This project cultivates a professional development model that allows rural teachers to build their professional skills at integrating STEM. Focusing on Pacific Islanders, a group with a unique cultural identity largely underrepresented in STEM fields, the project seeks to help teachers better teach STEM and Hawaii's computer science education standards.
This project develops a new way of engaging teachers in professional learning that is situated in their classrooms while they perform the tasks of their paid employment. Traditional professional development structures frequently place financial and professional pressures on teachers, which limits participation. Rural teachers in particular may have fewer opportunities due to barriers of distance, limited resources, and lack of available staff. Further, they are most likely to be underqualified and most likely to spend their entire teaching careers at their first district prospectively teaching multiple generations of students from their community. The state of Hawaii has a high proportion of such rural schools and a shortage of STEM teachers especially in the area of computer science. This project will investigate a professional development model using fading scaffolds (support that is gradually reduced over time) as part of participants’ paid summer school teaching. Through this model, 20 rural teachers will learn to integrate computational thinking, coding, and science content while working with students from their own communities, with 10 becoming master teachers supporting others throughout the state. Improving teachers’ ability to prepare students to benefit from opportunities in STEM and computing will advance students’ opportunities for future prosperity.