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Investigating the role of STE(A)M Educators: a case study in Greece

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This work investigates the role of educator in STE(A)M Education. Th e study compares the outcomes of pre vious research with the results of a survey on 59 Greek e ducators, who have implemented STE(A)M-related courses. Based to the responses through the specially designed close-e nded questionnaire, the educators' perceptions are identified and analyzed. Based on these, we assessed the importance of diffe rent traits and competences that a STE(A)M educator should have. Furthermore, our research showed evide nce that the re are some differences on educators' perceptions depending on their background, mostly regarding both teaching and professional development aspects.
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Investigating the role of STE(A)M Educators: a case
study in Greece
Natalia D. Spyropoulou, Achilles D. Kameas
School of Science and Technology, Hellenic Open University, Patras, Greece
Computer Technology Institute and Press (CTI) Diophantus, Patras, Greece
{nspirop, kameas}@eap.gr
AbstractThis work investigates the role of educator in
STE(A)M Education. The study compares the outcomes of
previous research with the results of a survey on 59 Greek
educators, who have imple mented STE(A)M-related courses.
Base d to the re sponses through the specially designed close-
ende d questionnaire, the educators perceptions are identified
and analyzed. Based on these, we assessed the importance of
different traits and compete nces that a STE(A)M educator
should have. Furthermore, our research showed evidence that
there are some differences on educators’ perceptions depending
on their background, mostly regarding both teaching and
profe ssional development aspects.
KeywordsSTEM education, STEAM education,
Competences Development, Professional development
I. INTRODUCTION
STEAM Education is an educational approach that utilizes
the following main pillars: Natural Sciences (S), Technology
(T), Engineering (E), Arts (A) and Mathematics (M). It is
defined as an approach to teaching in which students
demonstrate critical thinking and creative problem-solving at
the intersection of these disciplines [1]. This
interdisciplinarity allows for a holistic approach, enhancing
skills development of tomorrow's citizens of the 21st century
[2]. The main goal of this educational approach is not the
teaching of art subjects, but the enrichment of STEM
educational programs, by creating ingenious ways of problem-
solving, integrating principles and presenting information [1],
[3]. The UNESCO report Exploring STEM Competences for
the 21st Century [4] highlights that the boundaries between
STEM disciplines (Science, Technology, Engineering and
Maths) and also between STEM and non-STEM fields (e.g.
Arts, Humanities and Languages) are becoming more and
more blurred. As a result, there is a trend of curriculum
developers and educators being more inclusive of STEM and
non-STEM disciplines, paving the way to providing a more
holistic and meaningful skill-based experience for students.
The main research objective of this work is to examine the
educators' perceptions of the role of STE(A)M educator. This
work attempts to fill the gap in the literature, which presents
limited consideration of the challenges that educators face in
implementing an integrated STEM curriculum effectively [4],
[5]. Although what a teacher needs to know and be able to do
in general for effective teaching and learning has been a
subject of scholarly research, relatively less effort has been put
into articulating the knowledge educators need for effective
STEM teaching [6]. In addition to their knowledge, there is a
need for further research on educators needs so that they can
effectively teach STE(A)M-related courses [7], [8]. Besides,
not enough attention has been paid in investigating variations
in educators’ perceptions and practices of STE(A)M
education due to their background [9].
Our work examines the role of the STE(A)M educator
using a six dimensions instrument based on the European
Framework for the Digital Competences of Educators
(DigCompEdu) [10], related procedures regarding STE(A)M
education teaching competency [11], [12] and the European
framework of teacher competences [13]. These aspects are
examined in relation to educators’ academic background, in
order to determine whether their perceptions are related to
whether they come from Science and Technology (S&T) or
Humanities and Social Science (H&S) academic background.
The analysis showed that overall, all the six dimensions
had a strong right distribution, providing insights regarding
the importance of different dimensions and characteristics of
the role of STE(A)M educator. Differentiations in academic
background were confirmed regarding the teaching and
learning dimension. Moreover, the Empowering Learners
dimension had the higher valued score, indicating the
importance of this factor for STE(A)M education, inducing
the address of inclusive, stereotypes and diversity in
STE(A)M education.
The rest of the paper is structured as follows: the next
section describes the methodology that we followed, the
instrument and the description of the sample of this study.
