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NCWE Thought Leader Blog - Geoff Knowles
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The Importance of Increasing Teacher Awareness of STEM Careers


    Dr. J.Geoff Knowles
    Executive Director, Lafayette Area Instructional
      Sites and Institutional Research
    Ivy Tech Community College, IN
    jknowles5@ivytech.edu

 

Teacher awareness of STEM careers impacts students as they consider career choices. Improvement in STEM education is key to increasing student motivation to learn STEM subjects and pursue STEM fields. A STEM-skilled workforce is critical to meet economic challenges across the nation and here in Indiana. Teachers have significant influence on student interest in and understanding of STEM educational pathways and careers.

Ivy Tech Community College plays an important role in educating Indiana’s current and future STEM workforce, as community colleges around the nation do in their regions. Growth in opportunities in STEM related jobs and wages continues to outpace the overall workforce and is forecast to continue to do so for many years to come.

In a partnership of Ivy Tech Community College and Purdue University, we examined the effects of teacher professional development and lesson implementation in integrated science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) on teacher awareness of STEM careers. Participants included high school science and engineering and technology education (ETE) teachers, an important part of many Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs. The teachers participated in a ten-day, 70-hour summer professional development institute, part of a project, Teachers and Researchers Advancing Integrated Lessons in STEM (TRAILS), to educate teachers in adopting an integrated STEM education model.

As part of the professional development hosted at Ivy Tech Community College, several STEM professionals shared about their career training, challenges, and the types of skills needed in their fields. The study incorporated an experimental group and an untreated control group with both pretest, posttest, and delayed posttest assessments of non-randomized participants. We statistically analyzed changes in scores on a teacher survey asking teachers about STEM career awareness to measure the possible impact.

STEM career awareness increased for teachers participating in professional development and the degree of change varied by group and assessment time. A survey was given online as a pretest and posttest at the beginning and end of the TRAILS professional development workshop. A delayed posttest was administered after lesson implementation during the school year. The survey measured several constructs including STEM career awareness.

Statistical testing indicated significant differences in pretest, posttest, and delayed posttest scores especially among science teachers in the experimental group. A medium effect size (magnitude of the effect) was found for teachers participating in the professional development workshop, and a large effect size for science teachers in particular. These results may indicate the professional development significantly increased the teacher awareness of STEM careers. A small decrease in the effect was observed over time as measured by the delayed posttest later in the school year. As teachers become more aware of the opportunities for careers in the STEM workforce, so will their students as teachers are equipped to relate their subject areas to possible career pathways.

This study is part of a larger research project funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) grant (award #1513248) named Teachers and Researchers Advancing Integrated Lessons in STEM (TRAILS). This work is based on a theoretical framework emphasizing scientific inquiry, engineering design, technological literacy, mathematical thinking, and situated learning in a community of practice as an integrated educational approach. Ivy Tech Community College is a sub-awardee on this NSF grant with Purdue University.

To learn more about the TRAILS program see https://polytechnic.purdue.edu/trails

See the following articles from the TRAILS project for more information on STEM career awareness and integrated STEM education:

http://litee.org/jstem/index.php/JSTEM/article/view/2241

https://stemeducationjournal.springeropen.com/articles/10.1186/s40594-016-0046-z

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