Eliciting and Refining Conceptions of STEM Education: A Series of Activities for Professional Development

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Dare, E. A. & Ring-Whalen, E. A. (2021). Eliciting and refining conceptions of STEM education: A series of activities for professional development. Innovations in Science Teacher Education, 6(2). Retrieved from https://innovations.theaste.org/eliciting-and-refining-conceptions-of-stem-education-a-series-of-activities-for-professional-development/

by Emily A. Dare, Florida International University; & Elizabeth A. Ring-Whalen, St. Catherine University

Abstract

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.

Introduction

Current policy documents have called for K–12 science classrooms to employ integrated science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) strategies that provide a more authentic learning environment for students (Honey et al., 2014). Although the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS; NGSS Lead States, 2013) and state standards that include engineering (Moore et al., 2013) strongly support the incorporation of engineering into science classrooms, the nature of engineering and how to effectively integrate it into science teaching is typically outside of most teachers’ knowledge bases (Cunningham & Carlsen, 2014). Although national policy documents strongly support the integration of STEM education, there remains disagreement on models and effective approaches for integrated STEM instruction (e.g., Breiner et al., 2012; Moore et al., 2020; Martín‐Páez et al., 2019).

Because of this disagreement, there is a need to better understand what integrated STEM education is in order to implement it in practice. The literature reveals a wide variety of approaches that include: STEM as a replacement term for science and mathematics (Breiner et al., 2012; Sanders, 2009), STEM as a pedagogical shift toward an integrated approach (Breiner et al., 2012; English, 2016; Honey et al., 2014; Kelley & Knowles, 2016), curriculum changes that reflect the work of STEM professionals (Breiner et al., 2012; Labov et al., 2010; Sanders, 2009), and curricula that emphasize engineering design challenges (Bryan et al., 2015). Despite these variations in definitions, there are common elements across these approaches to STEM, such as the inclusion of an engaging, real-world context (e.g., Breiner et al., 2012; Brown et al., 2011; Moore et al., 2020); explicit connections between science, technology, engineering, and mathematics and modeling those connections as they would be observed in STEM careers (e.g., English, 2016; Herschbach, 2011; Honey et al., 2014; Kelley & Knowles, 2016; Moore et al., 2020); the intentional development of 21st-century competencies (e.g., Bryan et al., 2015; Honey et al., 2014); and an emphasis on student-centered pedagogies (e.g., Bryan et al., 2015; Breiner et al., 2012; Labov et al., 2010; Sanders, 2009). In short, integrated STEM education is a complex combination of content and pedagogy, which makes it difficult to define.

This creates an additional challenge for teachers who are asked to implement integrated STEM. Professional development (PD) is one way to assist teachers not only in learning integrated STEM education instructional practices but also in helping them conceptualize what integrated STEM education means within their particular context. This is especially important given that “PD programs have the best chance of impact on teacher and student outcomes when the goals of the PD program are aligned with policies at the school, district, and state levels, as well as existing teacher beliefs regarding STEM” (Johnson & Sondergeld, 2015, p. 204). By eliciting teachers’ conceptions of integrated STEM education at the beginning of a STEM-focused PD through drawing conceptual models, facilitators can help teachers move from undefined or vague models to better defined models (Dare et al., 2019; Ring et al., 2017); similar activities have been included in preservice teacher education (Radloff & Guzey, 2016). Furthermore, teachers can reference these drawings during the PD to help them conceptualize integrated STEM curricula and recognize when their conceptual model has changed.

In our previous work analyzing teacher’s conceptual models of STEM, we found that K–12 science teachers’ understanding of what STEM education is varied greatly (Ring et al., 2017). These models ranged from simply using STEM as an acronym to prioritizing science or engineering to focusing on real-world problem-solving. We found that teachers’ conceptions reflected the variety of definitions that exist in the literature (e.g., Bybee, 2013) and that these conceptions can change through PD, curriculum writing, and implementation. Our prior research allowed us to meaningfully redesign previously used activities and design new activities for use in PD settings that would allow teachers to confront their conceptions of integrated STEM education, reflect on those conceptions, and collaborate with others to better define what STEM education is in their specific teaching context.

The work presented here highlights activities designed to elicit STEM conceptions during a week-long PD workshop on integrated STEM education. Informed by our prior work, the purpose of these activities was to elicit teachers’ conceptions of integrated STEM, share and reflect on those conceptions with others, use those conceptions as a foundation to guide the writing of curricular materials for classroom use, and ultimately develop new conceptions of STEM education through reflection. These activities may be used in a variety of settings, and we offer suggestions for alternative implementation.

 

Professional Development Context

The work described here is part of a larger 4-year funded project that seeks to improve the quality of K–12 integrated STEM education in science and engineering classrooms through the development and dissemination of a classroom observation protocol for integrated STEM instruction. The authors are two of the five principal investigators (PIs) on the project. As part of the project, three separate week-long (5-day) PD workshops were offered near the home institutions of project personnel, which include a large Southeastern city (Site 1) and a large Midwestern city (Site 2). One secondary (middle and high school) PD workshop was offered at Site 1, and two separate PD workshops were offered at Site 2: one elementary (K–5) and one secondary (high school). The professional development activities were planned jointly by project personnel from both sites, allowing for site-specific modifications as necessary. The project PIs designed and facilitated the PD with the assistance of several graduate research assistants and science and STEM coordinators from the local school and district. Within the context of the larger project, these workshops provided teachers with a foundational knowledge of integrated STEM; examples of integrated STEM activities, lessons, and units; and dedicated time to develop their own curriculum materials for classroom use. The teachers in these workshops were then expected to participate in classroom observations when they implemented their developed lessons (typically one or two 50-minute class periods) or curricular units (anywhere from week-long units to units that spanned several weeks) the following school year. The observations also allowed project personnel to continue supporting teachers’ learning and implementation of integrated STEM education because observations were followed by post-observation coaching conversations.

Participants. A total of 106 participants across the two sites participated in the three PD workshops (Table 1). Of these participants, 21 teachers participated in the secondary PD at Site 1; 58 teachers, two principals, and five instructional coaches participated in the elementary PD at Site 2; and 15 teachers, two administrators, and three instructional coaches participated in the secondary PD at Site 2. These teachers came from six different school districts. Two of these were large urban school districts, three were large suburban districts, and one was a smaller, rural district. The secondary teachers taught across multiple content areas: There were 12 middle school science teachers, eight biology/life science teachers, seven chemistry teachers, four physical science or physics teachers, one environmental science teacher, one photography teacher, one agriculture teacher, and one orchestra teacher.

 

Table 1

Professional Development Participants

PD participant descriptors across two sites

Our integrated STEM education framework. During the PD, we elicited teachers’ conceptions of integrated STEM education, exposed teachers to different approaches to integrated STEM instruction, actively engaged these teachers in example integrated STEM activities, and supported teachers in developing integrated STEM curricular materials for use in their classrooms. The definition of integrated STEM education that guided our work was adopted from Kelley and Knowles (2016) who defined integrated STEM education as “the approach to teaching the STEM content of two or more STEM domains, bound by STEM practices within an authentic context for the purpose of connecting these subjects to enhance student learning” (p. 3). This definition was selected due to its emphasis on student learning through context and making connections between disciplines and its flexibility as to how many domains were needed to “count” as integrated STEM. To reflect the states’ science standards and district initiatives, activities in the PD fore-fronted science and engineering, but mathematics and technology were integrated into the activities throughout the week.

In addition to the broad definition of STEM education shared above, we used a project-developed integrated STEM framework to guide the workshops’ activities. This framework consists of 13 components (Table 2) identified in the literature as being important within effective integrated STEM instruction (e.g., Breiner et al., 2012; Bryan et al., 2015; Martín‐Páez et al., 2019; Moore et al., 2020). These components have guided the development of the larger project’s observational protocol, which was still under development during the time of the PD. These components were grouped into three separate categories: STEM Concepts and Practices, STEM Pedagogies, and Contextualizing Learning. The concepts of “communicating understanding” and “collaboration” were identified as components that cut across the other three categories. Each of these 13 components was explicitly explored before, during, or immediately following at least one example of the integrated STEM activities in the PD, which is described below.