Subs equently, the results and analysis of educators’
perceptions regarding the role of STE(A)M educator based on
six main dimensions are presented. Finally, we conclude with
the main findings of this work and our future steps.
II. METHODOLOGY
A. Method
Based on factors such the characteristics of the target
population and the availability of participants, we determined
the type of sampling that we used in this quantitative approach
[14]. STE(A)M education does not form part of the Greek
formal education curriculum, nor exists an official general
policy on it. There are only some elective courses or extra-
curricular activities, in which mixed groups of students (with
different ages) participate. As a result, most of the educators
have mixed teaching experience both in non-formal settings
through private labs, funding programs etc. and in formal
settings through elective courses. Thus, we used
nonprobability sampling where we selected educators who
were available and convenient and had educational experience
in STE(A)M educational programmes in preschool, primary
and secondary level for both formal and non-formal
education. We recruited educators who implemented
STE(A)M related courses by combining invitations using
social media platforms, email and online announcements.
With this approach, in about three weeks, we managed to
collect 59 self-filled online questionnaires [15].
The questionnaire was selected as a means of data
collection for the research and was the means of
communication between the researchers and the respondents,
while it was designed according to the purpose and research
questions of this research [15]. We have chosen the online
questionnaire as a tool as its completion is easy for
participants, ensures honest and anonymous answers, it is easy
to use and affords standard ways of data analysis. In this way,
we collected genuine raw data that was quantified and
contributed to draw conclusions [16]. In addition, with the use
of the online questionnaire, we collected information from
individuals of the target population, regardless of their
geographical distribution [17].
B. Instrument
During the design and creation process of the
questionnaire we took into account some basic characteristics,
such as to be complete, clear, to have consistency between the
questions, to have the appropriate structure, to be technically
correct and to include supplementary instructions and inform
participants regarding the purpose of the research [18]. The
questionnaire includes different types of questions, closed and
open-ended, depending on the special needs of the research.
In closed questions, the respondents had to choose from a
predetermined number of alternative answers, while in open
questions the respondents were encouraged to freely and
unreservedly express their opinion on the subject of the
question.
In this study, we focus on the educators' perception
regarding the role and dimensions of the STE(A)M educator.
This section of the questionnaire contained closed-ended
questions, as is common when investigating the knowledge,
attitudes, or opinions of a large number of people [19], while
it allows detailed information to be collected in a relatively
swift fashion, so that a large number of people can be
surveyed. The answers to the closed-ended questions has to be
given in a four-point Likert scale (1 = strongly disagree. 2 =
disagree, 3 = agree and 4 = strongly agree).
The dimensions of this section were formed based on the
European Framework for the Digital Competence of
Educators (DigCompEdu) [10], as it is directed towards
educators at all levels and forms of education (formal,
informal, non-formal). Its five dimensions for both educator
professional competences and pedagogic competences were
adopted and modified based on STE(A)M education (Content,
Teaching and Learning, Professional Engagement,
Assessment, Empowering Learners). One more dimension,
Organization and Management, was added as previous work
[20] highlighted the importance of the classroom organization
and management of STE(A)M related courses. The items of
each dimension were build up based on related procedures
regarding teaching competency in STE(A)M education [11],
[12], the European framework of teacher competences [13],
and the statements of the DigCompEdu, which were modified
in the final six dimensions. Τhe final instrument composed of
48 items on six dimensions (see Appendix).
Prior to sending the questionnaire to educators, its content
and construct validity were reviewed by two colleagues,
experts in science education. The content of the questionnaire
was discussed and analyzed in terms of apparent validity so as
to avoid future difficulties and ensure reliability and validity
for the research tool [21]. In addition, the researchers piloted
the questionnaire with four educators with the aim of
correcting any weaknesses, omissions, ambiguities and errors.
These questionnaires were excluded from the final sample and
are not included in the number of questionnaires that were
analyzed, processed and interpreted.
C. Participants
The 59 educators who filled the questionnaire came from
19 different cities/towns of Greece. Of the educators, 26 were
women and 33 were men. 44 of 59 educators (75%) had
academic background in Science and Technology (S&T),
while 15 of them in Humanities and Social Sciences (H&T).
