A case study investigation of practices and beliefs of teachers at a STEM-focused elementary school

Proponents of STEM education have highlighted the need for increasing STEM skills among students. To address this need, there have been recommendations to create new STEM-focused schools, a majority of which are to be STEM-focused elementary and middle schools. However, STEM school research remains focused on outcomes at the secondary and postsecondary level, with little attention being given to knowing more about the role that elementary education plays in STEM outcomes. Case study design was used to investigate teachers at one STEM-focused elementary school to identify the practices and beliefs reported as important in STEM teaching and learning. Using survey and in-depth interviews, it was found that designation as a STEM-focused school promotes the use of more inquiry-oriented teaching practices and facilitates the use of strategies for developing confidence and competence in STEM among staff and students. The information uncovered in this study could provide leaders of any organization desiring to become a STEM-focused institution information about specific beliefs and practices that have the greatest potential to support changes in teaching.