 

Table 2

Components of Integrated STEM Education Used in Professional Development

Descriptions of components of integrated STEM Education used in PD

Professional development design. The overall design of the PD utilized best practices to actively engage teachers in hands-on integrated STEM instruction as learners, reflect on their learning individually and with others, try out new practices through curriculum work while receiving feedback from peers and facilitators, receive feedback on their teaching, and reflect on their teaching (e.g., Banilower et al., 2007; Capps et al., 2012; Garet et al., 2001; Luft et al., 2020; Supovitz & Turner, 2000); the last of these two practices were incorporated into the coaching support during the school year. The purpose of the PD was not to improve content knowledge but to develop teachers’ understanding of STEM education as a pedagogy, which requires developing a conceptual understanding of integrated STEM as a whole. The collaboration with the teachers’ schools and districts ensured that our PD met their needs (Garet et al., 2001; Johnson & Sondergeld, 2015; Luft et al., 2020). Teachers were asked to come to the PD with curricular materials that they currently used in their classrooms. During the PD, we engaged teachers in modifying those curricular materials to transition them from a science-only focus to one that reflected integrated STEM. Teachers used project-supplied composition notebooks to respond to key reflective prompts throughout the week, which included explicit reflections on STEM conceptions, and to keep track of their own curricular ideas.

 

Conceptualizing Integrated STEM Education in Professional Development

As with most PD workshops, teachers were first introduced to the logistics of the week and what the following school year would look like in relation to the larger project (e.g., continued support through observations and coaching). Before introducing teachers to our STEM framework and a mix of facilitator-designed and published integrated STEM activities, we elicited teachers’ conceptions of STEM education through a series of activities and discussions. The sections that follow detail the activities used, which were revisited throughout the week as a means to reflect upon and revise teachers’ thinking related to STEM. These activities provided a foundation for teachers’ learning throughout the week. Although examples of integrated STEM activities are provided, the purpose of this manuscript is to share activities related to eliciting teachers’ STEM conceptions and to describe how teachers used these conceptions during reflection and curriculum-writing portions of the PD.

Initial STEM conceptions drawings. At the beginning of Day 1, we tasked teachers with creating individual, sketched representations of what integrated STEM education was to them. Our previous work has shown that teachers enter into professional development spaces with their own conceptions of STEM education (Ring et al., 2017). Since the intention of this activity was to elicit each teacher’s conception, we did not provide a definition or give any instruction prior to this exercise. After teachers drew their conceptions, they shared them with their self-selected table teams (approximately four or five members). As they shared, we asked teachers to identify similarities and differences among the various drawings they examined that were then shared in whole-group discussion. This exercise served to demonstrate the variety of conceptions that existed. Following this activity, the teachers responded to two prompts on the backside of their drawing: (1) “How does your STEM model compare to the other models at your table,” and (2) “after seeing other models, would you make any changes to yours?” Once teachers had individually responded to these prompts, they were asked to keep their drawings out for reference during the next activity.

STEM poster activity. After sharing their conceptions about integrated STEM, each teacher was provided with four sticky notes. We asked teachers to write down their ideas related to the roles of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics in STEM education, each on a separate sticky note. Those who wanted to add more than one idea for each area used additional sticky notes. Teachers then added their sticky notes to large poster papers corresponding to each area (science, technology, engineering, or mathematics) hanging around the room. We placed the teachers in four teams, and each team was assigned to one of the large poster papers. Because of the large size of the elementary group at Site 2, there were multiple sets of posters to keep the teams small. At their assigned posters, each team read the sticky notes and then arranged them into team-developed categories that were labeled with marker.

Once each team had created and labeled their categories, teams rotated from poster to poster. While reading through the other posters, we asked teachers to reflect upon what they noticed about the identified categories, note any changes they would make to those categories, and identify how the categories across the posters related to one another, if at all. Once all teams had read through the other three posters, we facilitated a large group discussion in which the teachers shared their reflections, specifically focusing on the relationships across the posters. Teachers were then asked to individually reflect upon what it means to integrate science, technology, engineering, and mathematics using their personal conceptual models from the preceding activity by responding to the following prompt: “Using your model, explain what it means to integrate S-T-E and M.” Finally, the teachers shared their ideas about the integration of S-T-E and M with their small groups, and commonalities among ideas were recorded as a whole group. The large S-T-E-M posters remained in the workshop space for the remainder of the week, and after copies were made, the teachers held on to their individual conceptions of STEM education models, which were used throughout the rest of the week as described below.

Approach to integrated STEM activities. Each day of the PD focused on one or more of the 13 components of our integrated STEM framework that were highlighted in that day’s activities (an example from Site 1 in shown in Table 3). Because of the complexity of STEM education, it was important to slowly introduce these components within the context of example activities. Teachers engaged in a variety of examples of integrated STEM activities as learners followed by discussions about how to implement them into their own classrooms. Many of these activities were developed by project personnel, but some were adopted from published curricula. Appropriate state standards were shared to demonstrate alignment with curricular expectations. For each activity that was introduced, teachers first participated in the activity as students would. This allowed the teachers to encounter the same challenges that their own students might face in the classroom. Afterward, project personnel facilitated whole-group and small-group discussions to allow teachers to reflect both as learners and as educators. Each of the activities included built-in reflection time around the components emphasized during that activity, and each day concluded with a final, deeper reflection related to the days’ focal components of STEM. These reflections were completed individually and collaboratively and were recorded in the teachers’ STEM notebooks to document their growing conceptions of integrated STEM. As part of this, teachers spent time modifying their curriculum materials to reflect what they learned about integrated STEM education throughout the day. Teachers were encouraged to work with others who were focusing on similar science content and discuss ideas with workshop facilitators. The facilitators would frequently prompt teachers to refer back to their conception of STEM drawing as a formative self-assessment of their learning.

 

Table 3

Example Workshop Schedule From Site 1

Example PD schedule divided into morning and afternoon activities across 5 days

For example, after the STEM conceptions activities on Day 1, we introduced teachers to our project’s STEM framework and focused on one component: collaboration. To do this, we used the marshmallow challenge, a popular activity used to emphasize the importance of planning and communicating with peers (Wujec, 2010). After doing the activity as students would and discussing why collaboration was important in this activity, teachers were asked to use their STEM conceptions drawings to decide if this was an integrated STEM activity and, if not, how they might make it one. Teachers were quick to point out that the activity does not explicitly call for the inclusion of science content. They argued the value of an activity like this to engage students in collaboration and problem-solving skills, which could be the basis for introducing engineering. Even without a clear “right answer” of what STEM education is, teachers were able to think critically about what they valued. To this end, teachers reflected on whether or not their initial STEM models were robust enough to determine the difference between a STEM activity that helps students learn STEM content and one meant to develop STEM skills and practices. To end the day, we asked teachers to examine their curricular materials and reflect on where they would include collaboration. As facilitators, we checked in with teachers as they worked and encouraged them to reflect upon the presence of collaboration in their STEM conceptions drawings, modifying them as needed, and then use those drawings to guide their curriculum writing. Although collaboration had been included in some teachers’ initial models, this focus on collaboration prompted others to consider this as a new addition to their model.

This pattern of being introduced to target components of STEM education each day, participating in an example STEM activity, reflecting on that activity, and working on curriculum was repeated on Days 2–4. Day 2 emphasized the importance of real-world problems, STEM-specific technologies, and communicating understanding within the context of integrated STEM activities. As part of this, engineering and the engineering design process were introduced to teachers through an introductory engineering activity (e.g., creating tabletop hovercrafts in the Site 1 PD and reviewing Engineering is Elementary in the Site 2 elementary PD). As on Day 1, the last activity of the day included reflection on the key components and a review of their Day 1 STEM conceptions, modifying them as needed, to work on their curriculum materials.

By Day 3, we had provided the teachers with foundational knowledge of integrated STEM education, arming them with the tools needed to participate in a fully integrated STEM curriculum unit. We used the Save the Penguins curriculum (Schnittka, 2009) to engage teachers in examining the relationship between heat transfer and the engineering design challenge of creating a well-insulated habitat for penguins. This curriculum unit allowed us to emphasize the following components of our integrated STEM framework.

  • Real-world problems: The design challenge was framed broadly by global climate change.
  • STEM content integration: After first learning about the three forms of heat transfer through a series of hands-on, inquiry-based activities, teachers were tasked with using their knowledge of heat transfer to complete the design challenge.
  • Multiple solutions: Teachers worked in small groups to develop prototypes, build and test those prototypes, and then modify their designs to rebuild and retest their prototypes.
  • Evidence-based reasoning: Teachers were tasked with explaining their design solutions using evidence collected through a variety of hands-on activities.

At the end of the activity, we facilitated discussions about these components in connection to Save the Penguins as well as how these elements might be highlighted in (or added to) activities the teachers already use in their classrooms; teachers also made suggestions about alternative contexts that their students might find more relatable than penguins, such as making insulated dog houses. Once more, teachers were asked to consider how this activity compared to their own developing conceptions, modify their conceptions as needed, and work on their selected curriculum materials.