In addition, 59% of the participants had participated in a
professional development course in STEM education. Most of
the participants had teaching experience in STE(A)M
education between 3-5 years and 0-2 years (41% and 37%,
respectively). Regarding the type of implementation of
STE(A)M educational programmes, educators had mixed
experience with both formal and non-formal education. 22
educators (37%) had implemented STE(A)M related courses
in formal education, from which only 6 did not have similar
experience in non-formal education. Thus, 53 educators
(90%) had implemented STE(A)M related courses in non-
formal education, through funded educational projects, private
labs and/or educational organizations.
D. Internal Consistency of the Questionnaire
The internal consistency of the questionnaire was
estimated by computing Cronbach’s alpha for the
questionnaire both as a whole and for the six main dimensions
separately. Filling all the close-ended questions was required
in order to submit the form, thus there were not missing
values. The responses were examined and after checking the
reliability of each factor using the Cronbach α coefficient, two
items that decreased the reliability of one factor were
removed. The Cronbach’s alpha for the total questions was
found to be .95, indicating a high level of reliability. The
Cronbach’s alpha for the six dimensions ranged from alpha =
.75 to alpha = .88. These numbers are in the range from
“respectable” to “very good” according to guidelines provided
by deVellis [22]. Table 1 shows the α coefficient for each
dimension and for the total questionnaire.
TABLE I. INTERNAL CONSISTENCY FOR THE QUESTIO NNAIRE AND
THE SIX DI MENSIONS
Dimension
No of
samples
No of
Items
α
Content
59
12
.75
Teaching and learning
59
10
.88
Organization and Management
59
7
.77
Professional Engagement
59
7
.81
Assessment
59
6
.87
Empowering Learners
59
6
.81
Total
59
48
.95
III. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
This section provides the results and data analysis on
educators’ view regarding their role as STE(A)M educators
based on the above-mentioned six different dimensions. All
the close-ended questions that were used for each dimension
are presented in the Appendix. This work, is a first step of an
ongoing work to formulate a competence profile for STE(A)M
educators [23], with the aim to support their professional
development.
A. Content
Regarding the first dimension, of the 12 items concerning
the Content, 10 items had a strong right distribution (90% of
the participants answered agree or strongly agree). Figure 1
presents the educators’ answers for each item’s dimension.
More specifically, two items, Q1.1 Sufficiently understand
of the cognitive content related to the Natural Sciences,
Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM fields)
and Q1.3 Cleary understand STE(A)M education as an
integrated approach of STEM and non-STEM” had 100%
right distribution. These outcomes indicate the importance for
STE(A)M educators to clearly understand the integrated
approach of STE(A)M education and also to have knowledge
of the basic content in STEM fields. This is consistent with
study [24], which reports results showing that educators’
professional development in STEM should also focus on
enhancing content knowledge. Item Q1.6 Proper use of
mathematical formulas, models, constructions and
graphs/diagrams” had lower but still high right distribution
(84.7%) with 9 educators answering disagree/strongly
disagree. Item Q1.8 Adequate information on international
and European standards such as: Digital Competence
framework for Educators (DigCompEdu), Next Generation
Science Standards, Academic Standards for Mathematics,
Academic Standards for Science and Technology had the
lowest right distribution (64.4%) with 21 of 59 educators
answering that they disagree/strongly disagree. This item had
the lowest score between all the items of the questionnaire.
This may be due to the fact that these standards are not widely
used in Greece. This outcome merits further research and
comparison with samples from different countries.
The median scores of each item with respect to the
different academic backgrounds (S&T and H&S) were the
same for all items expect three. More specifically, items Q1.7
Able to associate and organize the basic principles of science,
technology, engineering and mathematics with other fields
such as history, language, arts, culture, etc” and Q1.12
Broader education and training (with cross -cutting
theoretical background)had higher median (Mdn= 4) for
educators with S&T academic background than for educators
with H&S academic background (Mdn=3). On the other hand,
regarding item Q1.11 Properly select and use concepts and
educational content from non-STEM fields such as art,
language in STE(A)M education, educators with H&S
academic background had higher median (Mdn=4) than
educators with S&T academic background (Mdn=3).
However, despite these differences, Mann-Whitney tests
showed no significant differences for participants from
different academic background.
