Characterizing How Teachers Design Engaging Learning Environments in STEM Education: Examining Teachers’ and Students' Conceptualizations of integrated STEM
Effective Years: 2021-2023
This STEM education research capacity building project combines a research project aimed at examining teachers as agents of change in STEM education and a professional development plan focused on facilitating the principal investigator’s acquisition of competencies in conceptual frameworks and research designs for exploring integrated STEM (iSTEM) learning environments in middle school settings. The research project will investigate teachers’ conceptions of iSTEM teaching and learning and how these conceptualizations influence them to design classroom experiences that engage students in these learning environments. The study will also employ a phenomenographic lens and mixed-methods approach to conduct a two-group randomized trial to explore students’ engagement in these learning environments. The project will extend the investigator’s methodological and subject matter expertise in teacher preparation practices that inform student learning.
The research will be conducted in the state of Indiana with rural and diverse K-12 school populations that are enrolled in STEM teaching schools as designated by the Indiana Department of Education. The investigator will examine two research questions: (1) What are middle school STEM teachers’ conceptions of iSTEM? and (2) How do teachers’ instructional practices affect the quality of students’ classroom opportunities to engage in learning? The study sample will include 100 teachers based on years of experience, specific STEM discipline, and school setting. Data will be collected through a Qualtrics survey, interviews, and case study of an experimental group that includes classroom observations. Constructivist learning theory and The Opportunity to Learn framework will be utilized to interpret findings for the second research question. The project will identify critical methodological issues and theoretical links between iSTEM instruction and learning environments that support student engagement for future research and provide contextual factors that may promote iSTEM teaching effectiveness. The anticipated outcomes of the project are new knowledge toward a definition of iSTEM and new design principles to guide iSTEM instruction and teacher preparation.
This project is supported by the EHR: Building Capacity in STEM Education Research competition of the EHR Core Research (ECR) program. ECR funds fundamental STEM education research that focuses on STEM learning and learning environments, broadening participation in STEM fields, and STEM workforce development.
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.