The Case for an Interdisciplinary Framework of Inquiry STEM Introduction for 21st Century Student Success

Hunt, Ashley, Education - School of Education and Human Development, University of Virginia
Rimm-Kaufman, Sara, CU-Leadshp, Fndns & Pol Studies, University of Virginia
Chiu, Jennie, CU-Curr Instr & Sp Ed, University of Virginia
Palacios, Natalia, CU-Leadshp, Fndns & Pol Studies, University of Virginia
Ruzek, Erik, CU-Leadshp, Fndns & Pol Studies, University of Virginia

Improving the quality of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education has been a consistent research and policy focus of the 21st century. Of particular importance is the need to create equitable STEM learning experiences that accommodate the growing cultural, linguistic, and ethnic diversity in classrooms across the county. This three-manuscript dissertation makes the case for an instructional framework for elementary STEM that allows students to develop and practice social and emotional skills, acquire conceptual knowledge, and understand how what they learn applies to their own lives and communities. The first study used discourse analysis to characterize small group discussions in a sample of fourth grade science classrooms. When students effectively used social gestures, they were better equipped to engage in productive science discussions. The second study explored the association between student perception of classroom climate and their engagement in science. Multilevel regression analyses found a positive association between social support and engagement that was stronger in more linguistically diverse classrooms. The final study examined whether fifth grade mathematics teachers were observed using reform instruction and emotionally supportive interactions. Results highlighted that educators were most likely to use equity-promoting instruction in schools that served more of the economically privileged families in the district. Taken together, the three manuscripts provide an empirical foundation for an interdisciplinary model of elementary-level instruction that advances scholarly understanding of the inextricable link between social and emotional development and authentic STEM learning experiences.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
elementary education, STEM, inquiry instruction, equity, social and emotional development
Sponsoring Agency:
Institute of Education Sciences
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