B. Teaching and Learning
Of the 10 items concerning teaching and learning, 7 items
had very strong right distribution (90% of the educators
answered agree or strongly agree) (see Fig. 1). Item Q2.11
Properly use of techniques for self-regulated learning
processes, where learners design, reflect, search for
information, share ideas and discover creative solutions to
problems had the highest score (98,3%) of this dimension
with only one educator disagreeing. This outcome underlines
the importance of understanding the characteristic features of
STE(A)M disciplines as forms of human knowledge, inquiry,
and design [4], [25]. Three items (Q2.2, Q2.5 and Q2.6) had a
strong right distribution (80% of the educators answered
agree or strongly agree). More specific, to item Q2.2
Pedagogical Content Knowledge in Science teaching, 11 of
the 59 educators answered that they disagree, while 9
educators answered disagree to item Q2.5 Properly use of
ICT in STE(A)M education and 6 educators to item Q2.6
Properly use of inquiry-based learning, problem-based
teaching and learning methodologies and techniques for
enhancing activities with complex questions, developing
critical thinking, exploring social issues and developing
solutions to real problems”.
Regarding the differences with respect to the educators’
academic background, it is worth mentioning here that a
Mann-Whitney test indicated that item Q2.1 General
pedagogical and educational knowledge scored greater with
educators having H&S academic background (Mdn = 4) than
with those having S&T academic background (Mdn = 3), U =
187.5, p = .002. The same was identified with item Q2.4
Properly design and implement educational programs,
which scored higher with educators having H&S academic
background (Mdn = 4) than with educators having S&T
academic background (Mdn = 3), U = 170.5, p = .001. This
outcome reflect the findings from previous work [26], in
which educators’ preferences in training topics regarding
educational techniques also presented differences attributed to
their academic background.
Fig. 1. Educators’ answers for Dimensions 1 to 3
C. Organization and Management
Six of the seven items in the Organization and
Management dimension had a very strong right distribution
(90% of the answers were agree and strongly agree) (see Fig.
1). However, item Q3.1Proper organization and preparation
skills of both the learning space (classroom, laboratory) and
the necessary materials and resources had also a strong right
distribution (89.8%). This dimension in total had one of the
highest scores (94.4% right distribution), indicating the
importance of these characteristics in the role of a STE(A)M
educator. In this dimension, no significant differences were
identified with respect to the educators academic
background.
D. Professional Engagement
The dimension regarding Professional Engagement had 7
items, the 4 of which had a very strong right distribution
(90% of the answers were agree / strongly agree). Figure 2
presents the results based on the educators’ answers for each
item’s dimension. From them, item Q4.4 Collect, analyze,
interpret data (learning outcomes, evaluation results, self-
assessment) to improve teaching/learning had the highest
right distribution (96.6%), while the other three (Q4.7, Q4.1,
Q4.3) scored an acceptance rate from 93,2 to 94,9%. Item
Q4.3 Design and prepare educational programs in
collaboration with educators from other disciplines on the
content of STE(A)M courses had also a strong 89,8%
acceptance, as 6 of the educators answered that they disagree.
However, the other two items of this dimension (Q4.2 and
Q4.5) had lower right distributions (72,9% and 74.6%,
respectively). Due to this, the Professional Engagement
dimension had in total the lowest right distribution (87.9%) of
all the six dimensions. Item Q4.2 refers to the cooperation
skills (with other educators) to exchange knowledge,
experience and to develop collaborative innovative
pedagogical practices and item Q4.5 refers to the knowledge
of institutional and organizational aspects of educational
policies. Although, research studies indicate the benefits and
the importance of collaboration between educators ([7], [8]),
this finding may reflect the limited collaboration opportunities
that the Greek formal curriculum offers [26]. However, no
significant differences were identified with respect to the
educators’ academic background.
E. Assessment
The fifth dimension referred to Assessment and Feedback
and contained 6 distinct items. Three of them had a very strong
right distribution (90% of the answers were agree / strongly
agree) (see Fig. 2). Item Q5.2 “Monitor learners’
misunderstandings, giving feedback and guidance had the
higher distribution (96.6%). The other two items were Q5.1
“Determine learners' course performance by providing regular
feedback(94.9%) and Q5.5 “Design and use multiple forms
of students performance assessment (formative/final,
individual/group)“ (91.5%). The other three items had lower
but also strong right distributions (from 88,1% to 89,8%),
indicating the importance of assessment and feedback skills
for STE(A)M educators. However, we have to notice that the
examination system that most of the educational systems use
[27] does not effectively reflect the more holistic requirements
that the highly scored item provided. As a result, further
research is required in order to determine whether there is a
need of governmental and institutional support with the
revision of assessment in order to support the role of
STE(A)M educator [9]. In addition, as for the previous
dimension, no significant differences were identified with
respect to educators’ academic background.
