This special issue includes seven papers, of which five particularly deal with teachers’ STEM teaching, and the other two investigate students’ STEM learning. The first paper, by Chai, reviewed 20 studies pertaining to teacher professional development for STEM education from the perspective of technological pedagogical content knowledge (TPACK). He proposes that underlying the TPACK framework is the notion of the teacher as a designer who creates TPACK to facilitate students’ STEM learning through design thinking. STEM education necessarily requires teachers to integrate technology, pedagogy, and associated content knowledge through design. Moreover, the engineering design is emerging as the key focus, with future research needing to examine teacher-educators’ and teachers’ Technological Pedagogical Engineering Knowledge (TPAEK).
It is recognized that, in the area of research in STEM education, there is a lack of a validated instrument to assess teachers’ self-efficacy regarding their STEM abilities or knowledge. The second paper, by Lee, Hsu, and Chang, developed a new survey to examine teachers’ perceived self-efficacy in STEM knowledge. They followed Kelley and Knowles’ (2016) conceptual framework for integrated STEM education (which consists of four core components including scientific inquiry, technology use, engineering design, and mathematical thinking) and also Mishra and Koehler’s (2006) TPACK framework to illustrate the possible combinations of STEM knowledge. By recruiting 220 high school teachers in Taiwan, the results based on factor analyses and structural equation modeling indicated that the newly developed instrument was valid and reliable. Teachers’ self-efficacy in Engineering Design and Mathematical Thinking plays a critical role in predicting their self-efficacy in Synthesized Knowledge of STEM, which predicts their attitudes toward STEM education. These findings suggest that to develop more effective teacher professional development in STEM education, teachers’ understanding of concepts and processes that are applied through engineering design and mathematical thinking activities should be considered.
The third and fourth papers deal with in-service teachers’ self-efficacy in STEM teaching. The third paper, by Dong, Xu, Song, Fu, Chai, and Huang, examined in-service teachers’ self-efficacy in STEM teaching. They constructed a hypothesized model including teaching self-efficacy, pedagogical design self-efficacy, discipline knowledge, administration support, and collegial support, and investigated their structural effects on teacher engagement. The structural equation modeling results of 458 Chinese in-service teachers showed that teacher engagement in STEM teaching can be improved once they are more confident of their class design and teaching competencies, and if they can get enough support from peers. The findings provide insights into STEM teacher professional development. Moreover, the fourth paper, by Geng, Jong, and Chai, examined 235 in-service teachers’ self-efficacy and concerns about STEM education in Hong Kong. Their study shows that almost half of the teachers are not quite ready for STEM education, and that the teachers have intense “information,” “management” and “consequence” concerns about implementing STEM education in Hong Kong schools. This paper suggest that it is necessary to provide teachers with substantial professional development, pedagogical support, and curricular resources for improving STEM education in practice.
It is also important to realize the importance of pre-service teachers’ STEAM teaching competency. The fifth paper, by So, Ryoo, Park, and Choi, investigated the structural relationship among 238 pre-service teachers’ art appreciation, attitude toward science, technology acceptance, creative convergence competency, and teaching competency regarding STEAM education in Korea. Their study revealed that, to foster creative convergence skills, it is necessary to develop pre-service teachers’ positive attitudes toward art appreciation and science. Instead of using the fragmented approach (i.e., the knowledge and skills are learned separately in each STEM discipline) with strict disciplinary boundaries at teaching education institutions, the holistic and systemic approaches (i.e., linking concepts and skills through a real-world problem-solving transdisciplinary context) are suggested to enhance pre-service teachers’ STEAM teaching competency.
The last two papers examined whether the design of the learning environment and instruction facilitates STEM learning. The sixth paper, by Hong, Lin, Chen, and Chen, exemplifies how idea-centered knowledge-building pedagogy can be used as a theoretical principle to guide the design of effective technological environments for fostering productive STEM learning. This paper shows that students highly engaged in Knowledge-Building activities to foster community, work with ideas, and assume agency and groups, were able to design high-quality STEM products. The final paper, by Lin, Wang, and Wu, implemented interdisciplinary STEM instruction by adopting modeling-based physics programming, and explored its learning effectiveness. They found that students in the STEM group benefited from the modeling-based instruction. The above two studies provide insights into the different considerations for effective learning environmental design and instructional alignment.