Strengthening STEM Teaching in Native American Serving Schools through Long-Term, Culturally Responsive Professional Development

This project will explore how a nationally implemented professional development model is applied in two distinct Indigenous communities, the impact the model has on teacher practice in Native-serving classrooms, and the model's capacity to promote the integration of culturally responsive approaches to STEM teaching.

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Although there is a long-established body of knowledge about effective professional development for STEM teachers, very little of it has been applied and studied with teachers in Native American-serving school districts. This project will explore how a nationally implemented professional development model is applied in two distinct Indigenous communities, the impact the model has on teacher practice in Native-serving classrooms, and the model's capacity to promote the integration of culturally responsive approaches to STEM teaching. This project will substantially grow the data and knowledge available within this unique context, which is critical given the persistent gaps in educational achievement and STEM career participation among Indigenous people in the U.S. K-12 teachers will participate in an 8-month cohort designed to increase their STEM content knowledge and facilitate their efforts to develop academically rigorous, culturally responsive STEM instructional units for use in their classrooms. The project will add to our knowledge about the transferability of a nationally-implemented professional development model within two specific Indigenous contexts, and it will grow our knowledge about how STEM professional development impacts teacher practice. Finally, the project will provide concrete examples and knowledge about the ways culturally responsive approaches to STEM professional development, curriculum development, and teacher practice are taken up in two distinct Native-student-serving contexts.

This project includes the development and implementation of professional development that is long-term, teacher-driven, collaborative across grade levels and content areas, and facilitated by university faculty with STEM expertise. The research will follow a collective case study methodology in order to establish a robust and nuanced understanding of (1) how a national professional development model operates within two specific and distinct Indigenous contexts; (2) how a professional development model impacts teachers' STEM instructional practice in Native-serving schools; and (3) how teachers in Native-serving schools engage culturally responsive approaches to STEM curriculum development and STEM instructional practice. Data will include interviews and focus groups with participating teachers, university faculty, and other stakeholders, classroom observations and "Scoop Notebook" artifacts of teacher practice, and the teacher-developed STEM instructional units. Data will be iteratively coded with a combination of open and focused coding using a constant comparative method with a specific emphasis on identifying the culturally responsive elements present across the data sources. Individual and cross-case comparisons will be conducted to reveal broader themes that address the research questions. Results and products will be disseminated to researchers, practitioners, and community members through peer-reviewed publications, conference presentations, annual partnership meetings, and posting of the teacher developed instructional units to a web-based, freely accessible clearing house.

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