Day 4 started with revisiting the importance of multiple solutions and emphasizing the importance of allowing students to learn from their first designs. We also spent time reflecting on all of the activities from the week and how they could each be presented in ways that developed students’ interest in STEM careers. The afternoon was spent entirely on curriculum development. Because the teachers had been introduced to all 13 components of the integrated STEM framework, they were tasked with incorporating these into their curricular materials, using their modified conceptions and written reflections to guide their work. Many teachers chose to work with peers, even though they were not working on the same materials.

To end the week, Day 5 was spent primarily in unstructured curriculum work time during which teachers worked with each other and the workshop facilitators to continue modifying their curricular materials. We reminded teachers of the 13 components of STEM used during the workshop and encouraged them to use their STEM conceptions, written reflections, and the posters that still hung on the walls as they worked. After sharing the progress on the curricular materials and reviewing logistics for the coming year (including how to share curricular materials within the group), we ended the PD by repeating the STEM conceptions activity.

Revisiting the STEM conceptions activity. In the afternoon of Day 5, we asked teachers to examine their conceptual models and written reflections from Day 1 before drawing a new model of STEM education. We reminded teachers that (just as before) there were no wrong answers. If they felt that their model had not changed, they were not obligated to change it; however, they were required to draw it on a new sheet of paper. Similar to the Day 1 activity, teachers shared their new models with their tablemates and identified similarities and differences across the different models present at their tables. Additionally, we asked the teachers to compare their own two models. We specifically asked them to consider how their own models had changed (if at all) and how they planned to implement their model during the upcoming school year. We asked them to write their responses to the following questions on the back of their second model.

  1. “How does your STEM model from today compare to your previous model?”
  2. “Describe how your STEM thinking has both changed and stayed the same. What do you think or know that is new?”
  3. “What will be your approach to implementing this model into your classroom?”

Although these written reflections were done individually, teachers also shared their reflections with their peers during a whole-group discussion. These final models were collected and copied by facilitators.

 

Outcomes of STEM Conceptions Activities

Unsurprisingly, we observed that participating teachers came to the PD with different ideas related to what STEM education is. Because of this, teachers were able to engage in meaningful discussions with their peers to consider multiple perspectives. For instance, some teachers focused on the presence of multidisciplinary content, some focused on the engineering design process, and others focused on framing STEM as real-world problem-solving. These different models showcased how STEM was conceptualized by teachers as a mix of content and pedagogical considerations. The reflections that arose out of conversations with peers allowed teachers to identify similarities and differences across their conceptions of STEM, positioning them to understand that STEM does not have to be just one thing. Furthermore, they recognized that there were common features valued across the models and that no model was “wrong.” In reviewing the Day 1 reflections, we found that 75% of the 106 teachers noted that they would want to make changes after seeing other models, stressing the importance of multiple “correct” models. This supports the rest of the work during the week in which teachers engaged in activities that encouraged them to revise their thinking. The workshop activities emphasized the constant revision of thinking surrounding STEM education because each activity focused on different components of STEM education from our STEM education framework. At no point did we, as facilitators, suggest that there was one way to “do STEM.” By pointing to their Day 1 models throughout the week, we encouraged teachers to consider whether or not their model was still an accurate representation of their understanding of STEM education and to refine their thinking in the process.

The repeated STEM conceptions activity on Day 5 allowed teachers to consider their learning over the course of the week and think forward to the upcoming school year. Some teachers chose not to modify their drawings, but side-by-side comparisons revealed that 91% of the teachers made changes, many of which included the addition of pedagogical elements from the PD activities. For example, one high school teacher’s drawing changed from a complex model that focused on content to a simple model of STEM education that showcased STEM education as a strategy (Figure 1). One elementary teacher shifted from thinking STEM was equivalent to a linear engineering design process to recognizing that STEM includes real-world problems, collaboration, and multiple solutions (Figure 2). Through these side-by-side comparisons, it is clear that most teachers’ conceptions changed. Furthermore, the inclusion of some of the 13 components of our STEM framework in teachers’ models on Day 5 indicates that teachers saw value in the framework we shared. Because our own STEM framework shared with teachers was not prescriptive, teachers were able to highlight which components were of importance to them in their models.

 

Figure 1

Day 1 and Day 5 conceptions of STEM education from a high school teacher.

Drawings of conceptions of STEM with written reflections

 

Figure 2

Day 1 and Day 5 conceptions of STEM education from an elementary teacher.

Drawings of conceptions of STEM with written reflections

 

Although the first STEM conceptions activity is a modification of an activity that we had previously used in workshops, the “Roles of S-T-E-M” large poster activity was new (Figures 3, 4, 5, and 6). We designed this activity based on our experience in observing how science, technology, engineering, and mathematics are used in lessons tagged as integrated STEM such that often S, T, E, and M are present but not necessarily well-defined or explicitly connected to one another (Dare et al., 2019; Ring-Whalen et al., 2018). The third reflective prompt on Day 1 (“Using your model, explain what it means to integrate S-T-E and M”) aimed to help teachers consider how these roles might play out in their own models. By allowing teachers to first consider the various roles and purposes of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, they were better prepared to consider how these disciplines might work together when considering an integrated STEM approach in their models. For instance, the Site 1 secondary science teachers conceptualized science in STEM education as the intersection of theory and practice that leads to innovation (Figure 3). They also positioned technology in STEM education as assisting with teaching strategies that provide students with hands-on applications to collect data and communicate. This activity explicitly asked teachers about the connections between S, T, E, and M, which is often not captured in drawn models alone (Dare et al., 2019) but is important when considering lesson planning and implementation.

 

Figure 3

Role of science in STEM poster by the secondary science teachers at Site 1.

Poster showing how practices and theory come together to generate innovation in science

Figure 4

Role of technology in STEM poster by the secondary science teachers at Site 1.

Poster show components of technology: data gathering, teaching strategies, application/hands-on, communication, presentation

Figure 5

Role of engineering in STEM poster by the secondary science teachers at Site 1.

Poster showing components of engineering: principles, problem-solving practices, specific outcomes

Figure 6

Role of mathematics in STEM poster by the secondary science teachers at Site 1.

Poster showing components of mathematics: data, logic, quantification, calculating, defining math

Facilitator Reflection on Activities

As facilitators, this set of activities allowed us to activate the different conceptions of STEM education teachers held before they engaged in STEM activities when they might assume there is one way to “do STEM.” Additionally, they allowed teachers to work with others to understand that STEM education is not just one prescribed way of teaching that has to be conducted in the same manner all the time. Through activities designed to elicit STEM conceptions, teachers engaged in rich conversations that allowed them to explore a variety of conceptions of STEM, thus, leading to a deeper understanding of what STEM can look like in different contexts. These conversations and explicit reflections on the integrated STEM activities helped the teachers further develop their own conceptions of STEM, as indicated by the changes from Day 1 to Day 5. We were able to help the teachers actualize and refine their conceptions of STEM as we guided the them in curriculum writing throughout each day of the PD.

Furthermore, these activities allowed teachers to confront what roles science, technology, engineering, and mathematics play in STEM education in their own classrooms. Our previous work noted that teachers’ interpretations of models of STEM failed to show how to “do STEM” (Dare et al., 2019), so these activities required teachers to specifically consider the mechanisms through which they might integrate across various content areas. This helped the teachers identify places where science, technology, engineering, and mathematics can be integrated more naturally, which resulted in conversations about what, specifically, that integration can look like. These conversations were important in helping the teachers develop curricula for their own classrooms that not only included two or more of the STEM disciplines but also included various elements addressed in the PD, such as collaboration and solving real-world problems.

Implementing these activities was not without challenges. Some teachers began the week looking for the “correct” way to “do STEM” and were initially disappointed that they would not be provided one answer, nor would they be blindly led through examples of integrated STEM curricula. Our approach required teachers to consider their own ideas and reflect on their learning. Additionally, the conceptions elicitation activities were inherently challenging and cognitively demanding tasks because they forced individuals to interrogate something that they were not necessarily confident about. Reminding the teachers that there was no wrong answer was key in eliminating some of their fears associated with being wrong; these fears were further ameliorated by sharing ideas in small groups first before opening up to the large group. Our openness to discussion, constant challenging of ideas, and adoption of high-quality PD practices (e.g., peer collaboration, engaging in activities as students, and dedicated curricular work time) allowed us to push teachers to question others and reflect on their own learning, which proved successful.

Teacher feedback solicited on the last day demonstrated that the overall design of the PD was well-received. Although differences existed across the three workshops, the positive feedback was echoed. For instance, one secondary science teacher from Site 1 shared:

 

The theory combined with the modeling followed by action and reflection made the PD very effective. I feel very confident in my ability to integrate STEM in my classroom because of the format in which this PD was presented. I also loved the time that we had to develop units and lessons that integrate STEM.

