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Emily Atieh

University of Virginia
Postdoctoral Research Associate
Charlottesville, VA
Poster Presentation: Wednesday 3/3

Characterizing the topic-specificity within STEM instructors’ knowledge of teaching
Authors: Emily L. Atieh, Marilyne Stains

In light of the substantial push for instructional reform within Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education, a non-trivial faction of discipline-based education research has focused on faculty training and development. While the end goal of this research is to facilitate the adoption of empirically-sound teaching practices, which may then be codified into evidence-based policies, of premier importance is the assessment of what knowledge and beliefs instructional faculty hold about teaching. Moreover, prior literature has highlighted the extent to which contextual factors influence one’s teaching. This suggests a nuanced approach to investigate an instructor’s pedagogical knowledge with regards to teaching their specific content to their specific set of students.

This study looks at sixteen university-level science instructors with varying degrees of prior teaching experience in disciplines ranging from agriculture to civil engineering to meteorology. Interviews were conducted using a semi-structured protocol to probe faculty’s knowledge and beliefs about teaching a specific concept (of their choice) in their course, such as their awareness of student misconceptions, their teaching strategies and approach, and their justification as to the importance of this concept for their students. Data was analyzed to quantify the degree of instructors’ topic-specific pedagogical knowledge versus their general pedagogical knowledge, while classifying their responses according to several emerging themes. By looking at course instructors from a wide array of disciplines, it is possible to uncover the commonalities that exist with the goal of informing faculty training and educational policy that impacts a broader scope of students.

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