STEM integration in elementary classrooms : a quantitative study exploring impediments and improvements.
As the need for a STEM-literate workforce grows, educators must prepare to develop STEM-literate thinkers. American educators must modernize teaching practices and utilize the best research-based STEM pedagogy. STEM education can no longer be a novelty or supplement to classroom instruction, and this is especially true in elementary classrooms. Early exposure to STEM and the need for quality STEM instruction is imperative to capitalize on the innate curiosity and creativity of young learners. However, elementary educators are generalists and are not adequately trained to teach integrative STEM. Furthermore, state testing and lack of materials and funding make integrative STEM and other innovative teaching practices next to impossible. Elementary teachers need to be efficacious in STEM content and supported in integrating STEM instruction in their classrooms.
This quantitative study utilized a cross-sectional survey to identify the teaching self-efficacy of elementary educators in elementary classrooms and identify variables that might predict their STEM instruction. I used an online survey for data collection to access a broad range of data, including teaching self-efficacy in mathematics and science, student technology use, STEM instruction, 21st-century learning attitudes, and interest in STEM-related professional development. Bandura’s self-efficacy theory was the theoretical framework used for this study. This theoretical framework asserts a teacher’s self-efficacy beliefs are related to the effort they invest in teaching, the goals they set for their students, and their perceived capability to learn new instructional strategies.
Based on the results of this study, participants’ self-efficacy in teaching mathematics and science has very little relationship with interest in STEM-related professional development. Collectively, mathematics teaching self-efficacy, science teaching self-efficacy, student technology use, and hours of STEM-related professional development are statistically significant predictors of a teacher’s STEM instruction score. Student technology use is the most prominent individual predictor of a teacher’s STEM instruction score. To bring about positive change in elementary STEM instruction, administrators must promote integrative STEM professional development, professional development leaders must make learning opportunities purposeful, classroom teachers must embrace integrative STEM instruction as a teaching method, and educators in preservice teacher programs must expose integrative STEM to aspiring teachers as often as possible.