What Are Preschool Teachers’ Perceptions about Professional Development in Science Content and Pedagogy When Using a Novel Approach?



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Background: Many variables determine student success in preschool, as it relates to STEM knowledge and engagement in later school and career development. Students need a well-rounded, engaging, and rigorous curriculum (Anderson, 2006). Second, teachers must be properly trained in STEM pedagogy and content (Marcum-Dietrich, 2011). Purpose: The study investigated how ongoing professional development affects teacher knowledge, confidence, and skillset (Piasta, 2012) while using a new classroom approach. The initial STEMscopes Early Explorer was designed to provide science education to low socioeconomic students. STEMscopes is an international Pre-K -12th-grade digital science curriculum. The curriculum offers foundational science content, hands-on learning, and integration of technology, engineering, literacy, math, and arts. STEMscopes Pre-K curriculum allows teachers access to substantive STEM content to help engage and deepen their students’ understanding of science. Methods: A qualitative research study using a case study approach addressed the research question, What are preschool teachers’ perceptions about professional development in science content and pedagogy when using a novel approach? A case study method allows for the discovery and development of theory, based on the experiences and perceptions of study participants (Creswell, 1982). The study examined archival teacher interviews and questionnaire data regarding teacher perceptions of ongoing professional development as new and experienced pre-K teachers begin to implement a science-based program--STEMscopes Early Explorer. The original data was collected through interviews, observations, lesson logs, surveys, and professional development session. All pre-K teachers in a central school district in Texas participated in the study. All 51 participants were primary level teachers, with a wide range of experience. The district required all of their pre-k teachers to participate in the study. Of the 51 teachers, 3 were selected for this archival study. These 3 teachers offer a range of teaching experience, age, gender, and ethnicity. The data sources consisted of two rounds of individual teacher interviews and a Preschool Teacher Attitudes and Beliefs towards Science Questionnaire (PTABS) (Bell, 2014). Coding software was used to identify themes and their implications related to the research question. The teacher interviews were transcribed into a word document. After multiple reads through the interviews, particular themes and then nodes were developed. The nodes provided themes and emerging patterns for the fall and spring data Identifying the nodes and themes for the questionnaire was also a similar process. The questionnaire data highlighted more comparison in perceptions between the three teachers. Two of the three teachers believed there is enough time in the day to teach science. Results: Findings revealed 1) teachers value professional development that is created with teacher input, as it allows them to feel heard; 2) an improvement needed in current professional development is to provide teachers with more collaborative time with peers, and 3) teachers desire more hands-on modeling and content training. After two professional development sessions, teachers were able to provide feedback in needing more collaboration and modeling. As a result, STEMscopes made adjustments to the last two sessions in order to meet the needs of the teachers. Through teacher’s usage of STEMscopes and undergoing 30 hours of professional development, they provided feedback to enhance the product and professional development. Pre-K teacher’s desire to teach science when professional development is tailored to their needs, allows them support, and time to practice new strategies. The findings are significant as they illustrate the importance of a highly effective curriculum, but they also highlight the importance of ongoing professional development that is customizable and flexible to meet teachers’ needs. Conclusion: The findings of this study will help to extend current research pertaining to ongoing professional development. Teachers’ perceptions of professional development in science and pedagogy are centered around teacher-led professional development. Teachers should have an ample amount of time to implement what has been learned. As teachers are utilizing new material, they should be observed and provided feedback in order to create a cycle of learning, practicing, and improving.



Preschool, STEM