in their future classrooms. To obtain evidence about how these objectives were met, I posed the following questions: What do PSTs learn about using the practices of science from this experience, and what do they predict they will implement in their future teaching relevant to authentic investigations using the scientific practices? Quotes from preservice teachers demonstrating their (a) learning relevant to doing science, (b) their struggles doing this type of investigation, and (c) predictions of how they might incorporate the scientific practices in their future teaching are included. The assignment and the challenges encountered implementing this assignment in a science methods course are also described.
Although demand for online courses and degree programs is high, trends in online instruction point to lecture- and discussion-heavy courses as well as a general wariness towards online science education. This article outlines the challenges of online teaching and describes a pedagogical model for e-learning that leverages multimedia to support experiential learning in science teacher education. End-of-course evaluations are used as data sources to inform reflections and conclusions about the affordances of the model. Examples of how the model is being used in an online science methods course are provided.
Integrated STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education is becoming increasingly common in K–12 classrooms. However, various definitions of STEM education exist that make it challenging for teachers to know what to implement and how to do so in their classrooms. In this article, we describe a series of activities used in a week-long professional development workshop designed to elicit K–12 teachers’ conceptions of STEM and the roles that science, technology, engineering, and mathematics play in STEM education. These activities not only engage teachers in conversations with peers and colleagues in a professional development setting but also enable teachers to reflect on their learning related to STEM education in the context of creating lesson plans and considering future teaching. In addition to describing these activities, we share suggestions related to how these activities may be used in venues outside of professional development.