 

Site 2 was no different. The positive feedback from secondary and elementary teachers at Site 2 was very similar. One secondary science teacher shared the following:

 

Thank you for a great week of learning. I was very happy with the workshop and what I learned. Thank you for the time to work on lessons/units that are applicable to what we will do. The time to chat with others helped A LOT!

 

Elementary teachers at Site 2 also valued their new knowledge:

 

The time to collaborate and discuss our learning with colleagues was incredibly helpful. It allowed us to take the new information and apply it to our individual units, schools, etc. It also allowed us to digest the information and ask questions in a safe environment.

 

From these examples, it is clear that the ability to directly have a take-away product that teachers could immediately use in their classrooms and the conversations with others was beneficial.

Furthermore, these types of activities allowed us to address these very visual conceptions in the moment and to refer back to them throughout the PD to reflect on and refine their understanding of STEM. As they participated in the workshop activities, teachers often referenced the large poster papers that hung in the room as a reminder of different ways to incorporate each of the STEM disciplines while they worked on developing their own lesson plans. Additionally, when teachers requested assistance during curriculum writing, we frequently asked them to revisit their conceptions and consider if they needed modification or how they were being actualized in their planning. Full curriculum materials and observations are still being collected as part of the larger project; however, we anticipate that this may result in more cohesive and more well-integrated lessons and units. Future research will address how teachers’ conceptions of STEM were actualized in their curricular materials and implementation.

 

Implications for Future Practice

These activities were used primarily with inservice teachers, but they can also be used with administrators, preservice teachers, and teacher educators to better parse out what STEM education means and how to enact it. In schools and districts moving to become STEM schools or STEM districts, these activities could be used to develop a unified vision for STEM within the school or district, which is important for making forward progress. Participating administrators then have an opportunity to gain a realistic sense of what is being asked of their teachers when tasked with developing integrated STEM lessons and implementing them in the classroom. The conversations these activities promote are useful in helping to define STEM education within bounded contexts.

These activities can also be used for research, the primary motivation in the initial creation of the STEM conceptions activity (Ring et al., 2017). Post-PD comparisons of the teachers’ conceptions on Day 1 of the PD to their conceptions on Day 5 of the PD can help facilitators measure and evaluate the impact of the professional development’s activities, which aligns with our own future research plans. This research could then allow facilitators to adjust the activities to better serve the needs of professional development participants. Understanding the conceptions of STEM education held by teachers will allow administrators, professional development facilitators, and others involved in improving STEM education to better support teachers implementing STEM in their classrooms.

Acknowledgments

This work was supported by the National Science Foundation under Award Numbers 1854801, 1812794, and 1813342. The findings, conclusions, and opinions herein represent the views of the authors and do not necessarily represent the view of personnel affiliated with the National Science Foundation.

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Johnson, C. C., & Sondergeld, T. A. (2015). Effective STEM professional development. In C. C. Johnson, E. E. Peters-Burton, & T. J. Moore (Eds.), STEM road map: A framework for integrated STEM education (pp. 203–210). Routledge.

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Luft, J. A., Diamond, J. M., Zhang, C., & White, D . Y. (2020). Research on K-12 STEM professional development programs: An examination of program design and teacher knowledge and practice. In C. C. Johnson, M. J. Mohr-Schroeder, T. J. Moore, & L. D. English (Eds). Handbook of research on STEM education (pp. 361–374). Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780429021381-34

Martín‐Páez, T., Aguilera, D., Perales‐Palacios, F. J., & Vílchez‐González, J. M. (2019). What are we talking about when we talk about STEM education? A review of literature. Science Education, 103(4), 799–822. https://doi.org/10.1002/sce.21522

Moore, T. J., Johnston, A. C., & Glancy, A. W. (2020). STEM integration: A synthesis of conceptual frameworks and definitions. In C. C. Johnson, M. J. Mohr-Schroeder, T. J. Moore, & L. D. English (Eds). Handbook of research on STEM education (pp. 3–16). Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780429021381-2

Moore, T. J., Tank, K. M., Glancy, A. W., Kersten, J. A., & Ntow, F. D. (2013). The status of engineering in the current K-12 state science standards (research to practice). Paper presented at the 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, GA. https://doi.org/10.18260/1-2–22619

NGSS Lead States. (2013). Next generation science standards: For states, by states. National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/18290

Radloff, J., & Guzey, S. (2016). Investigating preservice STEM teacher conceptions of STEM education. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 25(5), 759–774. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10956-016-9633-5

Ring, E. A., Dare, E. A., Crotty, E. A., & Roehrig, G. H. (2017). The evolution of teacher conceptions of STEM education throughout an intensive professional development experience. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 28(5), 444–467. https://doi.org/10.1080/1046560X.2017.1356671

Ring-Whalen, E., Dare, E., Roehrig, G., Titu, P., & Crotty, E. (2018). From conception to curricula: The role of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics in integrated STEM units. International Journal of Education in Mathematics, Science and Technology, 6(4), 343–362. https://www.ijemst.net/index.php/ijemst/article/view/257

Sanders, M. (2009). STEM, STEM education, STEMmania. The Technology Teacher, 68(4), 20–26.

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From Theory to Practice: Funds of Knowledge as a Framework for Science Teaching and Learning

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St. Clair, T. & McNulty, K. (2021). From Theory to Practice: Funds of Knowledge as a Framework for Science Teaching and Learning. Innovations in Science Teacher Education, 6(2). Retrieved from https://innovations.theaste.org/from-theory-to-practice-funds-of-knowledge-as-a-framework-for-science-teaching-and-learning/

by Tyler St. Clair, Longwood University; & Kaitlin McNulty, Norwood-Norfork Central School

Abstract

The phrase "funds of knowledge" refers to a contemporary science education research framework that provides a unique way of understanding and leveraging student diversity. Students’ funds of knowledge can be understood as the social relationships through which they have access to significant knowledge and expertise (e.g., family practices, peer activities, issues faced in neighborhoods and communities). This distributed knowledge is a valuable resource that might enhance science teaching and learning in schools when used properly. This article aims to assist science methods instructors and secondary classroom teachers to better understand funds of knowledge theory and to provide numerous examples and resources for what this theory might look like in practice.

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References

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Moje, E. B., Ciechanowski, K. M., Kramer, K., Ellis, L., Carrillo, R., & Collazo, T. (2004). Working toward third space in content area literacy: An examination of everyday funds of knowledge and discourse. Reading Research Quarterly, 39(1), 38–70. https://doi.org/10.1598/RRQ.39.1.4

Moll, L. C., Amanti, C., Neff, D., & Gonzalez, N. (1992). Funds of knowledge for teaching: Using a qualitative approach to connect homes and classrooms. Theory Into Practice, 31(2), 132–141. https://doi.org/10.1080/00405849209543534

Saifer, S., Edwards, K., Ellis, D., Ko, L., & Stuczynski, A. (2011). Culturally responsive standards-based teaching: Classroom to community and back (2nd ed.). Corwin Press.

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Supporting Middle and Secondary Science Teachers to Implement Sustainability-Themed Instruction

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Mark, S. L. (2021). Supporting Middle and Secondary Science Teachers to Implement Sustainability-Themed Instruction. Innovations in Science Teacher Education, 6(1). Retrieved from https://innovations.theaste.org/supporting-middle-and-secondary-science-teachers-to-implement-sustainability-themed-instruction/

by Sheron L. Mark, PhD, University of Louisville, College of Education and Human Development, 1905 S 1st Street, Louisville, KY 40292

Abstract

In today’s society, we face many complex environmental, social, and economic challenges that can be addressed through a lens of sustainability. Furthermore, our efforts in addressing these challenges must be collective. Science education is foundational to preparing students with the knowledge, skills, and dispositions to engage in this work in professional and everyday capacities. This article describes a teacher education project aimed at preparing middle and secondary preservice and alternatively certified science teachers to teach through a lens of sustainability. The project was embedded within a middle and secondary science teaching methods course. Work produced by the teacher candidates, including case-study research presentations and week-long instructional plans, is described.