F. Empowering Learners
The dimension regarding Εmpowering Learners had 6
items, 5 of which had a very strong right distribution (92.2%
of answers were agree / strongly agree). Thus, this dimension
had in total the highest score (94.9%) compared to the other
five dimensions. Therefore, addressing inclusion, diversity
and stereotypes and ensuring access to all learners, including
learners with special needs, is a very important factor that
needs to be considered during the design of STE(A)M related
courses [28], [29]. Finally, the only item with lower score
(86.4%) was Q6.1 Create different learning experiences in
order to meet learners' different needs” item, in which 8 of 59
educators answered disagree or agree. In this dimension, also
no significant differences were identified with respect
educators’ academic background.
Fig. 2. Educators’ answers for Dimensions 4 to 6
IV. CONCLUSION AND FUTURE WORK
In this work we investigated the role of STE(A)M
educator, based on six main dimensions, through the
perspective of educators who implement STE(A)M-related
courses in Greece. Our findings provide insights regarding the
importance of different dimensions and characteristics of the
role of STE(A)M educator. In addition, the findings reveal
some differences between educators with different academic
background, especially in the teaching and learning
dimension. This study is a part of an ongoing project, which
aims to investigate the required competences that a STE(A)M
educator should have and how can we help them acquire these
competences, in order to facilitate the development of
professional development programs for STE(A)M educators.
As a next step, the presented results will be triangulated with
semi-structured interviews and open-ended questionnaires, in
order to cross-justify and enrich them with further conclusions
that will allow us to formulate a STE(A)M educator
competence framework.
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Appendix
... and Learner Empowerment (A1.6). This is consistent with previous studies, which reports results showing that STEM/STEAM educators competences in should also focus on enhancing content knowledge (Nadelson et al., 2013;Spyropoulou & Kameas, 2020b), educational pedagogy specific to STE(A)M education (Bybee, 2013;Ng, 2019). Lower but still high right distributions (86%) had the Instruction (A1.3) and the Feedback and assessment (A1.5) competence area. ...
Chapter
Full-text available
This work investigates educators' competences for STE(A)M education, based on the Competence Framework for STE(A)M educators. In this study, the views of 118 stakeholders in STE(A)M education, including educators, researchers, and practitioners from Greece, were examined with the use of an online survey in order to understand critical factors and to provide more insight regarding the role of STE(A)M educators. Our results confirm the importance of the different competence areas of the proposed Competence Framework. Furthermore, some differences were identified based on specific characteristics of the participants, especially in their professional roles. Our findings suggest that the involvement of educators during educational policy decisions is required to better understand and finally support the role of STE(A)M educators.
... In previous work [10], [11] we examined educators' views regarding the challenges, the difficulties and the professional development needs of STE(A)M educators; results showed that educators face several challenges and difficulties, including lack of adequate training. In addition, although professional development on different topics was considered necessary depending on educators' needs and academic background, technical training was a common need for the majority of the participants, regarding the integration of art and design into STEM education. ...
Chapter
Full-text available
What a teacher needs to know and do when teaching specific disciplines effectively has attracted scholarly attention for many decades. The knowledge requisite for effective STEM teaching has gained attention as a result of the recent STEM education movement around the world. Furthermore, it is assumed teaching STEM demands that teachers teach in a completely different way. This chapter discusses these issues and proposes a theoretical framework for examining and analyzing teachers’ practical knowledge for STEM teaching. We draw on and synthesized literature on STEM education and teacher knowledge to identify facets of and a framework for teacher knowledge needed for effective STEM teaching. We also describe the design of an interview protocol that allows empirical studies of the knowledge facets delineated in the framework.
