Academic journal article Journal of STEM Education : Innovations and Research

I-STEM Summer Institute: An Integrated Approach to Teacher Professional Development in STEM

Academic journal article Journal of STEM Education : Innovations and Research

I-STEM Summer Institute: An Integrated Approach to Teacher Professional Development in STEM

Article excerpt


The importance of STEM education to societal developments provides justification for assuring K-12 teachers are prepared to teach the related content. Inservice teacher professional development is critical to achieving the goal of enhanced student knowledge of STEM. Combining the need for increased capacity to teach STEM and the extant literature on teacher development, we created a four-day residential summer institute for 230 grade 4-9 teachers. The institute was designed to enhance the participants' content knowledge, use of inquiry for instruction, and efficacy for teaching STEM. A combination of content strands, plenary sessions, field trips and planning time were augmented by the provision of the resources necessary to implement the curriculum the participants learned. Pre- and post-test results of the participants' comfort, pedagogical discontentment, inquiry implementation, perceived efficacy, and content knowledge in the context of STEM revealed significant changes (p < 01). In addition, pre- and post-test results indicate the participants' perceptions and conceptions of STEM achieved substantial gains. Our report provides the details, outcomes, and potential implications for STEM education.


The importance of STEM education to our national prosperity and global competitiveness was recently reinforced by the Obama administration's support for Change the Equation. Change the Equation is a multi-entity initiative formed in response to the rapidly increasing number of STEM related careers and the potential lack of preparation by many Americans to be employed in these positions. Further, there is a need to enssure our public is prepared to be part of the discussion surrounding an array of STEM related decisions. To address these issues, many are calling for increased emphasis on STEM education in K-12, as early and sustained preparation in STEM provides the foundation essential for further learning, competencies, and literacies (National Research Council, 2007). Enhancing the quality and quantity of K-12 STEM education is inextricably linked to the continued professional development of K-12 teachers. The need to enhance teacher capacity for teaching STEM and the gathering of empirical data to establish its effectiveness was the impetus behind our i-STEM summer institute professional development and research initiative.

The i-STEM project is a collaborative effort between business, industry, government, K-12, and higher education. Although the organization is working on a number of initiatives, including policy, research, communication and collaborations, the group has concentrated its resources on professional development opportunities for K-12 educators. Our report focuses on the structure and outcomes of an intensive fourday i-STEM residential professional development institute designed to increase grade 4-9 teacher preparation to teach STEM content. The summer institute was structured based on a needs assessment survey of grade 4-9 teachers, the extant literature, and our desire to use evidence based practices demonstrated to enhance teacher preparation and effectiveness.

Our research sought to determine how the structure and content of the summer institute influenced the participants' comfort with teaching STEM, efficacy for teaching STEM, content knowledge of STEM, inquiry implementation in STEM, and perceptions of STEM education. These parameters in part have been gathered previously for specific areas of math or science education, but there is no study we are aware of in which these variables have been attended to and assessed in the context of enhancing inservice teacher preparation to teach STEM. Therefore, our project provides a unique contribution to the literature because of our focus on STEM education and our adaptation and use of an array of assessments to measure the impact on our participants' perceptions of teaching STEM and knowledge of the related content. …

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