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References

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Using Critical Case Studies to Cultivate Inservice Teachers’ Critical Science Consciousness

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Crabtree, L.M., & Stephan, M. (2021). Using critical case studies to cultivate inservice teachers’ critical science consciousness. Innovations in Science Teacher Education, 6(1). Retrieved from https://innovations.theaste.org/using-critical-case-studies-to-cultivate-inservice-teachers-critical-science-consciousness/

by Lenora M. Crabtree, University of North Carolina Charlotte; & Michelle Stephan, University of North Carolina Charlotte

Abstract

Culturally relevant and responsive science instruction includes support of students’ socio-political, or critical, consciousness. A lack of experience with marginalization, and limited attention to critical perspectives in science content and methods courses, however, may leave educators ill-equipped to address intersections of diversity, equity, and science instruction. Curriculum is needed that supports critical consciousness development among science teachers and their students. We describe an innovation, a critical inquiry case study, designed to address this essential facet of culturally relevant pedagogy. Design research methodology guided our development of an interrupted, historical case study employed as part of a four-day professional development workshop for secondary science teachers. In addition to provoking critical awareness and agency, the case study was designed to highlight ways that science itself may create or perpetuate inequities, or serve as a tool for liberation, a content-specific construct we call critical science consciousness. Implementation of the critical case study and participating teachers’ interactions with case materials are described. In addition, we highlight learning goals developed to support critical science consciousness and provide insights into ways teachers exhibited growth in each area. Teachers report heightened understanding of the role science plays in perpetuating inequities, transformations in ways they think about systemic inequities that impact students and families, and growing awareness of the possibilities inherent in teaching science for liberation.

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References

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Critical Response Protocol: Supporting Preservice Science Teachers in Facilitating Inclusive Whole-Class Discussions

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Ellingson, C.L., Wieselmann, J.R., & Leammukda, F.D. (2021). Critical response protocol: Supporting preservice science teachers in facilitating inclusive whole-class discussions. Innovations in Science Teacher Education, 6(1). Retrieved from https://innovations.theaste.org/critical-response-protocol-supporting-preservice-science-teachers-in-facilitating-inclusive-whole-class-discussions/

by Charlene L. Ellingson, Minnesota State University, Mankato; Dr. Jeanna Wieselmann, Caruth Institute for Engineering Education; & Dr. Felicia Dawn Leammukda, Minnesota State University, St. Cloud

Abstract

Despite a large body of research on effective discussion in science classrooms, teachers continue to struggle to engage all students in such discussions. Whole-class discussions are particularly challenging to facilitate effectively and, therefore, often have a teacher-centered participation pattern. This article describes the Critical Response Protocol (CRP), a tool that disrupts teacher-centered discussion patterns in favor of a more student-centered structure that honors students’ science ideas. CRP originated in the arts community as a method for giving and receiving feedback to deepen critical dialog between artists and their audiences. In science classrooms, CRP can be used to elicit student ideas about scientific phenomena and invite wide participation while reducing the focus on “correct” responses. In this article, we describe our use of CRP with preservice science teachers. We first modeled the CRP process as it would be used with high school students in science classrooms, then discussed pedagogical considerations for implementing CRP within the preservice teachers’ classrooms. We conclude this article with a discussion of our insights about the opportunities and challenges of using CRP in science teacher education to support preservice teachers in leading effective whole-class discussion and attending to inclusive participation structures.

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References

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Using Student Actors and Video-Mediated Reflection to Promote Preservice Teachers’ Ability to Enact Responsive Teaching

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Chan, K.K.H., Yu, S.K.K., & Sin, R.K.H. (2021). Using student actors and video-mediated reflection to promote preservice teachers’ ability to enact responsive teaching. Innovations in Science Teacher Education, 6(1). Retrieved from https://innovations.theaste.org/using-student-actors-and-video-mediated-reflection-to-promote-preservice-teachers-ability-to-enact-responsive-teaching/

by Kennedy Kam Ho Chan, The University of Hong Kong; Steven Ka Kit Yu, The University of Hong Kong; & Roy Ka Ho Sin, The University of Hong Kong

Abstract

This paper describes a teaching intervention that promotes secondary preservice science teachers’ (PSTs’) ability to enact responsive teaching. The intervention uses a modified version of rehearsals (Lampert et al., 2013) to enhance PSTs’ ability to enact a core practice: eliciting, interpreting, and using student thinking. In the intervention, PSTs have opportunities to decompose the core practice represented in classroom video clips and to approximate the practice in rehearsals. The intervention has three unique features: (1) student actors who simulate the complex classroom interactions inherent in responsive classrooms; (2) opportunities to view and analyze how different teachers (i.e., own, peers, and unfamiliar teachers) enact the core practice; and (3) opportunities for PSTs to reflect upon their own rehearsal videos filmed from multiple vantage points in the same classroom using innovative video technology such as point-of-view (POV) camera goggles. We describe what we have learnt from analyzing the PSTs’ views on the intervention in terms of their perceived learning from the intervention as well as whether and how the unique features of the intervention supported their learning. We also share the lessons learned and advice that we would like to share with other science teacher educators, especially in terms of how to better use and integrate innovative video technology such as POV footage into the teaching interventions to promote responsive teaching.

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The Framework for Analyzing Video in Science Teacher Education and Examples of its Broad Applicability

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Arias, A., Criswell, B., Ellis, J.A., Escalada, L., Forsythe, M., Johnson, H., Mahar, D., Palmeri, A., Parker, M., & Riccio, J. (2020). The framework for analyzing video in science teacher education and examples of its broad applicability. Innovations in Science Teacher Education, 5(4). Retrieved from https://innovations.theaste.org/the-framework-for-analyzing-video-in-science-teacher-education-and-examples-of-its-broad-applicability/

by Anna Arias, Kennesaw State University; Brett Criswell, West Chester University; Josh A. Ellis, Florida International University; Lawrence Escalada, University of Northern Iowa; Michelle Forsythe, Texas State University; Heather Johnson, Vanderbilt University; Donna Mahar, SUNY Empire State College; Amy Palmeri, Vanderbilt University; Margaret Parker, Illinois State University; & Jessica Riccio, Columbia University

Abstract

There appears to be consensus that the use of video in science teacher education can support the pedagogical development of science teacher candidates. However, in a comprehensive review, Gaudin and Chaliès (2015) identified critical questions about video use that remain unanswered and need to be explored through research in teacher education. A critical question they ask is, “How can teaching teachers to identify and interpret relevant classroom events on video clips improve their capacity to perform the same activities in the classroom?” (p. 57). This paper shares the efforts of a collaborative of science teacher educators from nine teacher preparation programs working to answer this question. In particular, we provide an overview of a theoretically-constructed video analysis framework and demonstrate how that framework has guided the design of pedagogical tools and video-based learning experiences both within and across a variety of contexts. These contexts include both undergraduate and graduate science teacher preparation programs, as well as elementary and secondary science methods and content courses. Readers will be provided a window into the planning and enactment of video analyses in these different contexts, as well as insights from the assessment and research efforts that are exploring the impact of the integration of video analysis in each context.

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References

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A District-University Partnership to Support Teacher Development

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Wade-Jaimes, K., Counsell, S., Caldwell, L., & Askew, R. (2020). A district-university partnership to support teacher development. Innovations in Science Teacher Education, 5(4). Retrieved from https://innovations.theaste.org/a-district-university-partnership-to-support-teacher-development/

by Katherine Wade-Jaimes, University of Memphis; Shelly Counsell, University of Memphis; Logan Caldwell, University of Memphis; & Rachel Askew, Vanderbilt University

Abstract

With the shifts in science teaching and learning suggested by the Framework for K-12 Science Education, in-service science teachers are being asked to re-envision their classroom practices, often with little support. This paper describes a unique partnership between a school district and a university College of Education, This partnership began as an effort to support in-service science teachers of all levels in the adoption of new science standards and shifts towards 3-dimensional science teaching. Through this partnership, we have implemented regular "Share-A-Thons," or professional development workshops for in-service science teachers. We present here the Share-A-Thons as a model for science teacher professional development as a partnership between schools, teachers, and university faculty. We discuss the logistics of running the Share-A-Thons, including challenges and next steps, provide teacher feedback, and include suggestions for implementation.

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References

Counsell, S. (2011). GRADES K-6-Becoming Science” Experi-mentors”-Tenets of quality professional development and how they can reinvent early science learning experiences. Science and Children49(2), 52.