Article
Full-text available
Background For schools to include quality STEM education, it is important to understand teachers’ beliefs and perceptions related to STEM talent development. Teachers, as important persons within a student’s talent development, hold prior views and experiences that will influence their STEM instruction. This study attempts to understand what is known about teachers’ perceptions of STEM education by examining existing literature. Results Study inclusion criteria consisted of empirical articles, which aligned with research questions, published in a scholarly journal between 2000 and 2016 in English. Participants included in primary studies were preK-12 teachers. After quality assessment, 25 articles were included in the analysis. Thematic analysis was used to find themes within the data. Findings indicate that while teachers value STEM education, they reported barriers such as pedagogical challenges, curriculum challenges, structural challenges, concerns about students, concerns about assessments, and lack of teacher support. Teachers felt supports that would improve their effort to implement STEM education included collaboration with peers, quality curriculum, district support, prior experiences, and effective professional development. Conclusions Recommendations for practice include quality in-service instruction over STEM pedagogy best practices and district support of collaboration time with peer teachers. Recommendations for future research are given.
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As the teaching professions face rapidly changing demands, educators require an increasingly broad and more sophisticated set of competences than before. In particular the ubiquity of digital devices and the duty to help students become digitally competent requires educators to develop their own digital competence. On International and national level a number of frameworks, self-assessment tools and training programmes have been developed to describe the facets of digital competence for educators and to help them assess their competence, identify their training needs and offer targeted training. Analysing and clustering these instruments, this report presents a common European Framework for the Digital Competence of Educators (DigCompEdu). DigCompEdu is a scientifically sound background framework which helps to guide policy and can be directly adapted to implement regional and national tools and training programmes. In addition, it provides a common language and approach that will help the dialogue and exchange of best practices across borders. The DigCompEdu framework is directed towards educators at all levels of education, from early childhood to higher and adult education, including general and vocational training, special needs education, and non-formal learning contexts. It aims to provide a general reference frame for developers of Digital Competence models, i.e. Member States, regional governments, relevant national and regional agencies, educational organisations themselves, and public or private professional training providers.
Conference Paper
The STE(A)MonEdu Project aims to increase the adoption and impact of STE(A)M education by investing in the community of stakeholders and the professional development of educators. Focusing on the professional development of educators, it aims firstly to compile a competence framework for STE(A)M educators and then design appropriate training offers. In this paper, we first discuss the competency-based perspective, alongside with the related work regarding competence frameworks for STE(A)M education. Subsequently, the proposed methodology for the development of a STE(A)M educator competence framework and profile are described, based on a modified Delphi technique and taking advantage of the European Framework for the Digital Competence of Educators (DigCompEdu).
Article
This article reports on a research case study about raising the motivation of young boys and girls (14-16 years old) toward science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education to increase their prospects of choosing a relevant career. Using the Internet of Things (IoT) at the core of a design-based methodology, multiple implementations of IoT-oriented educational scenarios (ESs) were realized in different educational contexts. More than 150 secondary students and nine teachers, in seven different settings, were involved in an integrated educational framework with hands-on activities and teamwork. Using a concrete evaluation methodology exploiting both quantitative and qualitative data collected before, during, and after the interventions, we analyze the students' and teachers' experience to understand critical parameters and provide directions for successful ESs. Our findings show that the IoTbased ES realizations were successful overall and enhanced STEM career awareness and skills, with boys showing greater appreciation than girls. Different ES timeframes resulted in different conclusions, while proper organization and preparation in all aspects involved in the realization are critical.
Article
The purpose of this study is to develop and validate the evaluation indicators of teaching competency in STEAM education. The teaching competencies in STEAM education were drawn up utilizing both behavioral event interview (BEI) and a literature review. The initial evaluation indicators were then reviewed by 15 experts and two pilot tests were conducted. The revised version was administrated to 208 teachers, and the data from this survey were used to validate the factor-based model used in exploratory factor analysis (EFA) and confirmatory factor analysis (CFA). Final evaluation indicators of teaching competency in STEAM education were composed of 35 items in seven areas: Understanding of Subjects (five items); Teaching-Learning Methods (eight items); Inducing Learners to Participate in Learning (five items); Understanding of Learners (four items); Learning Environments and Circumstances (five items); Evaluation of Learners (four items); and Individual Qualification (four items). These evaluation indicators are a guideline on understanding what really matters in STEAM education and how to perform a STEAM class. Therefore, the results of this study can be standards of improving their STEAM classes by self-diagnosis, and used as consultation checklists for an effective STEAM class.