ERG SES C 05, STEM Education
STEM is an educational approach which had its origin in the 1990s from National Science Foundation (Bybee, 2010). It integrates science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines into the same teaching and learning activities. STEM education aims to eliminate the distinction between these disciplines and raise generations who are able to question, make investigation, and an invention (MoNE, 2016). STEM education can be integrated in all formal educational levels (from preschool to university) and informal programs (Lemoine, 2013).
Many countries including the ones which have global economic powers such as the United States and the European Union (EU) have been changing their educational systems (Fensham, 2008) in order to enhance new generations’ planning, critical thinking, and problem solving skills required to strengthen their positions in future economy. Many projects (e.g., STEM education coalition and UTeach in the United States; Scientix, Ingenious and European Schoolnet in the EU) have research on STEM education and proposed innovation strategies which guide policymakers and motivate STEM initiatives to increase their interest to STEM and STEM teaching (Çorlu, Capraro, & Capraro, 2014). Other countries such as China, Russia, Israel, Switzerland, and England have included STEM education in their strategic plans and aimed to integrate STEM-related activities in their K-12 curriculum as well as professional development programs (MoNE, 2016).
STEM based educational implementations have been recently fulfilled in Turkey. Some research reports (e.g, Akgündüz et al., 2015) underlined the need for change in education. They took attention to the importance of STEM education for preparing next generations who are able to design and develop innovations and technology. Although there is still not an action plan constituted by Ministry of National Education for STEM education in Turkey, 2015-2019 strategic plan includes some objectives related to strengthen it (MoNE, 2016). These objectives are including: increasing the number of STEM education centers, conducting research about STEM education with the collaboration of universities, training teachers who internalized STEM education approach, integrating STEM in the curriculum, and providing course materials for STEM implementations (MoNE, 2016). Some actions have been taken in order to achieve these objectives. Science, Engineering and Entrepreneurship Implementations unit which imply conducting STEM-related activities have been added in middle school science education curriculum (MoNE, 2017). Although transition to STEM education is observed in the renew curriculum, teacher education programs still need some revision in order to educate preservice teachers who are capable of conducting STEM-related activities.
The immediate innovation strategy related to STEM education is to increase the number and the quality of STEM teachers since only the teachers who are knowledgeable enough about how to implement these activities can help students enhance their skills and competency to innovate (Çorlu, Capraro, & Capraro, 2014). However, most of the teachers have been training in only one discipline (Honey, Pearson, & Schweingruber, 2014). This might be a significant challenge for educators in promoting the implementation of STEM-related activities in the classrooms. The current study evolved from this concern and aimed to identify possible challenges pre-service and in-service middle school mathematics teachers may encounter while implementing these kinds of activities. The study also focused on determining the possible needs that might emerge before the implementation of STEM related activities in the middle school settings.
Basic qualitative research design introduced by Merriam (2009) was employed in the study to acquire more detailed information about what pre-service and in-service middle school mathematics teachers’ needs are to be able to implement STEM-related activities in the classroom and their challenges in implementation of these activities. Purposive sampling strategy was used to select 8 senior pre-service (n=5) and in-service (n=3) middle school mathematics teachers as the participants of the study. Pre-service teachers were currently enrolled in Elementary Mathematics Education Program (EME), a four-year teacher education program in an English-medium public university in Ankara. The program aims to educate teachers to teach mathematics in the middle schools (grades 5-8). Having completed the methods of teaching courses was set as the criteria for the selection of the pre-service teachers. In service-teachers were graduates of the same program and they have been teaching middle schools students for at most 3 years. The data of the study were participants’ written responses to the two separate tasks developed for pre-service and in-service teachers. Tasks were included open-ended questions which addressed their opinions about STEM education, the meaning of science, technology, engineering and mathematics processes, their competence, strength and weaknesses in the implication of STEM-related activities, and what kind of knowledge they need to have to be able to implement STEM-related activities in the classroom. Participants were also asked to give demographic information such as age, major, gender, the high school they graduated from, and their years of teaching experience. After the preparation of first draft of the tasks, questions were discussed with a teacher educator who is expert in need assessment field. Tasks were revised considering the teacher educator’s suggestions and implemented to pre-service and in-service mathematics teachers separately. Before the implementation, participants were informed about the purpose of the study and that any data collected from them will be held in confidence. Content analysis technique was used for the analysis of the tasks. For the credibility and consistency of the findings with the data, peer review was utilized. Researcher asked a research assistant who was experienced in conducting qualitative research to examine the collected data and assessed if the findings were conceivable regarding to the data.
Pre-service and in-service mathematics teachers defined STEM education as the combination of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines in a one common curriculum. They also emphasized that STEM-related activities allow students to use their creativity in finding practical solutions to complex real life problems. Both in-service and pre-service teachers perceived especially mathematics major as the fundamental discipline in STEM-related activities since all others benefit from mathematical calculations. They asserted that a product emerges at the end of a STEM-related activity. This product is designed, developed and tested for practicality in engineering process. Besides, they see technology as a supporter since it helps to expedite the development process of the product. Almost all participants indicated that they were not capable of implementing STEM-related activities in their classrooms due to not having enough knowledge on how to implement these activities and not being good at all science, technology, engineering, and mathematics areas together. The analysis also revealed that in-service teachers have not preferred to implement STEM-related activities in the classrooms since they do not have detailed information about how to prepare and conduct these activities. They also asserted that since they need to follow the national curriculum, they do not have extra time to implement these kinds of activities in the classrooms. Participants also specified what kind of knowledge they need in order to implement STEM-related activities. They emphasized to see and work more on STEM-related activities to gain experience. They addressed the importance of attending seminars, conferences or workshops related to the STEM education, and organizing excursions to the science and technology museums to be more capable of implementing STEM-related activities. They also mentioned the necessity of collaboration among teachers from different disciplines and proposed to be offered in-service training related to STEM education.
Akgündüz, D., Aydeniz, M., Çakmakçı, G., Çavaş, B., Çorlu, M., Öner, T., & Özdemir, S. (2015). STEM eğitimi Türkiye raporu: “Günümüz modası mı yoksa gereksinim mi?”. [STEM education report for Turkey: Is it a fasion or necesstity?]. Istanbul, Turkey. Bybee, R. W. (2010). Advancing STEM education: A 2020 vision. Technology and Engineering Teacher, 70(1), 30-35. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ898909. Corlu, M. S., Capraro, R. M., & Capraro, M. M. (2014). Introducing STEM education: Implications for educating our teachers in the age of innovation. Education and Science, 39(171), 74–85. Fensham, P. J. (2008). Science education policy-making: Eleven emerging issues (ED-2007/WS/51 – CLD 2855.7). Paris: UNESCO. Honey, M., Pearson, G., & Schweingruber, A. (2014). STEM integration in K-12 education: Status, prospects, and an agenda for research. Washington: National Academies Press. Lemoine, N. (2013). Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Education: Elements, Considerations and Federal Strategy. New York: Nova Science Publishers, Inc. Merriam, S. B. (2009). Qualitative research: A guide to design and implementation. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. Ministry of National Education (2016). STEM eğitimi raporu. [STEM education report]. Ankara, Turkey.
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