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Facilitating Preservice Teachers’ Socioscientific Issues Curriculum Design in Teacher Education

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Foulk, J.A., Sadler, T.D., & Friedrichsen, P.M. (2020). Facilitating preservice teachers’ socioscientific issues curriculum design in teacher education. Innovations in Science Teacher Education, 5(3). Retrieved from https://innovations.theaste.org/facilitating-preservice-teachers-socioscientific-issues-curriculum-design-in-teacher-education/

by Jaimie A. Foulk, University of Missouri - Columbia; Troy D. Sadler, University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill; & Patricia M. Friedrichsen, University of Missouri - Columbia

Abstract

Socioscientific issues (SSI) are contentious and ill-structured societal issues with substantive connections to science, which require an understanding of science, but are unable to be solved by science alone. Consistent with current K-12 science education reforms, SSI based teaching uses SSI as a context for science learning and has been shown to offer numerous student benefits. While K-12 teachers have expressed positive perceptions of SSI for science learning, they cite uncertainty about how to teach with SSI and lack of access to SSI based curricular materials as reasons for not utilizing a SSI based teaching approach. In response to this need we developed and taught a multi-phase SSI Teaching Module during a Science Methods course for pre-service secondary teachers (PSTs), designed to 1) engage PSTs as learners in an authentic SSI science unit; 2) guide PSTs in making sense of an SSI approach to teaching and learning; and 3) support PSTs in designing SSI-based curricular units. To share our experience with the Teaching Module and encourage teacher educators to consider ways of adapting such an approach to their pre-service teacher education contexts, we present our design and resources from the SSI Teaching Module and describe some of the ways PSTs described their challenges, successes, and responses to the experience, as well as considerations for teacher educators interested in introducing PSTs to SSI.

Introduction

Socioscientific issues (SSI) based teaching is a pedagogical philosophy consistent with current reform movements in K-12 science education (Zeidler, 2014b). SSI are societal issue[s] with substantive connections to science ideas (Sadler, Foulk, & Friedrichsen, 2017, p. 75), which lack structure, are controversial in nature, and for which science understanding is necessary but insufficient to offer complete solutions (Borgerding & Dagistan, 2018; Kolstø, 2006; Owens, Sadler, & Friedrichsen, 2019; Simonneaux, 2007). Because they are values-influenced, lack clear solutions, and bear significant, and often conflicting, implications for society, SSI tend to be contentious (Zeidler, 2014a).

Studies of SSI-focused learning contexts have identified many learner benefits. Students who participated in SSI-based learning experiences have demonstrated gains in understanding of science ideas (Dawson & Venville, 2010, 2013; Sadler, Klosterman, & Topcu, 2011; Sadler, Romine, & Topçu, 2016; Venville & Dawson, 2010), nature of science (Khishfe & Lederman, 2006; Lederman, Antink, & Bartos, 2014; Sadler, Chambers, & Zeidler, 2004); and scientific practices, such as modeling (Peel, Zangori, Friedrichsen, Hayes, & Sadler, 2019; Zangori, Peel, Kinslow, Friedrichsen, & Sadler, 2017) and argumentation (Venville & Dawson, 2010). Beyond these traditional learning outcomes, studies have also identified benefits such as improved reasoning skills (Kolstø et al., 2006; Sadler et al., 2004; Sadler & Zeidler, 2005; Zeidler, Applebaum, & Sadler, 2011); moral, ethical, and character development (Fowler, Zeidler, & Sadler, 2009; H. Lee, Abd‐El‐Khalick, & Choi, 2006); and increased enthusiasm and interest within science learning contexts (M. K. Lee & Erdogan, 2007; Saunders & Rennie, 2013).

The role of classroom teachers is of primary importance in facilitating reform-oriented learner experiences (Bybee, 1993) such as those based on SSI. Research has revealed that many classroom teachers hold favorable perceptions of SSI; however, despite some K-12 science teachers’ recognition of potential benefits to learners, and acknowledgements of the subsequent importance of incorporating SSI into science classroom contexts, research indicates that K-12 science teachers struggle to incorporate an SSI-focused pedagogy in their classrooms, and those who utilize SSI tend to do so infrequently and superficially (H. Lee et al., 2006; Lumpe, Haney, & Czerniak, 1998; Sadler, Amirshokoohi, Kazempour, & Allspaw, 2006; Saunders & Rennie, 2013). Three notable explanations for teachers’ omission of SSI-focused activities from their classrooms are: teachers’ unfamiliarity, lack of experience, and/or discomfort with an SSI-focused teaching approach (H. Lee et al., 2006; Sadler et al., 2006; Saunders & Rennie, 2013); teachers’ limited access to SSI-focused curricular resources (Sadler et al., 2006); and discrepancies between teachers’ perceptions of SSI and the philosophical basis of the pedagogy (Hansen & Olson, 1996; H. Lee et al., 2006; Sadler et al., 2006).

While a small number of prepared curricular resources for SSI have begun to be made available to teachers (cf. Kinslow & Sadler, 2018; Science Education Resource Center; The ReSTEM Institute; Zeidler & Kahn, 2014a), practical access to SSI curricula remains limited. Literature around SSI features an array of project-specific SSI-focused curricular resources on a variety of topics (Carson & Dawson, 2016; Christenson, Chang Rundgren, & Höglund, 2012; Dawson & Venville, 2010; Eilks, 2002; Eilks, Marks, & Feierabend, 2008; Friedrichsen, Sadler, Graham, & Brown, 2016; Kolstø, 2006; Lederman et al., 2014; H Lee et al., 2013; Peel et al., 2019; Sadler & Zeidler, 2005). However, only very few of the studies (Eilks, 2002; Friedrichsen et al., 2016; Zeidler et al., 2011) have focused on the process or products of SSI curricular design and the curricula from this research generally have not been distributed for classroom use. In addition, research has demonstrated the potentially transformative power to teachers of engaging in the design of reform-oriented, including SSI-focused, curricular resources (Coenders, Terlouw, Dijkstra, & Pieters, 2010; Eilks & Markic, 2011; Hancock, Friedrichsen, Kinslow, & Sadler, 2019; Zeidler et al., 2011).

In view of the demonstrated discrepancy between teachers’ perceptions and enactment of SSI; limited access to SSI curricular resources; the transformative value of engaging in reform-oriented curricular design; and the potential of SSI-based pedagogy to promote reform-oriented learning experiences; we view supporting teachers in the design of SSI-oriented curricula as a promising approach to educational reform. This project reflects that view. We sought to support pre-service science teachers (PSTs) in their uptake of SSI-based teaching in a Science Methods course through our design and teaching of an SSI Teaching Module intended to: 1) engage PSTs as learners in an authentic SSI science unit; 2) guide PSTs in making sense of an SSI approach to teaching and learning; and 3) support PSTs in designing SSI-based curricular units. The purpose of this paper is to describe our Teaching Module and share related resources with teacher educators, as well as to provide some examples of PSTs’ challenges, successes, and responses to the experience. It is our hope that the Teaching Module will serve as an inspiration for teacher educators interested in supporting future science teachers’ uptake of SSI.

SSI-TL – A Framework to Operationalize SSI-Based Pedagogy

Our group has developed the SSI Teaching and Learning (SSI-TL) Framework (Sadler et al., 2017) for the purpose of supporting teachers’ uptake of SSI-based teaching. Intended as a guide for classroom teachers, the SSI-TL framework highlights elements we consider to be essential to teaching science with SSI, while also remaining highly adaptable to various subdisciplines, courses, and classroom contexts in K-12 science education. SSI-TL is one instantiation of SSI-based teaching, developed from multiple projects that utilized research-based SSI frameworks featured in previous literature (Foulk, 2016; Friedrichsen et al., 2016; Klosterman & Sadler, 2010; Presley et al., 2013; Sadler, 2011; Sadler et al., 2015; Sadler et al., 2016). This project contributed to the development of SSI-TL, and we drew from an intermediate version of the framework throughout the project (See Figure 1).

Figure 1 (Click on image to enlarge)
SSI-TL Framework

SSI-TL specifies requisite components of SSI-based learning experiences, the sum total of which are necessary for a complete SSI-TL curricular unit. Such a unit consists of a cohesive, two- to three-week sequence of lessons designed around a particular SSI, to promote students’ achievement of a defined set of science learning objectives. Within any SSI-TL curricular unit, a focal SSI is foregrounded in the curricular sequence and revisited regularly throughout the unit, in order to serve as both motivation and context for learners’ engagement in authentic science practices and sensemaking about science ideas. A continuous focus on the selected SSI also guides students in exploration of societal dimensions of the issue; that is, the potential impacts of the issue on society, such as those of a social, political, or economic nature. Participation in an SSI-TL unit is intended to engage students in sensemaking about both the relevant science ideas and the societal dimensions of the issue. Student learning in SSI-based teaching is assessed with a culminating project in which learners synthesize their understanding of scientific and societal aspects relevant to the issue. In this project, our intermediate version of the SSI-TL framework served as both a representation of SSI-based teaching and a tool to support PSTs’ uptake of the approach.

