STEM touchstones for teacher professional learning: An analysis of teacher content and pedagogical content knowledge in a place-based professional development program

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Regina E Toolin
Simon Jorgenson
Stephanie Ratmeyer


The Vermont STEM Leadership Institute (VSTEM) was designed to provide professional learning and leadership opportunities for K-12 educators teaching primarily in high- need schools. The fundamental premise of the program was to actively engage teachers in constructivist curriculum and pedagogy coupled with authentic scientific research experiences within the context of local environments or “places”. This study investigated changes in content and pedagogical content knowledge that teachers exhibited in their science teaching practice during their participation in the program. Analysis of program data revealed that teachers’ science content knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge were enhanced by VSTEM program participation with moderate to strong indications about place-based education, project-based learning, and the importance of engaging students in authentic scientific research.  The study found that participants learned new content-specific teaching strategies and implemented standards-based units and lessons that aligned with constructivist theories of teaching and learning.

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Research / Empirical