From Ambivalences toward Self-Efficacy: Bilingual Teacher Candidates' Shifting Sense of Knowing as Conocimiento with STEM

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Qualitative Research in STEM: Studies of Equity, Access, and Innovation

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With increasing urgency, there is a need for children in the US to be well prepared in STEM: science, technology, engineering and mathematics (National Research Council, 2011). To best support competent teaching in all of the STEM domains, it is essential that educators are well prepared in not only the content and the pedagogical content knowledge of the subject matter (Eidietis & Jewkes, 2011), but also that they develop positive dispositions toward using technology in their teaching and fostering scientific and mathematical inquiry in their classrooms. Set in an initial teacher licensure program at a large (~30,000), urban, public university in a western state, this study focuses on 40 bilingual teacher candidates, predominantly Latin@s already working in schools in paraprofessional roles, as they participated in a two-year project to prepare them to teach STEM concepts at the exemplary level (as evaluated on the local state-level teacher evaluation instrument). In particular, this US Department of Education-funded project, delivered as part of a bilingual initial teacher licensure program, invited teacher candidates to:

  1. Reflect critically on their own educational and biographical history with STEM.
  2. Interrogate and challenge their own assumptions about the role of STEM in their teaching and learning, with particular attention to English learners and special needs populations.
  3. Develop deeper understandings of STEM content and pedagogical content knowledge.
  4. Increase confidence and competence in teaching STEM to students learning English in urban schools.

The participants in this study were all teacher candidates in an initial teacher licensure program intended for bi- or multilingual adults currently working in paraprofessional roles within local public schools. The teacher candidates in this study agreed to participate in quarterly hands-on workshops in STEM education; to take two additional college-level science courses; to complete at least one teaching work sample with a STEM focus; and to organize a family friendly culminating outreach project that had a STEM focus. Participation in this STEM-focused work was deeply incentivized, with participation resulting in a full scholarship that covered 100% of tuition. While STEM was not the stated focus of any applicant before learning about the funding, all eligible teacher candidates agreed to participate in the STEM-focused work. In this chapter, we suggest approaches for teacher educators which encourage bilingual teacher candidates to develop dispositions necessary for competencies in teaching STEM in urban settings. In the following we explore the theoretical framework we chose and our reasoning behind it, the matrix of qualitative methods we used, an analysis and discussion of our data, and a conclusion.

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