The SSI Teaching Module in a Methods Course

Project Context, Goals, and Audience

The project described in this paper consisted of a six-week SSI Teaching Module that was implemented during a semester-long Science Methods course for secondary PSTs. The Science Methods course was the last in a sequence of three required methods courses in an undergraduate secondary science education program, and occurred immediately prior to the student teaching experience. The focus of the 16-week course was curricular planning and development, and the primary course goal was that PSTs would be able to design a coherent secondary science curricular unit, consisting of a two- to three-week sequence of related lessons organized around selected NGSS performance expectations. The purposes of the six-week SSI Teaching Module were to facilitate PSTs’ familiarity with SSI-based teaching; to explicate and challenge, as appropriate, PSTs’ perceptions about SSI; and to promote PSTs’ learning about SSI-based science teaching, as evidenced by their ability to develop cohesive science curricular units consistent with the SSI-TL framework.

A cohort of 13 PSTs in their final year of undergraduate coursework completed the SSI Teaching Module during Fall 2015. The first author developed and taught the SSI Teaching Module and the Science Methods course and conducted assessment of PSTs’ work in the course. The second author served in an advisory capacity during design, enactment, and assessment phases of the Teaching Module and Methods course. Both the second and third authors served as advisors during the writing stages of the project.

Project Design

The SSI Teaching Module consisted of three distinct phases, in which PSTs engaged with SSI-based science education from the perspectives of learner, teacher, and curriculum maker. (See SSI Teaching Module Schedule, below). In the first phase of the SSI Teaching Module, PSTs participated as learners of science in a sample secondary science unit designed using the SSI-TL framework, learning science content which was contextualized in an authentic SSI. (See SSI units for secondary science at our project website: http://ri2.missouri.edu/ri2modules.) In the second phase of the SSI Teaching Module, the PSTs spent time considering their SSI learning experience, this time from a teacher perspective, with explicit attention to the SSI-TL framework and key components of the sample SSI unit. Finally, in the third phase, the PSTs created SSI-based curricular units for use in their future secondary science classrooms. In all phases of the SSI Teaching Module, PSTs were asked to engage in personal reflection about their perceptions of SSI and its potential utility in their future teaching practice, with various writing prompts used during class, reflective writing assignments, and in-class discussion. More detailed description of each phase of the SSI Teaching Module follows (See Table 1).

Table 1 (Click on image to enlarge)
SSI Teaching Module Schedule

SSI Teaching Module – Phase 1: Learning Science with SSI

The first phase of the SSI Teaching Module focused on PSTs’ engagement with a sample SSI-TL unit. The sample unit was developed for an Advanced Exercise Science course at the secondary level, using NGSS standards relevant to the topic of energy systems, and presented through a nutritional science lens. The focal SSI for the nutrition unit was taxation of obesogenic foods. The SSI nutrition unit, as representation of the SSI-TL approach, engaged PSTs in several learning activities appropriate for incorporation into their own secondary-level SSI curricular unit designs. During this phase PSTs explored societal dimensions of the issue and engaged in sensemaking about the relevant science ideas, just as secondary students would do. Find the complete “Fat Tax” SSI-TL unit plan on our project website: http://ri2.missouri.edu/ri2modules/Fat Tax/intro.

The nutrition focus of the sample SSI unit was purposely selected for several reasons. First, this choice of topic leveraged the first author’s personal background and interest in nutritional sciences. Second, a pair of teaching partners in a local secondary school had approached the first author for help with preparing a unit for a new course they would be teaching. Finally, this topic offered opportunities for the methods students who had content backgrounds in different science disciplines to see the integration of diverse science ideas, and to build upon their own content knowledge. The SSI nutrition unit and the secondary course for which it was prepared represented authentic possibilities for PSTs’ future teaching assignments.

As specified in the SSI-TL framework, the SSI nutrition unit was introduced with a focal SSI. PSTs began by reading an article about a proposed “fat tax,” and were then asked to articulate and share ideas about the issue, providing reasoning to support their positions. Various positions were proposed, and a lively discussion followed. “Henry,” who had previously worked in a grocery store, shared initial support for the tax, justified by his personal observations of patterns in consumer buying habits. “Gregg” pushed back on what he considered to be stereotyping in Henry’s example, and argued that taxation of groups of food items toward controlling consumer choice was not within the purview of government agencies and could place an unnecessary burden on population subgroups such as college students and young families, who might depend on convenience foods during particular life phases. Various PSTs shared about personal and family experiences linking nutrition and health, which highlighted the challenge of defining “healthful” nutrition. The result of this introductory activity was PSTs’ recognition of their need to better understand both scientific and societal dimensions of the issue.

Because societal dimensions of SSI are a key focus of SSI-based teaching, and because research indicates that science teachers may struggle most with this component of SSI (Sadler et al., 2006), the relevant social aspects of the nutrition focal SSI were heavily featured in the SSI Teaching Module. An example of a nutrition lesson that emphasized societal dimensions of the focal SSI was one that incorporated an SSI Timeline activity (Foulk, Friedrichsen, & Sadler, 2020). In small groups, PSTs explored historically significant nutrition recommendations, summarizing their findings and posting them on a collaborative class timeline. Then the PSTs discussed their collective findings, comparing and contrasting nutrition recommendations through the years, and proposing significant historical events that may have impacted recommendations. Next, the small groups reconvened to research scientific, political, and economic events, which had been selected for their historical significance to nutritional health. PSTs summarized the impact of their assigned events, color coded according to the nature of impacts on historical nutritional recommendations. The result was a very engaged group of learner-participants, and a great deal of discussion about their new understandings of nutrition policy. Following the introduction of the issue and participation in this timeline activity, PSTs expressed an awareness that meaningful interpretation and assessment of commonly shared nutrition advice (e.g., “eat everything in moderation” or “avoid cholesterol and saturated fat”) depends on an understanding of scientific ideas about nutrition. Specifically, the PSTs recognized their need to be able to make sense of the structure and function of nutrition macromolecules and their significance in metabolic pathways. As learners, PSTs benefitted from this activity by identifying science concepts they needed to know in order to address the focal issue (See Figure 2 and Figure 3).

Figure 2 (Click on image to enlarge)
SSI Timeline Activity

Figure 3 (Click on image to enlarge)
SSI Timeline Categories of Societal Dimensions

SSI Teaching Module – Phase 2: Teaching Science with SSI

The second phase of the SSI Teaching Module allowed PSTs to reflect on their learner experiences with the SSI nutrition unit, from the perspective of teachers. After participating in selected portions of the SSI nutrition unit, the PSTs began the process of unpacking their experience and making sense of the teaching approach. They were first asked to inspect the SSI-TL framework, and then they received written copies of the SSI nutrition unit for comparison. In small groups PSTs discussed elements of the framework they were able to distinguish in the nutrition unit, as well as the purposes they saw for each activity they had identified. A whole class discussion of the unit resulted in a mapping of the unit to the SSI-TL framework (See Figure 4).

Figure 4 (Click on image to enlarge)
Unit Map

In another lesson during the second phase of the SSI Teaching Module, a whole class discussion of the philosophical assumptions of the SSI-TL framework helped PSTs to consider broader educational purposes of the approach (Zeidler, 2014a). The instructor again provided a copy of the framework and asked PSTs to consider ways it compared and contrasted to their experiences as learners of science, and their ideas about teaching science. During the discussion, “Travis” shared, “I would’ve eaten this up as a high school student, because I didn’t always like science classes. I think connecting science to real life is a great way to reach students who might not like science otherwise.” Conversely, “Dale” expressed his concerns about shaking up tried and true teaching methods in his subdiscipline, arguing that there are more beneficial ways to teach than forcing science learning into SSI: “Everything we teach at the high school level for physics was settled 200 years ago. Why should students spend time looking at news stories and history?” The group revisited these conversations about educational philosophy and socioscientific issues frequently.

Following a whole class discussion about the SSI-TL framework and nutrition unit as an exemplar, PSTs used the framework to collaboratively analyze examples of externally created SSI-focused curricula. Small groups identified components of SSI-based teaching such as the focal issue, opportunities to consider societal dimensions of the issue, and connections to relevant science ideas. (Friedrichsen et al., 2016; Schibuk, 2015; Zeidler & Kahn, 2014a, 2014b, 2014c). Finally, individual PSTs completed a structured analysis of these assigned SSI curricular units. This activity served to further help the PSTs in identifying key components of SSI-based science curricula, and to see varied ways that classroom activities, lessons, and units might be created to align with the approach. See the analysis rubric tool designed to support PSTs’ individual curricular analyses (See Figure 5).

Figure 5 (Click on image to enlarge)
Curriculum Analysis Rubric

SSI Teaching Module – Phase 3: Designing SSI Curricula

The third and final phase of the SSI Teaching Module focused on curricular design. Because curricular design was the primary goal of the Science Methods course, activities prior to the SSI Teaching Module had been designed to engage PSTs in utilizing NGSS and other educational standards, as well as in structuring and planning for meaningful learning activities in secondary science classrooms. This phase of the SSI Teaching Module was designed to build upon the PSTs’ prior experiences with elements of curriculum planning, and to integrate them with the activities of the previous phases of the module.

