Evidence-based research in STEM teacher education

From theory to practice

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Front. Educ., 02 November 2018 | https://doi.org/10.3389/feduc.2018.00092

Marina Milner-Bolotin

In the world heavily shaped by technology, many countries face significant challenges in engaging their students in meaningful STEM learning. This is reflected not only in inadequate student performance on the international mathematics and science assessments, such as PISA, but also in their growing STEM disengagement. While educators and policy makers have been trying to address this problem for decades, it has become clear that their approaches have failed to bring the intended outcomes.

In order to address this problem, educators need to repair the broken link between the evidence-based STEM education research, educational policy, and practice. This paper suggests a four-step approach relevant to STEM teacher education that addresses this problem: Model—Reflect—Research—Practice. This approach is especially relevant to educating STEM teachers. 

Since STEM teachers are often educated as science, mathematics, or technology teachers, they rarely have an opportunity to experience truly multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary STEM education, collaborate with peers who have different STEM backgrounds or use technology to engage in STEM education. Moreover, the research on educating STEM teachers, as opposed to science, mathematics and technology teachers is also in its infancy.

We should support researchers in conducting evidence-based STEM education research that produces reliable and generalizable results that can inform educational policy and empower practitioners. Evidence-based education research should become a foundation of STEM teacher education to allow educators to learn from the past and to affect the future. This is especially relevant for STEM teacher education. Teacher-candidates should have an opportunity to experience the value of education research for their own teaching practice and engage in designing and implementing research-based pedagogies. 

This paper has shown two examples of how it can be done in STEM teacher education and how modern educational technologies can aid in this process. However, more evidence-based research needs to be conducted to investigate the impact of these pedagogies on teacher-candidates and their personal growth. 

The time has come to learn from the history of STEM education reform failures in order to break this vicious circle. We call on STEM education researchers and teacher educators to incorporate evidence-based research into teacher education practice, to measure the pedagogical effectiveness of their pedagogical innovations, and share these results with the larger community.


Martin Delahunty

Managing Director, InspiringSTEM Network

Founder & Managing Director, InspiringSTEM. Formerly, Global Director at Springer Nature. Highly experienced scientific technical and medical publisher. Extensive experience of working with international science research organisations, universities and academic researchers working on journals, digital communities and conferences. Proud UK Stem Ambassador. Experienced speaker and presenter. European Irish.