Assessing Elementary In-Service Teachers' STEM-Centric Lesson Plans

By Bowers, Sharon W.; Ernst, Jeremy, V | Journal of STEM Education : Innovations and Research, April-June 2018 | Go to article overview

Assessing Elementary In-Service Teachers' STEM-Centric Lesson Plans


Bowers, Sharon W., Ernst, Jeremy, V, Journal of STEM Education : Innovations and Research


Introduction

Marylands adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and development of state-based Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Standards of Practice (SOP) created a need for transformational professional learning experiences for its elementary teachers. These initiatives reguire teachers to push student learning toward deeper understandings of core ideas, demonstrations of scientific and engineering practices, and the integration of crosscutting concepts. The standards take a more comprehensive look at integrating science content with engineering practices, defining a new vision for STEM instruction that incorporates knowledge and skills needed for the 21st century, and elevating engineering design to the same status as scientific inquiry for teaching K-12 science (Achieve, Inc., 201?; Leder man & Lederntan, 2014; Pruitt, 2014; Robelen, 2010). This approach creates a need for teachers to have a more in-depth knowledge of broader STEM content and embrace inquiry- and design-based teaching practices (National Research Council, 2015).

To help address this need, the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) encouraged Maryland colleges and universities to develop elementary Instructional Leader endorsement programs to prepare preserviceand in-service teachers to develop and implement STEM-centric learning experiences (MSDE, 2012). The McDaniel College Elementary STEM Leadership (ESIL) program was developed in response to this call. This study explored the McDaniel College ESIL pilot cohort's ability to proficiently plan lessons that integrate STEM disciplines, engage students in inquiry, support student collaboration as a STEM team, and support students'strategic application of technology

Key elements in the design and implementation of the ESIL program transcend this targeted population and have implications for transformational professional development for teachers of all disciplines. Professional learning experiences that focus on content, incorporate active learning for the teacher participants, integrate 'directly into classrooms, and build a community of learners set the stage for change (Garet, Porter, Desimone, Birman, & toon, 2001; Schlang, 21"" e|& PHe, jin,,' giiI-, 12""2' confirms that teachers want pragmatic learning experiences that can be directly integrated into their classrooms and immediately benefit student learning. Strategies that impact student learning outcomes are adopted and then adapted as needed (Guskey, 2002).

Review of Literature

Understanding and teaching the NGSS is a challenge for all who teach science, but an even greater hurdle for elementary teachers. Elementary teachers are generalists and, for many, teaching science is out of their comfort zone (Trygstad, 201?). Teaching as they were taught, elementary teachers model what they have learned, teaching content knowledge separate from process skills instead of developing learning experiences that ask students to use practices to build their owe content knowledge (Nespor, 1987). Students should build conceptual knowledge through their own exploration and experiences, not through passive settings (Duschl, Shouse, & Schweingruber, 2007; Michaels, Shouse & Schweingruber, 2008). The NGSS call for a research-based, inquiry-approach to instruction, in contrast to didactic, teacher-directed learning (Banilower, Gess-Newsome & Tippins, 2014; Chai, Teo & Lee, 2009).

A lack of knowledge and skills to teach science, let alone integrate engineering design with that science, leaves elementary teachers ill-prepared to deliver the instruction called for by the NGSS (NRC, 2015). To prepare teachers for this task, professional development will be essential, but it must be professional development that is sensitive and attentive to elementary teachers' needs, addressing their narrow understanding and minimal experience with planning and teaching inquiry and designbased instruction (Capobianco & Rupp, 2014; NRC, 2015). …

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