Over a series of lessons, in various formats, and with numerous feedback opportunities, the PSTs were supported in their development of a cohesive SSI-focused curricular unit designed around the SSI-TL framework, which served as the culminating course project. With regular instructor feedback, in both in-class collaborative settings and as out-of-class assignments, PSTs selected topics applicable to their science certification areas, brainstormed potential focal SSIs in which to contextualize their science units, and identified NGSS standards most relevant to their topics. In addition to feedback from both instructor comments and class discussions, PSTs used several resources intended as tools to guide their process, including the SSI-TL framework, written requirements for the SSI Curriculum Design task, access to the SSI nutrition unit from phase one of the SSI Teaching Module, and an electronic template in which to create their units (See Figure 6).

Figure 6 (Click on image to enlarge)
Curriculum Design Task Requirements

All activities in phase three of the SSI Teaching Module served to help PSTs draft detailed unit overviews consisting of a two- to three-week sequence of lessons with multiple detailed lesson plans, specifically focused on introducing the focal SSI, exploring societal dimensions of the issue, and activities for mastery of related science content ideas. Assessment of PSTs’ units was based upon a detailed scoring rubric collaboratively constructed with the PSTs during the third phase of the Teaching Module. Together the course instructor and PSTs used the Curriculum Design Task Requirements and the SSI-TL framework, as well as the Curriculum Analysis Rubric, to prioritize elements and characteristics of SSI units. Finished units were later assessed for alignment to the SSI-TL framework in terms of unit structure, principles of SSI, and general quality of activities and lessons. See the scoring rubric for the unit design task, below. Note also that NGSS-aligned lesson plan design was a requirement for the PSTs in a previous methods course and continued as an expectation throughout PSTs’ education program. Selected PSTs’ SSI unit design products are summarized (See Figure 7 and Table 2).

Figure 7 (Click on image to enlarge)
SSI Unit Design Task – Scoring Rubric

 

Table 2 (Click on image to enlarge)
Table of Selected PST Curricular Units

 

Discussion & Conclusion

In this project, we sought address the tension between K-12 science teachers’ favorable perceptions of SSI-based pedagogy and their simultaneous unlikelihood to utilize SSI in their science classrooms. Specifially, we designed and implemented an SSI Teaching Module intended to leverage the transformative potential of the curriculum design process, in an effort to address commonly cited barriers to SSI-based pedagogy enactment, including: unfamiliarity or discomfort with SSI-based teaching; lack of access to SSI curricular resources; and misalignment between teachers’ perceptions and the pedagogical philosophy of SSI. We observed several specific examples of favorable impacts for the PST participants in this experience.

First, PSTs expressed excitement about learning with SSI. In a whole class conversation following phase one of the teaching module, Adam described his positive experience as a learner of SSI. Referring specifically to the use of SSI and related societal dimensions in the learning experience, he commented, “I think as a [secondary] student I would’ve been, like, sucked in from the very first day of the nutrition unit.” Adam’s sentiment echoed the enthusiasm that Travis had clearly demonstrated during phase one of the SSI Teaching Module. Having previously spoken to the first author privately regarding his uncertainty about a career path in education, Travis exceeded task expectations during the learner phase of the project. In ways that were atypical for him, Travis assumed leadership responsibilities for his group, encouraging his peers to explore and make connections among science and societal dimensions of the issue they were studying. On one occasion, Travis stayed after class to make additional contributions to the collaborative activity from that day’s lesson, describing to the first author his own engagement during participation in the SSI nutrition unit in class. During a whole class discussion in phase two of the SSI Teaching Module, Travis spoke favorably of his firsthand experience with SSI and enthusiastically shared with his peers his perception of the potential for SSI to promote learner engagement, particularly for those students who, like himself, are likely to find traditional K-12 science coursework unenjoyable.

Second, PSTs expressed enthusiasm for teaching with SSI during phases two and three of the SSI Teaching Module. In class conversations about the SSI-TL framework as well as in written reflections about SSI unit design required with the Unit Design Task, multiple PSTs expressed enthusiasm for SSI and plans to use it, despite its challenges. For example, after designing his unit, “Cooper” wrote, “I found that creating this [SSI] unit about waves was challenging, but also sort of exciting, because it makes me think about how much I’m looking forward to being a teacher.” Similarly, during our whole class discussion about the philosophical underpinnings of SSI, Adam repeatedly expressed his perception of the value of teaching science with SSI. Adam’s SSI curricular unit design was exceptional for his thoughtful choice of issue and the complex connections he made among science ideas and societal dimensions related to the issue, and his comments throughout the learner experience indicated his consideration of the challenges and possible solutions to utilizing SSI in the classroom. During his third year of teaching, Adam reached out to the first author to describe his own use of SSI-based pedagogy and asked for help in supporting veteran teachers in his department to take up the approach. Adam expressed a highly favorable view of teaching with SSI, and the project seemed to prepare him to do so.

Finally, PSTs demonstrated success in designing coherent SSI-TL curricular resources. Consistent with our framework, we considered an SSI unit to be successfully designed if it met the criteria specified in the Curriculum Design Task and Scoring Rubric, by including essential elements and characteristics of SSI and by representing the intent of the approach. Regarding elements and characteristics of SSI and by representing the intent of the approach. Regarding elements and characteristics, a unit overview was required, with specific reference to the science topic and related standards from NGSS, a thorough explanation of pertinent science ideas, and the selected focal SSI in which the unit was contextualized. The overview would also include a brief timeline describing a coherent sequence of lessons related to the topic. In addition, units were to include detailed plans for three specific types of lesson: introduction of the focal issue, exploration of societal dimensions of the issue, and explicit sensemaking about science ideas. Finally, a successful unit would describe plans for assessment, including requirements for a culminating unit project in which learners would demonstrate understanding of science ideas and societal dimensions related to the issue. Throughout the unit design, the selected SSI would feature prominently, and activities would allow for students’ meaningful sensemaking about the science ideas and societal dimensions relevant to the issue.

With participation in the SSI Teaching Module, support from their instructor, and interactions with the learning community in their methods course, each of our participant PSTs satisfied the requirements of the unit design task and designed curricular units consistent with the SSI-TL framework. PSTs were able to identify learning standards relevant to their selected science topics, provide explanations of their topics, and contextualize science learning opportunities within authentic, real-world issues. In addition, PSTs were able to create broad, cohesive overviews of their units, as well as detailed plans for specific lessons. Most notable with regard to the emphasis on SSI, PSTs were able to select relevant, appropriate socioscientific issues for their topics, and to thoughtfully weave these issues into their unit designs. PSTs reflected about general struggles related to selecting focal issues or integrating science ideas and societal dimensions, and the experiences in the SSI Teaching module that they found especially helpful, such as small group discussions during the planning process, and peer feedback on the drafts of their units.

Consistent with current calls for science education reform, we know SSI offer valuable opportunities for student learning, and we believe SSI curriculum design to be a beneficial way to support teachers’ uptake of SSI-based teaching. Furthermore, we view teacher education to be an appropriate context to support pre-service and early career teachers’ in making sense of and adopting the approach. We share the design of SSI Teaching Module to support other teacher educators in innovating pre-service methods courses toward promoting PSTs’ uptake of SSI.

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Introducing Preservice Science Teachers to Computer Science Concepts and Instruction Using Pseudocode

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Brauer, K., Kruse, J., & Lauer, D. (2020). Introducing preservice science teachers to computer science concepts and instruction using pseudocode. Innovations in Science Teacher Education, 5(2). Retrieved from https://innovations.theaste.org/introducing-preservice-science-teachers-to-computer-science-concepts-and-instruction-using-pseudocode/

by Kayla Brauer, Drake University; Jerrid Kruse, Drake University; & David Lauer, Drake University

Abstract

Preservice science teachers are often asked to teach STEM content. While coding is one of the more popular aspects of the technology portion of STEM, many preservice science teachers are not prepared to authentically engage students in this content due to their lack of experience with coding. In an effort to remedy this situation, this article outlines an activity we developed to introduce preservice science teachers to computer science concepts such as pseudocode, looping, algorithms, conditional statements, problem decomposition, and debugging. The activity and discussion also support preservice teachers in developing pedagogical acumen for engaging K-12 students with computer science concepts. Examples of preservice science teachers’ work illustrate their engagement and struggles with the ideas and anecdotes provide insight into how the preservice science teachers practiced teaching computer science concepts with 6th grade science students. Explicit connections to the Next Generation Science Standards are made to illustrate how computer science lessons within a STEM course might be used to meet Engineering, Technology, and Application of Science standards within the NGSS.

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