In conducting this collaborative, mixed-methods, multi-site comparative case study with the Center for Practice Engaged Education Research (C-PEER), I wanted to understand aspects of systems that impact schools operating as effective learning communities, specifically with regards to systemic STEM inequities. In the following sections, I summarize my findings based on qualitative archival data coding and quantitative survey analysis. I revisit my original research questions and draw conclusions based on the data I received. My discussion of the data leads into two recommendations: (a) recommendations for future/continued research; and (b) recommendations for supporting teachers’ practice. It is my hope that these recommendations further the conversation around adult professional development and the pedagogical practices necessary for moving teachers to make meaningful changes current pedagogy, which perpetuates inequitable systems of learning.
Summary of Findings
This study intends to answer: (a) What elementary school structures support students in STEM curricular areas? (b) Do these supports differ for sub-groups of students, i.e. students of color, students in poverty, and English language learners? (c) What are the components of elementary STEM opportunities to learn foster interest, participation, and academic success in STEM content areas, especially for marginalized students of color? Researchers examined a combination of quantitative and qualitative data sources, which included the Effective Learning Teacher Survey (ELTS), the Effective Learning Leader Survey (ELLS), extant student perception survey data provided by the partner district, de-identified teacher evaluation data under the professionalism domain on the teacher evaluation rubric, extant district data, like school UIP’s and SPF’s, and archival documents provided by participating schools, including any professional learning plans and calendars for each school. Key findings from the participating schools in this focus-study include: (a) no evidence of integrated STEM-foundational thinking and STEM instructional activities into content areas; (b) a lack of an explicit STEM agenda for each elementary school; (c) no explicit structures in place for underperforming subgroups of students to access STEM-foundational thinking; (d) the alignment of student perceptions about a teacher’s ability to facilitate STEM-foundational thinking with reported teacher perceptions about current instructional practices and the schools’ identified performance level (as determined by the Colorado Department of Education); and (e) the misalignment between school’s perceptions about STEM-foundational thinking and instructional practices and teacher perceptions about the effectiveness of using STEM to in improving their pedagogy.
Conclusions (Organized by Research Questions)
Based on obtained qualitative and quantitative data, there are no elementary school structures present that support students in STEM curricular areas. Since there are no structures in place, students of color, students in poverty, English language learners, and other underperforming sub-groups, do not have access to STEM-foundational thinking and instructional activities. Based on current research, there are specific components that elementary schools can put in place to foster student interest, participation, and academic success in STEM content areas. These include (a) Culturally Responsive Education professional development; (b) collaborative, distributive leadership toward STEM-foundational thinking; (c) attention to rigor; (d) attention to and validation of students’’ everyday experiences; (e) focus on creating STEM communities; and (f) out-of-school and in-school content-area connections (Cokley, 2003; Litowitz 1997; Seashore-Louis, et al., 2010; Knapp, et al., 2010; Anderson-Butcher, Lawson, Bean, Boone, Kwiatkowski, et al., 2004; Hess, et al., 2009; Stembridge, 2015; Walker, 2012; Basham, et al., 2010; Bybee, 2013; Drew, 2011; Myers & Berkowicz, 2015; Berkowicz & Myers, 2016).