Empowering Preservice Teachers Through Alternative STEM Teaching Experiences

Empowering Preservice Teachers Through Alternative STEM Teaching Experiences

Megan Burton (Auburn University, USA), L. Octavia Tripp (Auburn University, USA), Sara B. Demoiny (Auburn University, USA), Victoria M. Cardullo (Auburn University, USA) and Stacie Finley (Auburn University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-9232-7.ch007


Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education (STEM) is a focus in many schools and businesses. Therefore, it is critical teachers are prepared to implement effective STEM lessons in their classrooms, and that research explores ways to prepare teachers for this important field. This chapter describes the experience of 24 preservice teachers that planned and implemented a three-week summer elementary STEM classroom experience for approximately 150 students in Grades 3 to 5. Preservice teachers' reflections and perceptions from of this experience are captured from multiple lenses at four points of the experience using the portraiture method of inquiry. Then these portraits are analyzed for themes that provide insight into the perceptions and effectiveness of the experience.
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Need For Meaningful Stem Field Placements

PSTs’ thoughts about teaching and learning are shaped by many years of experiences as a student before they ever enter teacher preparation programs (Shoffher, 2008). They often have experienced years of passive, lecture driven science and mathematics during their K-12 education. They then enter college and take science and mathematics in their core courses which is taught similar to their K-12 courses. PSTs then enter their methods courses with a vision of themselves as science and mathematics teachers that is closely related to their experiences as science and mathematics learners (Abell & Bryan, 1997; Beck & Kosnik, 2002; Shoffer, 2008). They then have the expectations to teach the same as they were taught. Therefore it is important for field experiences to provide opportunities for reform-based science and mathematics teaching practices. When elementary age students solve problems through the engineering design process, they are exploring the engineering field, but in the past, often teachers didn't recognize this important process, or they neglected to ensure that students understood the role of engineers (Cunningham & Hester, 2007; DiFrancesca, Lee, & McIntyre, 2014). Providing students with opportunities to explore engineering in meaningful ways has led to increased motivation and confidence in discovery learning (McGrew, 2012).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Observation: This paper refers to observations that faculty and PSTs conduct within classroom settings in order to assess and learn about those being observed. PSTs observe peers in order to provide helpful feedback and to learn and reflect upon their own instructional practices. PSTs observe elementary students in order to gain insight into student thinking, motivation, and behaviors. Faculty observe PSTs in order to provide useful feedback and debriefing questions to help PSTs grow from their teaching experiences.

Portraiture: Portraiture is a methodology used for capturing the essence of the human experience.

STEM: Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The ultimate goal of STEM education is to encourage students to take an interest in STEM subjects at an early age.

Preservice Teacher: A college student involved in a school-based field experience. Pre-service teacher education is the education and training provided to student teachers before they have undertaken any teaching experiences.

Alternative Field Experience: Field Experiences are a required component of all teacher educator programs. Field experiences vary by course and semester. Field placement opportunities to explore the education profession can take place as students volunteer in the classroom/community, become a tutor or complete assigned coursework in a classroom setting. An alternative field experience, within the context of this paper, refers to a field experience beyond the traditional elementary school setting.

Methods Coursework: For the purpose of this paper, methods coursework refers to university courses that PSTs take that focuses on the pedagogy of specific elementary content areas, such as reading, mathematics, science, social studies, and language arts.

Debriefing: Reflecting upon experiences through discussion, questions, and sharing in order to make sense of an experience and determine ways to improve the practice.

Coteaching: Two teachers planning, teaching, managing, and assessing the same students within the same space (typically the same classroom). Coteachers work collaboratively for the benefit of all the students they serve.

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