Shaping Preservice Teachers’ Understandings of STEM: A Collaborative Math and Science Methods Approach

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Journal of Science Teacher Education


Science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education has become an international focus of science education curricular reforms. However, few K–12 teachers have the background to authentically teach STEM in an integrated way. This is especially true of elementary teachers, who are often less confident or prepared to teach STEM disciplines independently. Most methods courses for preservice elementary teachers are taught independently by content area (math, science, language arts, and social studies), and seldom model integrated teaching strategies. Preservice teachers should have opportunities to experience and create developmentally appropriate curricula that integrate STEM disciplines. This study sought to bridge elementary preservice math and science methods courses through the modeling of integrated STEM lessons. The researchers who served as course instructors codesigned a STEM unit and collaborated throughout the semester. After explicit modeling and practice, surveys and lesson plans were used to determine the preservice elementary teachers’ understandings of STEM and their ability to plan integrated STEM lessons. In both the science and mathematics methods courses, the month-long unit on STEM education included explicitly modeled STEM lessons and culminated with preservice teachers planning, teaching, and reflecting on their own integrated lessons. Although misconceptions that a STEM lesson needed to address every discipline remained, the teachers’ ability to recognize and design lessons improved. This study supports the value of collaboratively taught elementary math and science methods courses to provide the experiences teachers will need to deliver STEM instruction in their classrooms.