Toward The Design And Implementation Of Stem Professional Development For Middle School Teachers: An Interdisciplinary Approach
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DepartmentMathematics and Science Education Program
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The aim of this qualitative study was to determine how professional development might be designed to meet the needs of teachers delivering interdisciplinary STEM instruction in an urban middle school. This study was framed and guided by three bodies of literature: literature in support of the theory of change, adult learning theory, and effective STEM professional development. The study, designed to be collaborative in nature, employed an action research variation of participatory classroom action research, (CAR) to find out how STEM professional development could be designed to meet the needs of teachers delivering interdisciplinary STEM instruction. A sample of five middle school teachers from grades six through eight was interviewed using semi-structured, in-depth interview technique to identify their perceived needs. Observational techniques were utilized to determine how STEM teachers' instructional practices change as a result of exposure to STEM professional development for interdisciplinary instruction. Data from these interviews were used to design the professional development. Planning and implementation of the professional development were accomplished using the CAR model with data being collected in all phases of the CAR cycle for teaching interdisciplinary STEM. The findings suggest that interdisciplinary STEM professional development that is collaborative, along with a curriculum that supports the process of discipline integration, is an effective approach to meeting teachers' needs for the teaching of interdisciplinary STEM instruction. Lastly, the findings imply that certain barriers such as limited time to collaborate, plan, reflect, and practice could impede teachers' ability to use an interdisciplinary approach to classroom instructional practices. However, these barriers may become diminished when teachers, support each other through communication and collaboration. Thus, the essential elements included in the design and implementations of this interdisciplinary STEM professional development are the following: time to plan, to practice, to reflect, and to collaborate with other teachers. These findings reveal the need for support from school administration and curriculum writers.